Embarking on your French wine journey is exciting - until you hit your first hurdle, French language and the terroir of it all. However, once you have a few key terms under your belt, you’ll be on your way. Allow us to be your linguistic guides, revealing the nuances of French wine vocabulary from appellation to assemblage.
Essential French Wine Terminology
Terroir: Our journey commences with "terroir," the soul of French wine. This term encompasses the unique blend of soil, climate, and geography inherent to a vineyard. It imparts distinct characteristics to the grapes, shaping the wine's identity.
Appellation: When you encounter an "appellation" on a bottle, it signifies a specific wine-producing region in France. Each appellation adheres to stringent regulations, preserving the heritage and winemaking practices unique to its territory - this can be signified with the AOC mark.
Cru: "Cru" designates a vineyard or site renowned for producing exceptional grapes. It stands as a badge of honour, symbolising quality and prestige, often found in the revered wine regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Unlocking French Wine Production Techniques
Assemblage: This is the art of blending different grape varieties to create a harmonious and balanced wine. The skill of the winemaker shines through in the assemblage, as they select and combine grapes to achieve desired flavors and aromas.
Barrique: The term "barrique" refers to small oak barrels used for aging wine. These barrels infuse the wine with subtle oak flavors and contribute to its complexity and texture.
Clos: A "clos" is a walled vineyard, typically associated with Burgundy. These enclosed spaces protect the vines from the elements and create a unique microclimate, resulting in wines of exceptional character.
Crémant: Crémant is a sparkling wine produced in France using the traditional method, like Champagne. However, it hails from regions outside of Champagne and often offers a more affordable alternative to its renowned counterpart.
Blanc de Blancs: Translating to "white from whites," this term signifies a sparkling wine made exclusively from white grape varieties, which in Champagne for example would be Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noirs: On the flip side, "blanc de noirs" means "white from blacks," indicating a sparkling wine crafted solely from red grape varieties. To take Champagne again, this would be Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier.
Côte: "Côte" denotes a hill or slope in French, and in wine regions, it often implies a prime location for vineyards. Wines from these elevated positions are highly prized for their unique characteristics.
Embarking on Your French Wine Odyssey
With these fundamental terms and techniques in your arsenal, you're ready to embark on a journey that goes beyond wine tasting—it's a voyage into the heart of French culture, heritage, and the rich heritage of winemaking that spans generations.
Come across a term you’re not sure about? Get in touch! The team at Mosaique Wines are here to help demystify French wine and ensure you love what’s in your glass.
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