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French Wine Terms

Our ever-expanding list of French wine terms.

A

Appellation

A legally defined geographical location used to identify where (and how) grapes are grown and made into wine.

B

Barrique

A French word for "barrel" that is typically used to describe a 225 liter oak barrel that originated in Bordeaux and the surrounding forests of Limoges.

Biologique

An organically produced wine.

C

Cépage

("say-paj") The grapes included in the wine. Encépagement is the proportions of the wine blend.

Château

French word for castle (aka Castello). Often used alongside the name of an estate winery.

Clos

A walled vineyard or vineyard on the site of an ancient walled vineyard. You'll find this term commonly used in Burgundy, France.

Côteaux

A French label term for wines from slopes or non-contiguous hillside vineyards. (e.g. Côteaux du Languedoc).

Côtes

A French label term for wines from a slope or hillside (contiguous) vineyard – such as along a river. (e.g. Côtes du Rhône)

Cru

This French word translates to "growth" and indicates a vineyard or group of vineyards that are recognized for quality. Cru is usually used alongside a quality level determined by the appellation rules such as "premier cru" or "grand cru."

Cuvée

French for "vat" and used to denote a specific blend or batch.

D

Domaine

An unofficial French label term for winery estate with vineyard property. You'll find this term used frequently in Burgundy and the Loire Valley.

Doux

French word for sweet. A sweet wine.

E

Élevage

[Means "raising" in French. Élevage is the process of shaping the wine into its final form post-fermentation including aging, fining, filtering, and blending.

Élevé en Fûts de Chêne

French for "aged in oak."

En Tirage

("on teer-ahj") A French term used to describe aging sparkling wines in the bottle with autolytic yeast particles left after secondary fermentation.

P

Pétillant

A French term for lightly sparkling wine.

S

Sans Soufre

French term for "without sulfur." Usually on bottle labels indicating a wine with absolutely no added sulfur (but not necessarily 100% sulfite free).

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Sommelier

(“Sa-muhl-yay”) A French word used for wine steward. A “master sommelier” is a US trademark term owned by Court of Masters Sommeliers that’s reserved for those who pass the 4th level of their certification exam.

Sur Lie

Meaning "on the lees" in French and used to describe resting a wine with its autolytic yeast particles that are left after the fermentation.

T

Terroir

(“Tear-woh”) Originally a French word that is used to describe how a particular region’s climate, soils, aspect (terrain), and traditional winemaking practices affect the taste of the wine.

V

Vieille Vignes

("vee-yay-ah vehns") French term for "old vines." A mostly unregulated term to describe wines made with grapes from old vines.

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