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Reading wine labels - FRANCE

Wine labels are the cover for the wine. They can tell you a whole story or they will just say that there is wine in the bottle. Wine labels can be different depending on the country, region, or even producer from where the wine is coming from.


Words that are usually written on a wine label are (not necessary all at the same time):

- grape variety, - the country of origin,

- quality designation, - the name of the wine,

- name of the winery or the producer, - a vintage year,

- the place where the wine was produced/bottled, - alcohol %.

In this post, you will be able to read and learn about some of the most common words that appear on French wine labels and about the basic quality designations.

Quality designations:

AOC - Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée: is used for wines, whose origin, varietals, and production methods are regulated. Those wines are traditional and one of the best. There are ~329 appellations, each appellation has its own rules.

- Special classification: regional CRU or vineyard classification

- Commune/Village: for example Saint Julien

- Sub-regional: for example Medóc

- Regional: for example Bordeaux

IGP - Indication Géographique Protégée: former Vin de Pays. Is used for wines that are coming from broader areas than AOC wines. Here non-traditional grape varieties are allowed and the rules are not that strict.

VIN or VIN de France: former Vin de Table. Basic level of quality.


Words that appear on French wine labels:

  • Vin - wine

  • Blanc - white

  • Rosé - pink (wine)

  • Rough - red (wine)

  • Brut - dry sparkling wine

  • Demi-sec - off-dry wine

  • Doux - sweet wine

  • Moelleux - sweet wine

  • Sec - dry/not sweet

  • Blanc de Blancs - sparkling wine made from white grapes

  • Blanc de Noirs - sparkling wine made from black grapes

  • - sparkling wine made by the traditional method in other regions than Champagne

  • Château - wine estate or wine farm (used in Bordeaux)

  • Domaine - vineyard properties (smaller than Château, used in Burgundy)

  • Coteaux de, Côtes de - wines from a hillside (non-contiguous/contiguous)

  • Cru - a specific high-quality piece of land (growth)

  • Cru classé - cru designated by important classification (f.eks. the 1855 classification Bordeaux)

  • Grand Cru - "great growth", first vineyards in St-Emilion, in Burgundy

  • Grand Vin - indicates the winery's best wine (in Bordeaux)

  • Premier Cru - "first growth" in Burgundy (Medoc), quality level down than Grand Cru

  • Méthode Classique, Méthode traditionnelle - any sparkling wine made by the same production method as Champagne

  • Millésime - a vintage year

  • Mis (en Bouteille) au château/domaine/á la propriété - wine bottled at the property, by the company that grew the grapes

  • Négociant - merchant, that buys wine or grapes and bottles at another location than the location where the grapes are grown

  • Récoltant - vine-grower

  • Propriétaire: the owner of a winery

  • Récolte - vintage or harvest

  • Supérieur - a wine that is higher in alcohol

  • Vielles Vignes - old vines, which gives more concentrated wine

  • Vigneron - vine-grower or/and wine producer

  • Villages - communes or zones inside designated appellation

  • Vin de - wine from

  • Contains sulfites - the wine contains sulfites


Label 1: Musigny (vineyard name)

Label 2: Brouilly (one of the 10 crus from Beaujolais), Georges Dubæuf (important producer)

Label 3: Le Mont (vineyard name), Première Trie (the number of times the pickers made into the vineyard to harvest only the best grapes), Huet (producer)

Label 4: Cuvée l’Ebrescade (a way of labeling the wine, which is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, since grape varieties are not allowed on Rhône labels), Cairanne (small village allowed to use its name on the label)

Label 5: Clos St Urbain (Zind-Humbrecht’s plot within the Rangen Grand Cru), Rangen De Thann (one of the best Grand Cru in Alsace)

Label 6: 1er Grand Cru Classe (wine of superior quality), Famille Vauthier (owner of the Château)

Label 7: Veuve Clicquot (brand and producer name)

Label 8: Coteaux d'aix-en-Provence (wine from the hillsides in Provence), a logo that the wine is organic (Biologique)

Label 9: J.P. Chenet (producer and brand name)

Label 10: Brut blanc (dry wine from green grapes)

Label 11: Albert Bichot (producer)

Label 12: Marsannay (district)

Label 13: Vin Nature (natural wine)

Label 14: Grand Mouton Louis Métaireau (wine and producer name), Muscadet Sèvre et Maine (region in Loire Valley)

French wine labels as every other wine label can be confusing. But with patience and a little bit of knowledge, they become easy to read. Another helpful tip is to learn which grapes are usually grown in which region.

- Alsace: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer

- Bourgogne: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

- Beaujolais: Gamay

- Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends

- Loire: Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet and Chenin Blanc

- Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier

- Rhône: blends from Syrah and Grenache

- Languedoc Roussillon: Blends from Grenache and Carignan

- South West France: Malbec

As always have a WINEderful day! :)