French Wine Labels — What You Need to Know & How to Read Them

You pick up a bottle of elegant French wine but stop short. You realize that you don’t understand some of the words on the label. Does this mean you have to put the bottle back? Not at all! Use this guide to learn how to read French wine labels (and impress your friends). Everyone starts somewhere, and there are plenty of tasty French wines that you should not miss out on.

Labeled by Region

The labels on French wines will indicate the area of origin. In contrast, many other countries’ wine bottles indicate the grape varieties used to make the wine. When you read wine labels from France, you will see the wine appellation (or region) right underneath the producer’s name.

You can look at a French wine map to determine what the appellation means for the flavors. Certain regions in France produce specific grape varieties. Knowing this information will help you choose a blend that you love.

In addition, wines will denote the village of origin of the grapes. These wines are unique because they reflect the local wine quality, flavor profiles, and spirit of specific French towns. If you are interested in French culture, choosing wines by village can help you fully immerse yourself.

Common French Wine Terms

You will need to know some standard terms French wineries use on their labels. These terms can tell you a lot about the wine’s taste, dryness, and other essential qualities. Learn the following definitions to read wine labels like a pro.

Moelleux: Sweet – If you see “moelleux” on any French wine labels, this means that the wine is very sweet. You can expect low dryness and more fruity flavors throughout your glass.

Mousseux: Sparkling – If you enjoy sparkling wines, look for “mousseux” on the label. These wines are common in the Champagne wine region.

Brut: Dry – If you are looking for dry champagne with low sweetness, look for “brut” on French wine labels. Brut indicates very dry, bitter notes in French sparkling wines.

Blanc de Noirs: White Wine Made from Black Grapes – Many French sparkling wines are made with black grapes. If you see “blanc de noirs” on a French wine label, the winemaker used black grapes with the skins removed. As a result, these sparkling wines will likely have a sweeter, fruitier flavor than others.

Cépage: Grape Blend – The term “Cépage” will refer to the percentage of each grape variety in the wine. This term is important to remember if you strongly prefer certain grape varieties.

Cru: High-Quality – “Cru” means “growth” in French. If you see this word on the label, the wine came from high-quality vineyards in France. Vineyards with “cru” labels are known for their prestige and quality in the wine world.

Dryness and Sweetness Labels

You can find your perfect French wine by recognizing the dryness and sweetness terms. Decoding these terms will ensure you get a blend that fits your taste preferences (or pleasantly surprises you). French wine labels will indicate the dryness or sweetness of the wine with the following terms:

  1. Brut Nature (driest)
  2. Extra Brut
  3. Brut
  4. Extra Dry
  5. Sec
  6. Demi-sec
  7. Doux (sweetest)

Look for these specific terms when searching for a very dry, middle-of-the-road, or very sweet French wine.

Get French Wines at Festival Wine & Spirits

We carry a selection of the finest wines at Festival Wine & Spirits. If we do not already have a wine that you desire, don’t worry — we will bring it to our store! We are committed to helping you enjoy your favorite wines and explore new, flavorful options. So stop in at Festival Wine & Spirits today!

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