French Wine

Posted by on Oct 7, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

French Wine

The French arguably make the best wine in the world, but it has been argued that they also make the most confusing labels. The terms can be too foreign or sophisticated for many of us Anglais. The following information will provide you with a good basic understanding of a French wine label.

Many different regions of France have their own unique the set of appellations, classifications and labeling rules. Understanding French wine begins with knowing what to look for on the label. First know the Grape Variety (or appellation). Appellation refers to the geographic location of the vineyard/Village/region. Terrior refers to the flavors that the wine might possess from that region. The climate and soil of the region will give you a hint to the style, flavor and intensity of the wine. 'Bordeaux' wines are known for the complexity, especially red wines which are usually produced to age well in the bottle. 'Left Bank' wines will usually age better then 'Right Bank' wines because they contain more Cabernet Sauvignon. The producer or vineyard reveals the most information about the overall quality and expected consistency. Producers such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild or Gevrey Chambertin vineyards in Burgundy are quality producers to look for. Finally look for the vintage; the vintage is the year the wine was produced. The vintage is important because it helps you to determine when the best time to consume this wine is.

As you read the bottle you will come across many unfamiliar words don’t worry if you don’t understand it because authentic French wine labels will often be in French. Here are some key terms to know as you read the label.

Table wine:

  • Vin de Table (11.7%) – Carries with it only the producer and the designation that it is from France.
  • Vin de Pays (33.9%) – Carries with it a specific region within France (for example Vin de Pays d'Oc from Languedoc-Roussillon or Vin de Pays de Côtes de Gascogne from Gascony, and subject to less restrictive regulations than AOC wines. For instance, it allows producers to distinguish wines that are made using grape varieties or procedures other than those required by the AOC rules, without having to use the simple and commercially non-viable table wine classification. In order to maintain a distinction from Vin de Table, the producers have to submit the wine for analysis and tasting, and the wines have to be made from certain varieties or blends.


  • Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS, 0.9%) – Less strict than AOC, usually used for smaller areas or as a "waiting room" for potential AOCs. This category will be abolished at the end of 2011.
  • Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC, 53.4%) – Wine from a particular area with many other restrictions, including grape varieties and winemaking methods.

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

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