AOC stands for Appellation d’origine contrôlée, a controlled term of origin for French agricultural products such as wines, liqueurs, spirits, cheeses and butters. Roquefort became the first AOC-labeled cheese in 1925.
AOC standards stipulate that products must come from designated geographical regions and adhere to traditional methods of production. Nevertheless, it’s not a perfect system: the laws that regulate labeling are confusing and quality controls are not rigorous, making the AOC label an unreliable indicator for the consumer.
Other countries have adopted similar labels, and the French AOC system is said to have influenced the European Union’s protected designation of origin (PDO) category.