Words You Find on French Wine Labels

Part of the French Wine For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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.
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French Wine For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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