The AOP or Appellation d’Origine Protégée is one of 4 origin and quality labels (AOC, IGP, STG, Organic) recognised in France and Europe. These three acclaimed letters guarantee that a product originates in a certain region, in a country, and that its quality is primarily defined by the characteristics of its environment as a result of natural or human factors.
Safeguarding a product, a region and a name
The Appellation d’Origine Contrôlé was precisely determined by the law of 2 July, 1990 : “An appellation d’origine constitutes the denomination of a country, a region, a location that serves to define a native product whose quality or characteristics are determined by the geographic environment, comprising natural and human factors”.
Each AOC is regulated by a decree. La Fourme d’Ambert was recognised as AOC by the decree of 9 May, 1972, and is currently regulated by the decree of 22 February, 2002. The latter decree determines the following for each AOC cheese :
- A region, a geographic area: the Appellation d’origine Contrôlée (AOC) guarantees the provenance of the milk, and the place the cheese is manufactured and matured within a precise production zone (link to the geographic area). This production zone is determined by geographic criteria (altitude), physical criteria (soil) and historic criteria.
- The cheese’s tradition, quality and character: AOC cheeses must benefit from a noteworthy history. A history that shaped the product to give it particular characteristics with respect to its form, texture and taste.
- A craft, production conditions: the totality of elements that give the product its character, from production to processing.
- Quality control: assured by independent professionals and organisations to guarantee that production conditions are met as set out by AOC specifications.
The AOC designation therefore identifies a product whose authenticity and character stem from its geographic origin. This denomination guarantees a close link between the product and the region, where a region is understood as being the balance between a geographical area and its geological, agronomic, climatic, etc. conditions – as well as the human skills that draw the best out of area.
The Appellation aims to protect a reputation that has been built over a long period of time. In order to increase its protective value, the European AOC (created in 1992) will gradually replace the French AOC. The AOC/AOP now have a new logo shared by all European Appellations d’Origine. It must appear on the cheese’s packaging or label.