Steve Boston's Article On
Understanding Wine Labels

French Wine Label

French Wine Label

Our Introduction To What Everybody Should Know About Wine Labels

Boston explains many of the terms encountered on wine labels. And he helps you avoid the hype.

What Everybody Should Know About Labels To Buy The Best Wine

By Steve Boston

Buying wine can be an intimidating and overwhelming task. To make an informed choice and actually knowing what you are doing can be difficult. So the next time you go out and buy your next bottle of wine, here are some terms, that if you know, will make the experience an easier time for you and also be able to converse intelligently with whomever you're purchasing the wine.

Here are some of the most important terms you should know when making an informed wine buying decision.

Traditional Method

You'll see this on a French label as  Methode Traditionelle. When you see this label, it refers to sparkling wines made in the United States and Australia. If you happen to see this label on a new world wine it only means it's made in the same way as traditional champagne.

Old Vines

Old vines or Vieille Vignes is usually placed on the wine label. This refers to wine that's been made from old vines. The older vines results in wines with richer, denser and more robust flavors. This indicates a very high quality wine produced from reputable vineyards.


This term is usually on all French wine. You'll find cru in the Alsace, Bordeaux as well as the Burgundy regions of France. These are wine regions of extreme reputation and a cru label indicates that you are purchasing the highest quality wine from the most respected wine makers in France.

Poor Soil

In most other cases, you never want to grow anything in poor soil. But in the case of wine, the best wine is produced from the poorest soil. How can that be? A good wine has all the rich robust flavors of the region it's grown in. It's all possible by  poor soil conditions and minimal water irrigation. The vine directs all the water and nutrients to the fruit as a survival mechanism. This is the desired outcome to get the most nutrition and flavor  out of the grape versus the leaves. Bottom line, poor soil and minimal irrigation equals robust flavor and nutrient dense grapes.

Estate Bottling

This is basically a term on the label that means that the wine was grown and produced all in the same location. There are many vineyards that grow and make their from beginning to end. Most wine makers do this so they can control every aspect of the wine making process and preserve the quality of their product. In French this term would be referred to Mis en Bouteille on the label.

Puffed Up Hype

Whenever  you see awards that have been won and a lot of marketing terms, just be cautious. Most quality wine makers don't need to include a lot of marketing hype to sell their product.

Non-Specific Locations

You want to make sure that you know exactly where the grape was grown and where it was processed into wine. If it says in the North of France or in Northern California, for example, you might not be receiving the best quality product. Good quality wines will proudly tell you in exactly what specific region they were made.

Grand Vin and Superior

This term means nothing and is really just a term on the label to sound important. It means that it's the primary wine produced at the vineyard. Again, it means nothing more, but to fill space on the label.  The word Superieur is another term that just indicates a particular wine has a higher alcohol content than usual. Again it sounds good but really, doesn't indicate any quality standards. So hopefully, after having a brief tour of some of the more common terms that you would find on a wine label you can make better choices in the quality of your wines and enjoy the wine buying process more.

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