How to read French wine bottle labels.
How to read French wine bottle labels. 75000 paris fr
A wine label includes lots of information, but it is not always easy to read between the lines and understand it all.
Mise en bouteille (Bottled)
It is obligatory to state the place of bottling, which may be specified as:
dans la région de production (this is the case with ordinary, standardised wines, which are generally to be avoided) or;
au château or au domaine or à la propriété (these three all mean ‘estate bottled’, guaranteeing the identity of the wine but not necessarily its quality, and are usually a sensible choice).
Mise en bouteille par [a name] means that the bottling was done by a third party, so that the wine loses all guarantee of provenance, and should generally be avoided.
Level of alcohol is given in percentage (%) rather than degree (°), and indicates the proportion of alcohol in the wine also giving a general indication of the maturity of the grapes).
If a year is written on the label, it refers to the year of harvest. Recognising ‘good’ years is a skill that has to be learned. If there is no year indicated on the label, beware! It means that wines of different years have been blended to improve the quality of the poorer quality harvests. The one exception to this rule is Champagne, few of which mention the year on the label. The year also indicates when the laying-down period began.
AOC, VDQS & VDP
Appellation is a broad quality indicator, and France has three grades in descending order: Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS), and Vins de Pays (VDP).
The name of the château, domaine, propriéte or clos
There is no hierarchical distinction between these terms, and ‘chateau’ is merely an estate name that does imply the existence of a real chateau. Nowadays, the term clos is used exclusively to refer vineyards enclosed by stone walls. Beware of the names of chateaus that are deliberately similar to names of famous wines.
Cepage (variety of grape)
It is not mandatory in France to list the varieties of grape in a wine, but it may be included on a label for consumer information. If a bottle has the name of a sole grape variety, it means the wine was made from that single variety only.