Understands French Wines Label

Understands French Wines Label

Understanding the Label - French Wines

In General

- Appellation contrôlée (AC) - in theory the best-quality category of French wine, with regulations defining vineyard, soil, grape varieties, yields, and alcohol levels.

- Clos - an enclosed vineyard.

- Cru - literally 'growth', indicating a distinguished vineyard site in Burgundy or property in Bordeaux.

- Vieilles Vignes - old vines. Although unregulated, there can be a distinct bearing on quality. A Chablis Vieilles Vignes for example, may have added concentration of flavor.


- Blanc de blancs - made from white grapes (Chardonnay only).

- Blanc de noirs - made from red grapes, vinified without skin contact.

- Brut - dry or dryish in style

- Demi-sec - sweet

- Doux - very sweet

- Vintage - a blend from a single year, sold after at least three years ageing.


- Grand cru - classified vineyard site.

- Sélection de grains nobles - wine made from botrytis-affected grapes.

- Vendange Tardive - 'late harvest' / specially grown ripe grapes.


- Cru Bourgeois - classification of chateaux in the Medoc and some of the best value-for-money wines.

- Cru-classé / grand cru-classé / premier grand cru-classé - 'classified growth', divided into five 'tables' in the Médoc, or from the classification systems of the Graves, Sauternes, or St Emilion.

- In Bordeaux, the name of the château, or property, is all important.


- Domaine - estate or vineyard holding, belonging to a grower or négociant.

- Grand cru - top or finest vineyard sites.

- Premier cru - second highest category of vineyard site.

- In Burgundy, the name of the grower or négociant is extremely important.


- Sec - dry

- Demi-sec - medium to dry

- Moelleux - medium sweet to sweet

- Sur Lie - generally associated with Muscadet, sur lie indicates that the wine has been bottled directly from its lees, without being racked or filtered.

- The Loire has a relatively cool climate, so take not of the vintage.


The best wines are often from a specified region, appellation or cru, i.e. Côte Rôtie. Côtes du Rhône Villages carries a higher reputation than the general appellation.

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