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French Wine Terms

Burgundy cote de nuits panorama of vineyard and vosne romanee

The French have ensured their wine vocabulary remains in tact, which means if you drink French wine you will need to learn even more wine lingo. These are especially helpful if you are trying to decifer a wine bottle label. Here are our top French terms we use:

    • Blanc de Blancs: A term for sparkling wines to denote a white sparkling wine made with 100% white grapes (100% Chardonnay in Champagne)
    • Blanc de Noirs: A term for sparkling wines to denote a white sparkling wine made with 100% black grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in Champagne)
    • Brut: A term for sweetness level in sparkling wine, Brut indicates a dry style
    • Château: A winery
    • Clos: A walled vineyard or vineyard on the site of an ancient walled vineyard. Commonly used in Burgundy.
    • Côte(s): Wines from a slope or hillside (contiguous)–usually along a river (e.g. Côtes du Rhône “slopes of the Rhône river”)
    • Cru: Translates to “growth” and indicates a vineyard or group of vineyards typically recognized for quality
    • Cuvée: Denotes a specific wine blend or batch
    • Demi-Sec: Off-dry (lightly sweet)
    • Domaine: A winery estate with vineyards
    • Doux: Sweet
    • Grand Cru: Translates to “Great Growth” and is used in Burgundy and Champagne to distinguish the region’s best vineyards
    • Grand Vin: Used in Bordeaux to indicate a winery’s “first label” or best wine they produce (Bordeaux wineries often produce a 2nd or 3rd label at varying price tiers)
    • Millésime: The vintage date, commonly used in the Champagne region
    • Mis en bouteille au château/domaine: Bottled at the winery
    • Moelleux: Sweet
    • Premiere Cru (1er Cru): “First Growth” wine, used in Burgundy and Champagne to distinguish the region’s 2nd best vineyards
    • Propriétaire: Owner of winery
    • Sec: Dry (e.g. not sweet)
    • Supérieur: A regulatory term commonly used in Bordeaux to describe a wine with higher minimum alcohol and aging requirements than the base
    • Sur Lie: A wine that is aged on lees (dead yeast particles) which are known to give a creamy/bready taste and increased body
    • Vendangé à la main: Hand harvested
    • Vieille Vignes: Old vines
    • Vignoble: Vineyard
    • Vin Doux Naturel (VDN): A wine that is fortified during fermentation (usually a sweet dessert wine)