An appellation d'origine contrôlée and appellation d'origine protégée (designation of controlled origin and designation of protected origin) not only guarantee a product's quality; they are also a sign of its bond with the land. The Laguiole cheese association continuously updates its schedule of specifications.
The AOC was created in France in 1905. It has been recognised internationally since 1958 (the Lisbon accord) and in Europe since 1992 as the appellation d’origine protégée (AOP, or designation of protected origin). AOC and AOP are synonymous, attesting to the same quality, but two different authorities issue the labels.
A product has to meet three conditions to apply for an appellation d’origine: it must come from a limited production area, comply with specific production standards and have established name recognition. Since 2011 France has had 46 AOP dairy products, including 43 cheeses, two butters and one cream. Affixing the AOP label or logo on all AOC-AOP packages has been mandatory since 1 May 2009.
OBTAINING THE LAGUIOLE APPELLATION
The result of a history and a project
In 1961 Laguiole cheese obtained the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC, or designation of controlled origin), a national recognition resulting from a history and a project.
The history dates back to the 12th to 20th centuries, when monks and shepherds made the cheese and kept it alive, which in turn kept the region alive. The project dates back to 1960, when the Jeune Montagne cooperative—despite the agricultural crisis, despite the fact that the cheese no longer allowed farmers to earn a decent living, despite the Aubrac breed's decline, despite everything—decided that Laguiole could not die.
As soon as the cooperative was set up, it and the association did all they could to obtain the AOC for their cheese. The recent implementation of modern techniques has made the process more complex because the ministry had to be convinced that traditional production methods were simply adapted to modern tools. But in December 1961 the first Laguiole appellation d’origine contrôlée decree helped keep traditional dairy farms in business and slow down the rural exodus.
This year the AOC celebrates its 51st anniversary.
PROMOTING THE APPELLATION
The schedule of specifications still sets the minimum time required to age Laguiole at four months but sales trends are increasingly pushing that period to between nine and 18 months. This signals the shift from a staple to a product enjoyed and recognised for its organoleptic and gustatory qualities.
National studies show that the AOP cheeses with the highest added value are made of raw milk from local breeds that feed on a specific diet (including mandatory pasturing). That finding gave the Laguiole association the satisfaction of knowing it had been on the right track all along.
Also, the bacterial-chemical quality of the milk used to make Laguiole ranks among the best in France.
Since Laguiole obtained the AOC, the association and producers have continuously updated production conditions to meet the needs of the land, cows, cheese and other elements as best as possible.
Five decrees have amended the first one in 1961. Today the decree that the Ministries of Agriculture and the Economy signed on 28 July 2000, amended by the decree of 29 March 2004, governs the Laguiole AOP.