AOC Rhum Martinique description

AOC system description.

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) is the French equivalent to EU's Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is one of the geographical indications defined in European Union law to protect the names of regional foods. The law ensures that only products genuinely originating in that region are allowed in commerce as such. The purpose of the law is to protect the reputation of the regional foods and eliminate the unfair competition and misleading of consumers by non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of different flavour.
Definition adapted from a Wikipedia article
zone AOC
Defined sugarcane cultivation areas for AOC rum production
Illustration from "la revue des oenologues"
n°111, April 2004

A defined geographical area.

To be labeled "AOC Martinique Rhum agricole" rum has to be produced from cane grown in an area authorized by the AOC decree. Currently, only the territories of the following 23 municipalities of Martinique are allowed for the cultivation of sugarcane intended for the production of AOC Martinique rum:

  • Fort-de-France area : municipalities of "Le Carbet", "Fort-de-France", "Le Lamentin", "Saint-Joseph" and "Saint-Pierre".
  • La Trinité area : municipalities of "Basse-Pointe", "Gros-Morne", "Le Lorrain", "Macouba", "Le Marigot", "Le Robert", "Sainte-Marie" and "La Trinité".
  • Le Marin area : municipalities of "Le Diamant", "Ducos, "Le François", "Le Marin", "Rivière-Pilote", "Rivière-Salée", "Saint-Esprit", "Sainte-Luce", "Les Trois-Ilets" and "Le Vauclin".

Controlled cultivation patterns.

Cultivation yields are limited to 120 metric tons of sugarcane per hectare. In other places sugarcane yields can easily exceed 150 mt/ha and current Martinique average yields are close to 72 mt/ha.

Such a limit was introduced to avoid unsustainable agricultural practicies such as massive fertilizer use.Champ de canne "AOC rhum agricole Martinique" specifications also limits the use of irrigation technology by prohibiting more than four months of irrigation per year. Sugarcane having high water requirement, this limitation is really significant and restricts sugarcane cultivation to well-watered fields and prevents overproduction which could hinder "AOC Martinique rhum agricole" quality and damage Martinique unique landscapes.

Similarly, any application of substances on the canes to promote their maturation is prohibited.
Approved sugarcane crops cultivated for the production of the "rhum agricole AOC Martinique", are listed by a governement appointed body. Harvest is also time delimited as it cannot begin earlier than the 1st of January and has to end no later than August 31.


Defined production techniques

Rhum agricole wort should only be made of fresh sugarcane juice obtained by grinding and pressing of sugar cane. No addition of syrup or molasses is allowed.

Juice quality is controlled with a minimum sugar content (Brix > 14 ° Bx) and a minimum pH (pH > 4.7). These criteria limit juice concentration and acidity to reasonable values to avoid fermentation and thus ethanol production troubles (such as production of  methanol or other undesirable compounds).

Juicing is also regulated by prohibiting technics such as hot extraction which could damage juice quality and alter rhum agricole specific bouquet.

Page about fermentation describes the mandatory conditions to be met by the fermentation of Vésou for "rhum agricole AOC Martinique" production.

Allowed distillation columns and practices.

Distillation for rhum agricole production has to be made through distillation columns and by continuous distillation processing of fermented wort. The distillation coumns must have the following caracteristics :

  • Heated by hot vapor injection ;
  • From 5 to 9 rectifying copper plates ;
  • At least 15 copper or stainless steel stripping plates ;
  • Stripping plates diameter between 0,7 and 2 meters ;
  • Reflux through one or more chauffe-vins or copper water condensers.

Rectification of the spirit (second distillation aimed at reaching higher alcohol concentrations) is forbidden.

In addition, alcoholic grade in the distillation output must be between 65 ° and 75 ° to meet the requirements of the AOC specifications.

Defined designations.

"Rhum agricole Martinique" rums must be of one of the three following designations :

  • Rhum "blanc" Martinique (white rum): colorless rum which have been laid still for at least three months and not more than three months if rum has been stocked in oak barrels.
  • Rhum Martinique "élevé sous bois" (cask aged rum) : Rum has been aged in oak barrels within the production area and for at least 12 uninterrupted months. Rum must also contain at least 250 grams per 100 litre of pure alcohol of volatile elements other than ethanols and methyl at the end of the aging period of time. This minimum concentration guarantees the cask aged rhum agricole's bouquet.
  • Rhum Martinique "vieux" (extra aged rum) : Rum has been aged in oak casks within the production area and for at least 3 uninterrupted years. Capacity of barrels must be under 650 litres. Rum must also contain at least 325 grams per 100 litre of pure alcohol of volatile elements other than ethanols and methyl at the end of the three years. This minimum concentration superior to the one imposed to cask aged rum guarantees a richer bouquet for the extra aged rhum agricole. .

Whatever category the rum may be, no rum with the designation of origin "Martinique" could be selled with an alcoholic concentration lower than 40%.