How to understand and read French wine labels

Posted by on Nov 8, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

How to understand and read French wine labels

How to understand and read French wine labels?

Indulging in wine has been an adored past time since the ages. Anyone can appreciate a fine French wine but not everyone can understand and read the French wine labels. The French arguably make the best wine in the world but one can also argue that they also make the most confusing labels. The terms can be too foreign or sophisticated for many of us. The following information will provide you with a good basic understanding of a French wine label.


Since many different regions of France have their own unique the set of appellations, classifications and labeling rules it's important to have a solid base understanding. Understanding French wine begins with knowing what to look for on the label. First know the Grape Variety (or appellation). Appellation refers to the geographically 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 which has more tannin. 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. AOC or AC is classified as the highest quality wine produced in a specific region. Grand and Premier Cru tells us that this is highest quality of wine from that region. The top 1% of Burgundy wines are known as Grands Cru. Whole 10% of Burgundy wines are known as Premiers Cru. Vieilles Vignes means the grapes used come from old vines generally 10 to 100 years meaning it produces a better fruit.

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

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