The highest quality designation is a Vins d’Appellation d’Origine Controlee or AOC wine, “Grand Cru”. Read the bottom of the label carefully. Labels will also indicate where the wine was bottled, whether it was bottled by a single producer, or more anonymously and in larger quantities. Just over half of the wines in France are AOC quality wines. Ninety-nine per cent of Bordeaux wines fall into this top category.
“Mis en bouteille au château, au domaine, à la propriété” have a similar meaning and indicate the wine was “estate bottled”, on the same property on which it was grown or at a cooperative (within the boundary of the appellation) of which that property is a member. When I’m in a hurry at the supermarche I always snatch bottles that have these words.
“Dans la région de production” indicates the wine was not bottled at the vineyard but by a larger business at its warehouse within the same winemaking region of France as the appellation. If a chateau or domaine is named, it may well not exist as a real vineyard, and the wine may be an assemblage from the grapes or the wines of several producers.
“Dans nos chais, dans nos caves”: the wine was bottled by the business named on the label.
“Vigneron indépendant” is a special mark adopted by some independent wine-makers to distinguish them from larger corporate winemaking operations and symbolize a return to the basics of the craft of wine-making. Bottles from these independent makers carry a special logo usually printed on the foil cap covering the cork.
Vin de Pays is country wine and focuses on geographical origin. Introduced in the 1970s, by the year 2000 there were more than 150 individual VDP titles, covering about a quarter of French wine production.
Vin de France replaced the outdated Vin de Table category in 2010, but remains the most basic quality tier for French wine. It’s the least regulated (and least used) of the three categories. These wines can be made from grapes grown anywhere in France and their labels do not mention a specific region of origin.
If you’re looking for advice, head for these wine shops and enjoy recommendations from their staff. Santé!
Legrand Filles et Fils
1 Rue de la Banque, 75002
+33 1 42 60 07 12
La dernière Goutte
6 Rue de Bourbon le Château, 75006
Les Caves Augé
116 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008
+33 1 45 22 16 97
3-5 Boulevard de la Madeleine, 75001
+33 1 42 97 20 20