The A.O.C. Classification System
The French system of labeling wine and food is confusing to many outside of France. The French government established the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (A.O.C) system in the 1930s, which covers a wide array of agricultural products, such as wine, fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat, sausages and sweets. It's goal is to protect a region's specific product and gourmet tradition.
The Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) is the regulator. It is illegal to sell a product under the A.O.C. label if it does not comply with the criteria set by INAO. While the French A.O.C. system has its merits, its disadvantage may be that mediocre producers can legally make use of what is supposed to be a quality seal and thereby devalue its very purpose. It is also said that it stifles creativity and innovation. In my opinion that is not the case. Even if you are in an A.O.C. region you do not need to follow INAO's rules. You just cannot label your product under the respective A.O.C. label.