Wine Labels Translated: Three Scary Labels Explained For Everybody

Posted April 28, 2015

WineLibrary Staff


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Look, we get it. Wine names and labels can be super intimidating. It's bad enough that they're in a different language, but then you throw in a few layers of classification, geography, and branding, and sometimes your eyes just glaze over and you pick the label with the cutest animal on it. 

Well not today. We're going to show you that even the weirdest, most verbose labels are actually pretty straightforward when you know what to look for.

Do you trust us? Hold our hands, let’s do this:

2012 Domaine De L'ecu Muscadet Orthogneiss

Yeowza, that’s a mouthfull.

2012: The vintage. But you already knew that, right? See you’re already doing fine!

Domaine De L’ecu: This is just the name of the producer. Whenever you see “Domaine de ___” or “Chateau ___” or “Bodegas ___” think of them as “___’s Winery” that’s all.

Muscadet: This is the name of the region that the wine is from. Muscadet is located on the coastal end of the Loire valley. What’s great is that in this case, you also automatically know the grape since any wine labeled as Muscadet is legally required to be made from the Melone de Bourgogne grape. Boom. Knowledge.

Orthogneiss: Yikes, where the hell did that come from!? If this one threw you for a loop, we don’t blame you. Orthogneiss is the name for their series of wines that all come from Gneiss soils. That translates into wines that are full bodied, rich, and stunningly complex. This is something you really need to seek out, and now that the label doesn’t scare you, it should be easy!


Les Rocailles Boniface Brut De Savoie

Ok let’s go over what we know:

Les Rocailles: The wine’s producer

Boniface: Short for Pierre Boniface, the winemaker. In this case he uses his name to grace the more entry-level of his two sparkling wines.

Brut: First thing this tells you (as if the shape of the bottle wasn’t a dead giveaway) is that this is a sparkling wine. Now “brut” has specific meanings depending on which region you’re in, but what it comes down to is that it designates how much dosage or sugar was added just before bottling. Brut basically means “only a little”, and normally brut wines come off as generally dry on the palate. The sugar acts as a counterbalance to the sharpness of the bubbles and the acid.

Savoie: This wine is from Savoie (pronounced saav-WAH), which is in the alps just east of the Rhone, right up against Italy. Savoie is known for crisp, herbaceous whites.

Wait no vintage!? Yep. Totally normal. Pretty much all but the best sparkling wines tend to be blend of several different vintages, and so are listed as non-vintage. (NV if you’re looking at a wine list)


2011 Puig Parahy Georges

Sure those are… words… Ok this one is actually way easier than it looks:

Puig-Parahy: The producer. The vineyards were first founded in 1446 (not a typo) by Etienne Parahy, and are currently owned by Georges Puig. See? Not so bad. Names are just weird.

Georges: In America, it’s not unusual for wines to have names: The Prisoner, Overlook, etc. But in France it’s much more common to simply list the name of the region. In that case this would be Puig-Parahy Cotes-du-Roussilion. But life is seldom simple… so they named this wine Georges. Still, the wine is a Cotes-du-Roussilion, so you know there is going to be some Syrah in the mix (even if this particular bottle is grenache-driven), and that the wine will be redolent with dark blueberries, spice, and great acid.


Product Label.

Les Rocailles Boniface Brut De...

91 Robert Parker - Robert Par...

Item: 84106

750 mL

Retail: $24.99

$12.50 per btl

Product Label.

Puig Parahy Georges

91 David Schildknecht - Rober...

Item: 87124

750 mL

Retail: $14.99

$10.38 per btl

Product Label.

Domaine De L'ecu Muscadet Orthogneiss

94+ John Gilman - View from th...

Item: 87139

750 mL

Retail: $24.99

$16.91 per btl