|Wine Label 101|
|Decoding a wine label is easy. All labels provide the same generic information, with only minor differences in format and content. Here's a step-by-step guide |
in cracking the code: -
Name of winery – Bordeaux label
Name of domain / merchant – Burgundy label
Name of champagne house – champagne label
b) Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
Abbreviated as A.O.C. It is the system that is defined by law in controlling the wines made in the region. There are gradations of appellation, that is fitting to each tier.
e.g. A.O.C. Bordeaux, then Médoc, then one of the Médoc communes like Pauillac.
e.g. name of cru on Burgundy label.
Champagne is the only AC wine that doesn't require the words "Appellation Contrôlée".
c) Estate bottling and winery information
If the wine is "estate bottled" (made from grapes grown and harvested in the winery's own vineyards), this will be disclosed with "Mise en bouteille(s) au Chateau."
If the label is marked with "mis en bouteille" but not followed by "au domaine", it is not bottled in an individual estate, but by a negotiant or merchant elsewhere.
d) Other information
Carry their ranking from traditional classifications, e.g. "Cru Bourgeois"
The style of champagne, e.g. Brut means dry, Blanc de Blanc means purely made from chardonnay grapes.
|Popular Glossary of French Wine Terms|
|A Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée|
This translates to "controlled term of origin" and is the French certification granted to certain French wines, cheeses and other agricultural products.
B Botrytis Cinera
Botrytis Cinera is an important mold used in wine making.
On wine labels, cuvée denotes wine of a specific blend or batch.
A French term meaning "half dry" used to describe wine that is sweet (up to 5% sugar).
G Grand Vin
Literally meaning "grand or great wine", Grand Vin refers to the best quality wine made by a chateau.
H Hospices de Beaune
A charitable institution in the Burgundy region
of France. It is the beneficiary of a famous wine auction, held every year on the third Sunday in November.
Stands for the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine and is the French organization charged with regulating controlled place names.
A large bottle, equivalent to six regular sized bottles (four in Champagne).
L Liqueur de Tirage
In the champagne method of making sparking wines "liqueur de tirage" is the mix of sugar solution and yeast added to the wine, to create the secondary fermentation, which will in turn produce bubbles.
A large wine bottle, which holds the same volume as two normal bottles. A magnum is the perfect size for aging great red wines, as it ages the wine slowly.
The French word for "new". Beaujolais Nouveau is shipped in mid-November, just a few weeks after the harvest. Using the Carbonic naceration method, the wine is made much more quickly than by traditional methods, but looses complexity in the process. The new wine becomes a centrepiece of marketing as cases
of it are flown around the world to celebrate its release.
Means "harvest" or "harvesting"”. A similar word seen on some French wine labels is "Recolant"” which refers to the fact that the winemaker has harvested their own grapes, and as such the wine is estate bottled.
S Sur Lie
A French term meaning, literally, "on the lees". Generally refers to the ageing of wines on the deposit of dead yeast that forms after primary fermentation. Sur lie ageing imparts a toasty quality and enhances complexity.
It refers to the influential relationship that the soil, climate, and topgraphy affect where a grape vine is planted.
V Vendanges Tardives
French for "late harvested". The term is used
in the Alsace region where a tiny amount (sometimes less than 1%) of the grapes are picked late.
|Cabernet Sauvignon |
The "King of Red Wine Grapes", originally from Bordeaux (Left Bank) where about 50% of the grapes grown are Cabernet Sauvignon. Grown in small bunches, it is characterised by a strong tannin content with a blackcurrant and green pepper aroma. On its own, the grape tends to be harsh when young but develops a very delicate bouquet with age.
Merlot is mainly associated in Pomeral & St Emilion blends. It gives wine colour and depth, adding body and softness. It also matures early and has less tannins than Cabernets. It is one of the most productive grapes and the perfect variety to accompany Cabernets.
Syrah is found mainly in the Rhône and has a slight 'peppery' fruit aspect. Hermitage in Northern Rhône must be constituted from 100% Syrah.
The red grape for Burgundy that is never blended with another grape, Pinot Noir is characterised by cherry and mushroomy, truffle aromas.
It is also the major grape varietal for making champagne.
Originated from Burgundy, Chardonnay is the most important white grapes in the world. It is reliable, malleable and can be barrel fermented or not. The flexibility allows it to taste from crisp dry
Chablis to melting butter, baked apple Meursault.
Usually a distinctive dry white wine with zest and aroma, Sauvignon Blanc is found as Sancerre & Pouilly Fume in the Loire.
Semillon is the key grape for Sauternes when it is affected with Botrytis – the noble rot to produce the greatest dessert wine in the world. It is also a traditional partner with Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux.
Riesling wines are only allowed officially in Alsace. Besides a fresh scent of lime, it also has a distinctive mineral aroma. It can be aged for a long period.