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Cheat Sheet

French Wine For Dummies

From French Wine For Dummies by Ed McCarthy, Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Choosing a French wine means understanding how to read and pronounce French wine names and words you find on the label, the variety of grape specific to certain French wines, and getting the best value of a French wine.

How to Pronounce French Wine Names

Don’t let the pronunciation of a French wine get your tongue in a knot. Pronouncing the names of French wines just takes a little practicing, which you can do with the following table. Remember: Unlike English words, there are no stressed syllables in French words.

Aligoté (ah lee go tay) grand cru classé (grahn crew clahs say)
Bâtard-Montrachet (bah tar mon rah shay) grand vin (grahn van)
Blanc de Blancs (blahn deh blahn) Graves (grahv)
Chablis (shah blee) Haut-Brion (oh bree ohn)
Chambolle-Musigny (shom bowl moo sih nyee) Haut-Médoc (oh meh dock)
Chassagne-Montrachet (shah sahn n’yah mohn rah shay) Languedoc-Roussillon (lahn guh doc roo see yohn)
Château d’Yquem (sha toh dee kem) Loire (l’wahr)
Château Lynch-Bages (sha toh lansh bahj) Mâcon-Villages (mah con vil lahj)
Château Trotanoy (sha toh troh tahn wah) millisime (mill eh seem)
Corton-Charlemagne (cor tohn shar leh mahn) Moët (moh eT)
Côte de Nuits (coat deh n’wee) Pauillac (poy yac)
Côte Rotie (coat ro tee) Perrier-Jouët (pehr ree yay jhoo et)
Cramant (crah mahn) Sémillon (seh mee yohn)
crémant (cray mahn) St.-Emilion (sant eh mee l’yon)
Crozes-Hermitage (crows er mee tahj) vieilles vignes (vee ay veen)
Cru Bourgeois (crew boor j’wah) vin de pays (van deh pay ee)
Domaine Leroy (doh main leh rwah) Viognier (vee oh n’yay)
Gevrey-Chambertin (jehv ray sham ber tan) Vosne-Romanée (vone roh mah nay)
Gosset (go say)

Top Values of French Wines

Looking to get the most for your money when it comes to French wine? Here are some of France’s top wine values, including the types of wine and whether they’re red or white:

Alsace Riesling (white) Côte Chalonnaise Burgundy (red/white)
Beaujolais-Villages (red) Côte de Bourg Bordeaux (red)
Bergerac (red/white) Côte du Rhône-Villages (red)
Cahors (red) Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux (red)
Bourgogne (Rouge or Blanc) Non-vintage brut Champagne
Chinon (red) Saint-Véran and Mâcon-Villages (white)
Corbières or Minervois (reds)

Words You Find on French Wine Labels

A French wine label contains a lot of information, but you can crack the code and understand French wine once you know how to read the label. Here are some words you may find and what they mean:

Appellation . . . Contrôlée (AOC): The word(s) appearing between these two words on the label indicate the official place-name of the wine, the location where the grapes grew. grand cru: A region’s highest quality vineyard or vineyard area
blanc de blancs (“white from whites”): A white wine made from white grapes only. In particular, a Champagne made exclusively with Chardonnay grapes. grand vin: A winery’s best wine
blanc: White millésime: Vintage (year of the harvest)
brut: A dry sparkling wine mis en bouteille au château: Estate-bottled
château: A wine estate premier cru: A top vineyard area or wine estate, but less prestigious than a grand cru
crémant: An AOC sparkling French wine from some region other than Champagne réserve: Suggests a better-quality wine, but it’s an unregulated term that anyone can use for any wine
cru: A vineyard, a village, or sometimes a wine estate rouge: Red
cuvée: A blend of wines, or a particular batch of a wine sec: Dry
domaine: Wine estate, usually a smaller property than a château vieilles vignes: Old vines, suggests better quality, but it’s an unregulated term
extra dry: A sparkling wine that’s slightly sweeter than brut Vins Délimités de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS): A place-name wine that’s less prestigious than an Appellation . . . Contrôlée wine
grand cru classé: A wine estate that has officially been classified as a top property Vin de Pays: A French country wine; the words following this phrase on the label indicate the zone where the grapes grew.

Grapes Used in French Wine

The variety of grapes (red or white) used for making French wines is usually named for the region in France where it’s grown. Here are some French wine types and the main grape used for making it:

Wine Type Principal Grape(s)
Beaujolais Gamay
Bordeaux (red) Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Bordeaux (white) Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon
Burgundy (red) Pinot Noir
Burgundy (white) Chardonnay
Chablis Chardonnay
Champagne Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier
Côtes du Rhône Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre
Pouilly-Fuissé Chardonnay
Pouilly-Fumé Sauvignon Blanc
Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc
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