Thursday, March 16, 2017

Parlez-vous français?

French Wine Labels Explained
Reading and decoding wine labels can present problems for even the most dedicated English-speaking oenophiles, especially when it comes to bottles of French wine. You can learn a lot from the label on a bottle of wine and in order to de-mystify the most commonly used terminology we’ve compiled, with the help of some French-speaking friends, the following glossary to explain the most common terms that you’re likely to see on your bottle of Château Margaux.
 France is one of the most highly regarded wine producing countries in the world and its long history with wine has resulted in an arcane wine classification system. A little knowledge and understanding of the terminology used on the labels helps bigly.

  • Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) - statement of geographical origin and guaranteed minimum quality of a wine. The area can be very big or very small.
  • Blanc - White.
  • Blanc de Blancs - White wine made exclusively from white grapes.
  • Blanc de Noirs - White wine made from black grapes with the pressed juice having minimal skin contact extracting little to no color.
  • Biologique - Organic wine.
  • Bourgogne - Wine from the Burgundy region.
  • Brut- Dry sparkling wine from e.g. Champagne.
  • Cave - Wine cellar, literally "cave".
  • Chai (Élevé dans nos chais) - Wine store above ground (matured/raised in our wine store).
  • Château - Wine estate, the literal meaning is "castle", the English equivalent is mansion.
  • Coopérative - A co-operative or syndicate of wine growers who use a production facility.
  • Côte (plural Coteaux) - Sloping hillside vineyard(s).
  • Clos - an enclosed or walled vineyard. Founded hundreds of years ago by Cistercian monks.
  • Crémant - Outside of the Champagne region - a sparkling wine. Within Champagne - softer sparkling wine.
  • Cru - Literal translation is "growth" referring to a vineyard area. It denotes a specific status, most notably in Bordeaux and Burgundy but also used elsewhere in France.
  • Cru Bourgeois - Good quality, middle ranking wines from Bordeaux not included in the original 1855 classification.
  • Cru Classé - Classed growth or classified vineyard, the basis of the 1855 classification in Bordeaux.
  • Cuvee - A specific blend or lot of wine.
  • Demi-sec - Medium-dry. In Champagne, usually a wine that is medium-sweet.
  • Domaine - Wine estate, most famously used in Burgundy.
  • Doux (vin doux) - Sweet (sweet wine).
  • Élevé en Fûts de Chêne- wine aged in oak barrels before bottling.
  • Liquoreux - Sweet wine term that is reserved for the richest dessert wines.
  • Grand Cru - Literal translation is "great growth". The highest quality and most prestigious wines.
  • Méthode Traditionelle - Sparkling wine made by the traditional method used in Champagne.
  • Millésime - Vintage.
  • Mis en bouteille au château/domaine - Wine bottled at the estate where the grapes were grown, harvested and fermented.
  • Moelleux - Sweet wine that can range from slightly sweet to very rich.
  • Négociant - A wine merchant who buys either grapes or pressed juice to make into wine or already made wine to sell under its own brand name.
  • Premier Cru - First growth. The second tier of wines, below those designated Grand Cru, in Burgundy while Premier Grand Cru Classé is the very top wines of the left bank of Bordeaux.
  • Proprietaries - Owner of a wine estate or vineyard.
  • Resultant - A grape grower.
  • Récoltant-Manipulant - A grower who processes his own grapes into wine. The letters RM on the bottle will denote this.
  • Rouge (vin Rouge) - Red (red wine).
  • Sélection de Grains Nobles - A sweet wine made from grapes affected by Botrytis Cinerea known as noble rot.
  • Supérieur - Wine with a higher level of alcohol by volume than the minimum required for the appellation and is due to increased ripeness of the grapes.
  • Sur Lie - Wine aged on its lees (dead yeast cells) which imparts an extra depth and richness to the flavor.
  • Vendange - Harvest.
  • Vendange Tardive - Late harvest, extra ripe grapes.
  • Vieilles Vignes - Old vines.
  • Vigneron - Vine grower.
  • Viticulteur - Grape grower.
  • Vignoble - Vineyard.
  • Vin - Wine.
  • Vin Blanc - White wine.
  • Vin Rouge - Red wine.
  • Vin Rosé - Pink wine, traditionally made from black grapes which are only allowed a short time in contact with the skins to bleed some color into the juice. A more modern and commercial method creates rosé wines by adding a little red wine to white. Many pink champagnes use this method.
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