Apprendre à lire une étiquette de vin

Learn to read a wine label

To choose a good bottle of wine, it is almost essential to read its label. This will give you valuable information about the wine, but also about the estate and the producer. Let's see, in detail, how to read the label of a wine .

The different labels on wine bottles

You will probably have noticed that most bottles of wine have two labels. The first, the main label , at the front of the bottle and the second, at the back, which is called the back label . Generally speaking, the label gives the main information about the wine, while the back label offers you more details, such as grape varieties, aromas, or even recommended food and wine pairings.


Wine label information

The label on the front of wine bottles does not always give the same information. Some are mandatory, while others are optional.

Mandatory information on wine labels

The label of a bottle of wine must contain certain important mandatory information :

  • The category name : depending on the name, a wine meets very strict specifications. By simply reading the label, the consumer must then be able to define whether the wine is a French wine, an IGP (protected geographical indication), or an AOC/AOP (controlled or protected designation of origin). The name can also specify the region of wine production, such as Burgundy or Provence, or even the commune, such as Saint-Émilion for great red wines;
  • The name and address of the operation : this is the name of the bottler, who is solely responsible for the content of the bottles he puts on sale. If the wine is vinified and bottled in the same place, you will be able to see the words "bottled at the estate/property...". Moreover, be aware that only AOC and AOP can use the terms “clos”, “château” and “cru” on their labels;
  • The degree of alcohol : the alcohol level, expressed as a percentage, must be mentioned on the label. This is generally between 11 and 14%;
  • The capacity of the bottle: expressed in liters, the classic bottle of wine is 75 cl;
  • The name of the producing country : for wines intended for export, the name of the producing country must be mentioned;
  • The health message : this logo reminds us that the consumption of alcohol is not recommended for pregnant women. This mention is often present on the back label, when there is one.

Optional information on the label of wine bottles

Whether you choose a white wine, a red wine, a rosé wine, or even a sparkling wine, the main label can also give you useful, but optional, information .

  • The vintage : the year the wine was made can be a guarantee of quality, especially when it comes to particularly qualitative years, such as the hot summers from 2015 to 2020 (except 2017);
  • The name of the vintage : the wine producer can decide to give a particular name to one of his vintages, whether to mark a qualitative difference (best grape varieties, quality parcel, etc.), or to define the signature wine of the vintage. 'a domain, for example;
  • The European organic logo : this label tells you that the wine meets the specifications of the production standards for organic wines;
  • Sugar content : sparkling wines, and sparkling wines in general, may include the words "brut", "extra-brut", "sweet", "dry" or "demi-sec" to inform of the sugar level of the wine. wine contained in the bottle;
  • The batch number : this information ensures the traceability of the product.


Wine back label information

On the back of the wine bottles, you will also find lots of useful information for choosing your wine.

Mandatory information on the back label

As on the front of the bottle, certain information may be mentioned on the back of the container. Perhaps you have already opened a bottle that did not contain a back label . It is for this reason that the information contained therein is never obligatory.

  • The grape variety used: in France, to mention a grape variety on the label of a wine, it must be present at a minimum of 85%. In the case of blending, the different grape varieties will be mentioned in descending order of their presence in the wine (from the most present to the least present);
  • Cultivation and winemaking methods : you will see mentions relating to cultivation on certain bottles, such as biodynamics or organic farming. It is also possible to have details on the winemaking technique, such as “aged in oak barrels”;
  • A quick description of the wine and tasting advice : it is not uncommon to see food and wine pairing advice on the back label, serving temperature, as well as a quick presentation of the qualities and aromas of the wine. wine ;
  • More “marketing” mentions: other mentions are not obligatory, and not really regulated. This is the case for the term “ old vine ”, or the term “ great wine ”, but also information linked to awards and medals obtained during wine competitions.


Bonus: green capsule or red capsule, what’s the difference?

You may have noticed, but wine bottles are not only different by their shape and their label. The capsule can also give you information. Indeed, the green capsule , or green sticker, concerns wines whose producer is also the harvester . Conversely, the red capsule , or red vignette, concerns wines whose producer is a merchant who buys his grapes from a winegrower and takes care of the winemaking himself.

This information is interesting, but it will not tell you at all about the quality of the wine. It's as if we were saying that a cook who bought his vegetables at the market was less good than a cook who picked his vegetables from his garden.


Wine bottle labels are always very interesting to decipher, as they provide valuable information. However, they should not be the only criterion for choosing your good bottles, and nothing will replace a tasting workshop to get to know a wine.



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