How to Read and Understand a French Wine Label

Some tips on knowing what’s in the bottle…

When you’re browsing the wine shop shelves, looking for the perfect trip down memory lane in a wine bottle, how can you possibly know whether anything on that shelf will resemble what you drank while you were onboard Athos?! 

You need to be able to understand the content on a french wine label.  The best news is that fluent french is not an obligation in this case.

French wines carry considerable information on that sometimes-confusing label.  It can show where a wine comes from, how it was vinified and which grapes were used. 

Below is a great resource writtten by  a map of the Languedoc wine regions, and a diagram of what can be found and where on a typical wine label. 

It shows the areas called the AOCs – or Appellation d’Origine Controlés.  These colour-blocked areas on the map show the officially licensed french wine regions with grape-growing and vinification requirements needing to be met in order to carry the AOC mark of standard.

Following the below map and label-guide, you should be able to work out the (relative) prestige of the winery, the age of the wine, the vinification, the grape varietals.   Voilà.  How to understand a french wine label.

A sample:  how to understand a Languedoc Wine Label

…with explanations in red:

Chateau La Voulte Gasparets
Languedoc Wine Label sample

Languedoc AOC Wine Map