Reading French Labels

Reading French Labels

Once you get the hang of it, it is quite easy to read French wine labels. Understanding a few of the terms and word phrases is much easier than it may look. European wine labeling laws provide more information to the buyer than what is usually found in America. This is why learning to read a French wine label is useful. One of the important parts of this is understanding the concept behind terroir. The place of origin is what gives the wine its true character. Wines are different because of where they come from. Labeling laws in America and in other new world wine regions are more interested in providing consumers with the grapes used in their wines instead of details about where they came from.

There are many major terms you will find when reading French wine labels. Here are a few of those.

Annee is the year the grapes were harvested.

Chateau is the estate where the wine was produced.

Grand Cru is a higher level of classification. This term takes on different meanings depending on the AOC law or region.

Millesime is the vintage the grapes were harvested in.

Vieilles Vignes are old wines.

Vigneron is the owner, grape grower, or vineyard manager.

Vin is wine.

Vin de Bourgogne is a wine from Burgundy.

There are many other terms to find on French labels, but understanding the regions where these wines come from is one of the most important things you can take away from this. There are numerous laws that vary from appellation to appellation and wine-growing region in France set forth by the AOC. The lowest class of wine from France does not even provide you with the vintage or origin of the vineyard. All you get is the producer’s name and country of origin.


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