Reading foreign wine labels can be tough, especially because everyone does it differently. So today, let’s break down a fairly common one (Burgundy). First off, this wine is Chardonnay, even though it doesn’t say it on the label. The French tend to label their wines based on place, and you’re just sort of expected to know the grape (ie: white wine from Burgundy, with rare exception, is always Chardonnay). I get that this can be SUPER frustrating when you’re first learning, but once you get good at it, you’ll forget it was ever an issue!
As we mentioned the region is Burgundy. See where is says “Grand Vin de Bourgogne”? Bourgogne means Burgundy. So right away, we know this wine is either Pinot Noir (if red) or Chardonnay (if white). That’s just the rules the AOC (French wine governing body) set if they want to put the word “Burgundy” on the label. Some wine labels won’t be any more specific than this, and that means the grapes came from anywhere in Burgundy, and usually mean they are fine quality, but nothing terribly special either.
Now we are getting into a more specific place, the Appellation; in this case, Saint-Aubin (pronounced saint-oh-bahn). These means all the grapes came from with this particular Appellation, and are usually better quality (and thus more $$). Appellation wines are a good place to start in Burgundy because you are guaranteed a certain level of quality without spending a TON of money (though they can get expensive). Appellation wines start around $35 and go up from there.
Our producer went a step further, and made the wine from grapes from one specific vineyard: Les Créots. Now we’re getting more expensive, and a very specific plot of land and terroir.
This specific vineyard (Les Créots) happens to be a Premier Cru vineyard, which is 2nd best ranking for a vineyard in Burgundy (Grand Cru is best). You see, Burgundy judges wine quality based on where the grapes come from and how that vineyard is ranked. Other places rank quality based on oak aging, grape ripeness, or producer, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Our producer is listed on the left (PYCM for short) but this can appear anywhere on the label. What’s important to know is that sometimes, two different producers can make wines from the same grapes in Burgundy: most producers don’t own their land: they buy grapes, and several producers can buy the same grapes. That being said, if you find a producer you like, try the wines they make from other places with the region!
I know this is tricky, so do you have any questions? Hit me up in the comments!