Wine Label Information French Wine Labels

French Wine Label Information

France has a complex and well-established array of wine laws. Most of these apply nationally, but some are region-specific. Understanding French wine labels requires a basic knowledge of France's wine terminology and laws. Below is an example label, and below that an explanation of French wine classifications. For comprehensive information about France and its wines, see?France.

Austrian Wine Label Image

The three official tiers of French wine quality classification:

  • AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contr?lée)?indicates the geographical origin, quality and (generally) the style of a wine. For example, Burgundy's regional AOC?Bourgogne Blanc?covers more than 300 parishes, and denotes dry white wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris. By contrast, AOC?Romanee-Conti Grand Cru?covers just four acres of top-quality vineyard and denotes dry red wines made exclusively from Pinot Noir. The Europe-wide equivalent of AOC is AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protégée). All?Grand Cru?and?Premier Cru?wines fall into the AOC category.
    • Grand Cru?is the very highest classification of French wine. The term can refer to a wine in one of two ways, either a) the plot of land where the grapes are grown or b) the chateau at which the wine is made. The former applies most famously in Burgundy, Alsace and Champagne (but is also used in Languedoc and the Loire Valley). The latter is exclusive to Bordeaux.
    • Premier Cru?denotes either 1) a vineyard plot (most often in Burgundy) of superior quality, or 2) the very highest tier?within?a Grand Cru classification (such as the 'Premier Grand Cru Classé' chateaux of Bordeaux).
  • Vin de Pays?means 'wine of the land', although it is often translated as 'country wine'. Its Europe-wide equivalent is IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée). This category focuses on geographical origin rather than style and tradition, and gives winemakers greater stylistic freedom than AOC. Vin de Pays was introduced in the 1970s, and by the year 2000 there were more than 150 individual VDP titles, covering about a quarter of French wine production. For comprehensive information about these, see?Vin de Pays - IGP.
  • Vin de France?replaced the outdated?Vin de Table?category in 2010, but remains the most basic quality tier for French wine. This is the least regulated (and least used) of the three categories; Vin de France wines can be made from grapes grown anywhere in France, but their labels do not mention a specific region of origin. Vintage and grape variety statements are optional. See?Vin de France.

See also wine label information for the?European Union,?Italy,?Germany,?Spain,?Austria,?Australiaand the?USA.

French Wine Label Terms
Blanc:
White
Brut:
Dry
Cave:
Wine cellar
Chateau:
Estate - literally 'castle', but mostly refers to large country houses
Coopérative:
A co-operative or, more likely, a syndicate of wine growers
C?te/Coteaux:
Slope of a hill/hillsides
Crémant:
A style of sparkling wine other than Champagne
Cru:
Literally, 'growth' - denotes status of a winery or vineyard
Cru Classé:
Classified vineyard
Demi-sec:
Medium-dry
Domaine:
Estate
Doux:
Sweet
Grand cru:
Literally, 'great growth' - highest-quality wines
Méthode Traditionnelle:
Traditional method of sparkling winemaking, same as used for Champagne
Millésime:
Vintage
Mis en bouteille au chateau / domaine:
Bottled at the chateau/domaine
Négociant:
A merchant who buys grapes, juice or wine from growers and sells the wines under his own label
Premier Cru:
First growth
Propriétaire:
Estate or vineyard owner
Récoltant:
A grape grower - literally 'harvester'
Rouge:
Red
Sélection de Grains Nobles:
Sweet wine made from?botrytized?grapes
Supérieur:
Wine with higher (superior) alcohol content as a result of being made from riper grapes
VDQS:
Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure, a mid-level classification used between 1949 and 2012.
Vendange:
Harvest
Vendange Tardive:
Late harvest (sweet wines)
Vieilles Vignes:
Old vines
Vigneron/Viticulteur:
Vine grower/grape grower
Vignoble:
Vineyard
Vin:
Wine
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