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Tips to Read and Understand French Wine Labels

Renuka Savant
Mumbling and bumbling through ordering a French wine again? Well, a lot of people do, so here's a guide to help you read and understand their labels, and make the wine ordering a little less "miserables"...
We live in a world where everything is labeled. From our clothes to our food, everything has to be tagged with a name and a place, which makes it easy for us to judge them, which is incidentally, the average human's favorite pass-time.
As far as labeled goods go, French wine manufacturers always manage to take things a step forward in the snootier direction. It may seem charming to their even snootier clientele, but for the regular Joes and Janes, it just reads and sounds a lot like bleu-de-bleu-bleu.
Fret not, for reading a French wine label isn't too tough, once you get the hang of a few words that hold the key to understanding it. This story tells you more.

Basic Components of a French Wine Label

The Producer

✱ The producer's name is placed right at the top usually, or sometimes at the bottom.
✱ This name may be highlighted, or appear in a discreet manner.
✱ Prominent names usually have their names placed on the labels.

The Region

✱ The region, as is obvious, will tell you where the ingredients of the wine have been sourced from, namely the grapes.
✱ Now, the region mentioned on the label may indicate a larger area, for instance, Vin de Bourgogne translates to Wine from Burgundy.
✱ A region within Burgundy may be mentioned prominently, such as Mâcon-Prissé.
✱ A specific vineyard may also be mentioned, Domaine Champ de Brulee indicates this being an area famous for its sunned produce.

Varietal or Appellation

✱ The varietal will tell you about the type of grapes used to make the wine, such as Chardonnay or Merlot.
✱ In case the varietal is absent, the appellation will tell you something about where the wine comes from, so as to get a hint about the region, and the produce it may be known for.
✱ The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée is a certification that determines the geog
✱ The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée is a certification that determines the geographical origin of the produce used to make the wine.raphical origin of the produce used to make the wine.


✱ The vintage will reveal the most important aspect of the wine - the year of its production.
✱ Vintage wine is defined as wine which is produced using at least 95% from grapes harvested in a single year.
✱ Non-vintage (NV) wines source wines from multiple vintages to make up the flavor, and are, therefore, lower in value.

Alcohol content

✱ Typically, premium quality European wines have an alcohol content of 13.5%, which is more or less the upper limit.
✱ American wines, on the other hand, tend to have a higher alcohol content. The alcohol content lends a richness to the wine.
✱ Wines with a higher alcohol percentage are made with riper grapes, tasting fruity.

Estate Bottled

✱ Mis en Bouteille au Château
✱ Mis en Bouteille a la Propriete
✱ Mis en Bouteille au domaine

This simply means that the wine in your hands has been made from grapes sourced from the same estate where it was produced and bottled.
So, as you can see, reading and decoding a French wine label isn't rocket science, really. All you need is a little tact, and perhaps your reading glasses, and you're good to go.