What do Lentils, Honey, and Hay have in Common?

Hay BalesSo…what do lentils, honey, and hay have in common?  How about we throw in chicken, lavender oil, and walnuts?  Any ideas?  Ok…lets add 43 types of Cheese and 376 styles of wine.  Now you get it, right???

All of these products are Appellation d’Origine Protégée, or AOP-protected products from France. (Formerly known as or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or AOC-protected products, which is still in use, along with the updated, all-EU version AOP .  Got that?)

All of you wine people out there know all about AOC laws, how confusing they can be to wine newbies, how every European Country has it own version (DOC, DO, OPAP and so forth) and how very recently the EU attempted to bring all 27 (soon to be 28) member countries under the same umbrella by creating the all-inclusive umbrella of the AOP.  Or we know just enough to get by!

A recent textbook editing assignment (about 2 months worth) has led me to be a bit more of an AOP/AOC expert than I care to be, but I must admit I have learned an awful lot along the way.  Did you know, for instance, that France currently has 43 AOP Cheeses?  Roquefort, they say, is the stinky cheese that started it all, centuries ago.  It seems that In 1411 King Charles VI (known as “The Beloved” in his youth and “The Mad” as Lentils-le-puy-en-velayhe got older) granted a monopoly for the ripening of the region’s sheep’s milk cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzono.  To this day, according to AOP laws, only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of  Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort.

The AOP Lentils, Lentils-le-Puy-en-Velay, I actually know from my chef days.  Widely referred to as “French Green Lentils” these AOP lentils are in great demand all over the world due to their high protein content,  unique flavor, and ease of cooking.  All of these qualities derive from the thin soil of the town of Lu-Puy-en-Velay in the south-central France.

About that AOP Hay…Foin de Crau is an AOP designated Hay from the La Crau Region of Provence.  This is special hay due to the diversity of the grasslands where it grows, its rich mineral content, its digestibility and good flavor.  Admit it:  that doesn’t sound that much different from a wine description. If you would like, you can buy some Foin de Crau  here.

The AOP honey, Miel de Sapin de Vosges, sounds amazing.  If ever there was a product produced by buzzing little insects that deserves the protection of the French government, this is it.  “Sapin” is actually a type of fir tree that grow in the Vosges Mountain region of eastern France.  This dark brown, luscious honey is sometimes called “Silver Fir Honey,” and while there are several AOP honeys, this type is produced only in the Vosges.

Wine Bottles on SideMy AOC/AOP research revealed some fascinating information on wine, as well.  For starters, there is a database called e-Bacchus that lists the current regulatory status of all the wines in the EU…from PDO to PGI and using traditional terms as well.  According to e-Bacchus, there are exactly 376 PDO wines in France.  Click here for a PDF of List of French AOP from E-Bacchus .  That should keep you busy for a while.

If you would like to research Walnuts from Périgord, Lavender Oil from Haute-Provence, Chickens from Bresse or any of the thousands of other AOP-protected items in the EU, just click here for the database.  Just make sure you have plenty of free time.  This is very interesting stuff.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...Full time for 16 years!

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