Have you ever looked at a French wine bottle and thought: “What kind of rubbish is this?” There are some strange French words and it doesn't even say what grapes it is made of. Well, you’re right - French wine labels are very confusing and the whole French appellation system is complicated and takes time to understand.
Lets take a look at a typical French label and what it says.
The first thing you see on the bottle is the name of the estate that produces the vine. Chateau in English means castle.
The second thing you see is the vintage year. For French wines this is important because in France the climate there is a borderline for grape growing. There are good and bad years, so definitely do your research before purchasing any French wine.
The next thing stated is the place it comes from. And the name of the appellation whose rules it follows. The French have a tradition not to state what grapes are used to produce the wine. This is because most of the wines are a mix of different grapes and the appellation states what grapes in what regions or provinces are allowed. For Pomerol it's Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The wine in the picture is 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. For Chablis it’s always Chardonnay, for Champagne it’s Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier and so on.
One thing for sure - if you want to know what you are buying, you have to do the research.