Deciphering Domaine De Garrigon & EV wine pairings

Reading a French Wine Label

by Anna Ward

Reading a French Wine Label

Elizabeth Cecil

Wandering up and down aisles of wine, it’s easy to choose a bottle when you know exactly what grape varietal you’re looking for, and it’s written on the label. But what about that aloof, mysterious section of French wines that makes translating a wine label so difficult and confusing? Luckily, with a little bit of knowledge about the traditions of French wine making, it’s easy to decode and confidently choose le trés bon vin for your harvest table.

Until recently, French winemakers rarely indicated what grape was used to make the wine, although it has become more common to find French wine with the grape varietal listed on the label to attract consumers. Most bottles of wine imported to the U.S. are under strict guidelines called the Appelation D’Origine Contrôllée (AOC). This is a French governmental agency that began in the 1930s and regulates wine and other agricultural products to make sure they are produced in a way consistent and traditional within designated regions of France.

The AOC has some very specific standards winemakers must abide by, which guarantee the excellence and preserves traditional winemaking in France. Although we don’t need to know the most exacting of the AOC regulations, it does help to know, when shopping, that the AOC limits exactly what grape varietals can be used in each region of France. So if you’re looking at a bottle of Bordeaux, you can be sure that there are only five grape varietals that could have been used to make the wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, or Malbec. In Burgundy, the most commonly found grapes are the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region, as well as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. From the Loire Valley you can expect Muscadet, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. The Côte-Du-Rhône regulations allow for 21 different grape varietals to be used; the common ones include Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Marsanne, and Viogner. This Côtes-Du-Rhône, Domaine De Garrigon, is 70% Granache and Carrigan. So with these instituted varietals in mind, now you can shop for a French wine as easily as you would shop for any other bottle.