Wine terms in French: unlocking French wine secrets - decoding vineyard vocabulary

Wine terms in French: unlocking French wine secrets – decoding vineyard vocabulary

  • Le vin blanc (white wine)
  • Les vins doux (sweet wines)
  • Les vins mousseux (sparkling wines)
  • Le Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Les arômes
  • etc.
French wine terminology - Une cave à vin (a wine cellar)
  • Le terroir
  • Le cépage
  • Le vigneron
Le terroir (land)
This word refers to the influence of place on the character of wine.

It includes elements such as
  • le sol
  • le climat
  • altitude
  • sun exposure
  • etc.
  • which influence the development of the grapes.

    Each one has its own characteristics and therefore produces wines characteristic of that particular geographic region.

    In marketing, it is emphasized to highlight the specific link between the wine, the soil and the climate of the wine region.

Le cépage
The term cépage refers to the specific varieties of grapes used to produce a specific wine.

Each one of them has its own characteristics in terms of
  • taste
  • les arômes
  • colour
  • texture
  • which influence the development of the grapes.
There are wines made from a single grape variety, and others made from blends of several ones, a famous one is le pinot noir.

Examples:
  • le Cabernet Sauvignon
  • le Merlot
  • le Chardonnay
  • le Pinot Noir

Winemaker
A winemaker is a person who cultivates vines and produces wine. The winemaker’s choices have a major impact on the final result of the wine. He has to make decisions about vine cultivation and winemaking.
What influence do

  • Le climat
  • Le sol
  • Le topographie (topography)

  • have on wine fragrance?
Le climat
Le climat has a major influence on grape quality and development.

Here are three elements that vary from wine region to wine region:
  • temperatures
  • precipitation
  • hours of sunshine
In warm ones, grapes ripen faster, producing wines richer in sugar and alcohol.
In cooler ones, grapes have higher acidity.

Le sol
Soil type has a major impact on how the savour is and on les arômes du vin. This is due to the minerals and nutrients in the soil that are absorbed by the roots.

La topographie (topography)
Altitude and sun influence les arômes du vin.

The more the vineyards are subjected to temperature variations (high altitude), the slower they ripen and the more acidic the grapes.

The degree of sun exposure influences the chemical composition of the grapes and therefore les arômes du vin.
Here are three well-known examples of French grape varieties:

  • Le Merlot
  • Le Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Le Chardonnay
Le Merlot
Origin: Bordeaux.
It is a red grape variety (red grapes – red wine (vin rouge)).
It generally contains cherry, plum and raspberry fragrance.

Le Cabernet Sauvignon
Origin: Bordeaux.
It is a red grape variety (red grapes – red wine (vin rouge)).
It generally contains fragrance of blackcurrant, graphite, green bell pepper and sometimes mint.


Le Chardonnay
Origin: Bourgogne (Burgundy).
It is a white grape variety (white grapes – white wine (vin blanc)).
It generally contains fragrance of citrus, tropical fruit, vanilla and hazelnut.
  1. La vendange – Manual or mechanical
  2. Égrappage (Destemming)
  3. Pressurage (Pressing)
  4. Fermentation (Alcoholic fermentation)
  5. Cuvaison (Vatting time)
  6. Pigeage (Punching down)
  7. Pressurage supplémentaire (Additional pressing)
  8. Élevage en cuve ou en fût (Matured in vats or barrels)
  9. Assemblage (Wine blending)
  10. Filtration and clarification
  11. Mise en bouteille (Bottling)
  12. Vieillissement (Aging)

To ensure the quality of the grapes, and therefore the good character of the wine, you need to know and understand both:

  • Calendar
  • Methods
Harvest calendar
  • Le climat
  • When is the best time to do it? It depends on temperature, rainfall and sunshine. Grape maturity is strongly influenced by these factors.

  • Grape type
    Some grape varieties are harvested early in the season to retain their acidity, for others it’s later for more flavour.

  • Methods used to harvest the grapes
  • Hand-picking
  • This allows precise selection of the bunches of grapes. It is used for wines of superior quality.

  • Mechanical harvesting
    Machines are used to do it. It’s faster but less precise.
    1. Wine aging
    2. In vats: maturing in steel ones preserves the freshness of the grape’s raw fragrance. This enhances the purity of the fruit.
      In oak barrels: the wine acquires fragrance from the wood: vanilla, spices, etc. The tannins in the wood can give the wine a richer texture.

    3. Wine blending
    4. Different wines can be blended. This makes it possible to adjust the structure of the wine and achieve a more harmonious taste.

    5. Fine-tuning
    6. Prolonged ageing means that the wine develops a variety of arômes, leading to a richer, more nuanced set of scents.

    7. Bottling
    8. Limited oxygenation: the fact that little oxygen is used preserves the freshness of fragrance and flavour.

    9. It matures in bottle
    10. This can bring about fine, significant changes in the wine’s structure.

    11. Prêt à boire VS Vin de garde
    12. Prêt à boire: they are designed to be drunk young, with fruity smell and softer tannins.
      Vin de garde: intended for bottle ageing, they evolve over time and become more complex.



    To remember
  • Vocabulary of the vineyard
      • Le terroir (land)
      • Le cépage (grape variety)
      • Le vigneron (winemaker)
  • The concept of land
      • Le climat
      • Le sol
      • La topographie (topography)
      • etc.
  • Identifying grape varieties – (Les cépages)
      • Le Merlot
      • Le Cabernet Sauvignon
      • Le Chardonnay
  • Wine production terminology (La vinification)
      • 12 steps
  • The harvest – (La vendange)
      • Harvest calendar
      • Methods used to harvest the grapes
  • From barrel to bottle (de l’élevage à la mise en bouteille)
      • 6 steps

    Describing the smell of wine in French
    Here are three French words we use when we talk about tasting:

    • Le bouquet
    • Robuste
    • Tannique
    Le bouquet
  • Definition
    It refers to the complex set of smell that develop in a wine as it ages in the bottle. These are different fragrance from those initially present in the grapes.

  • Analysis
    When we talk about it, we’re referring to secondary and tertiary aromas: floral, spicy and earthy notes. A well-developed one refers to a wine whose maturation process has been successful.

  • Robuste
  • Definition
    It describes an intense and powerful wine.

  • Analysis
    It is used to express the wine’s high alcohol content and depth of flavour. A robust wine can be characterized by its ability to age well.

  • Tannique
  • Definition
    The word tannique refers to the presence of tannins in a wine. They contribute to the proper aging of the wine.

  • Analysis
    A wine is tannic when it is astringent. This term is often associated with red wines.
  • Four elements for understanding the different olfactory and gustatory facets of wine:

    • Les arômes (The richness of it)
    • Le bouquet
    • L’évolution au fil du temps (Evolution over time)
    • Le rôle dans la dégustation (Role in wine tasting)
    Les arômes
  • Nature
    The aromas in wine are the smells perceived directly from the grape. They derive from the natural characteristics of the grape variety.

  • Immediacy
    They are often immediate and easy to identify: specific fruits, flowers, herbs.

  • Le bouquet
  • Nature
    This word is used to describe the fragrance that develop as wine ages in the bottle. These are secondary and tertiary aromas that result from chemical reactions over time.

  • Complexity
    More complex than the first ones. It may include walnut, leather, tobacco, oak characteristics from barrel aging.

  • L’évolution au fil du temps (Evolution over time)
  • Aromas
    Grape fragrance is often more present in young wines. They can evolve over time.

  • Bouquet
    It evolves over time, becoming more complex as the wine ages in the bottle.

  • Le rôle dans la dégustation (Role in wine tasting)
  • Aromas
    The smell is what we perceive first. They are often associated with varietal characteristics and grape quality.

  • Bouquet
    It gives clues to the good maturation in the bottle. The smell is deeper and more nuanced.
  • When we taste wine and experience sensations in the mouth, two elements influence this:

    • Le corps du vin (The body of the wine)
    • La longueur en bouche (The length in the mouth)
    The two words to describe the wine’s characteristics are:

    • Léger (Light)
    • Persistant (Persistent)
    Le corps du vin (The body of the wine)
  • Definition
    The term corps refers to the density of the wine in the mouth. It refers to the consistency of the wine: from light to full-bodied.

  • Descriptors
    A wine can be léger (a white wine (white grapes), sometimes a red wine). It can also be corsé (full bodied white wine) (richer), like some red wines.

  • La longueur en bouche (The length in the mouth)
  • Definition
    This refers to the fact that the flavours and sensations remain in the mouth after swallowing the wine. Duration of aroma presence in the mouth.

  • Descriptors
    A ‘persistent’ wine (un vin persistant) means that la longueur en bouche is long, with a pleasant sensation that lasts.
  • Two words are used to describe the physical sensations of wine in the mouth:

    • La rondeur (Wine’s roundness)
    • L’onctuosité (Smoothness)
    When we talk about la rondeur, we’re talking about interpreting:

    • La douceur (the softness)
    • La plénitude du corps du vin en bouche (the fullness of the wine’s body on the palate)
    La douceur (Softness)
  • Pleasant wine texture
  • Attenuation of wine acidity
  • Wine’s enveloping character

  • La plénitude du corps (the fullness of the wine’s body on the palate)
  • A feeling of fullness
  • Structured balance
  • Persistent flavours
  • Here are three wine terms to talk about it:

    • La sensation crémeuse (Creamy sensations)
    • La sensation de velours (Velvet sensation)
    • Une structure équilibrée (Balanced texture)
  • La sensation crémeuse (Creamy sensations)
  • Wines can display characteristics reminiscent of cream, bringing a smoothness and unctuousness.

  • La sensation de velours (Velvet sensation)
  • Some wines can give a velvet sensation, with a silky texture.

  • Une structure équilibrée (Balanced texture)
  • Oak-aged wines offer a balanced texture, and therefore firmness, as well as a creamy feel.

  • Wines famous for their creaminess: le Chardonnay and le Merlot


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    To remember
  • Tasting profile (Le profil de dégustation)
      • Le bouquet
      • Robuste
      • Tannique
  • Navigating nuances
      • Les arômes
      • L’évolution au fil du temps (Evolution over time)
      • Le rôle dans la dégustation (Role in wine tasting)
  • The taste experience (Le corps et la longueur en bouche)
      • Le corps du vin
      • La longueur en bouche (The length in the mouth)
      • Léger (Light)
      • Persistant (Persistent)
  • Characterizing wine body and texture
      • La rondeur (Wine’s roundness)
      • L’onctuosité (Smoothness)

        • Feeling the wine’s roundness (La rondeur)
          • La douceur (The softness)
          • La plénitude du corps du vin en bouche
        • The touch of creaminess (L’onctuosité)
          • La sensation crémeuse (Creamy sensations)
          • La sensation de velours (Velvet sensation)
          • Une structure équilibrée (Balanced texture)

    Classification of French wines - Le Beaujolais nouveau
    Here, we take a look at:

    • Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) – (Protected Designation of Origin)
    • Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) – (Protected Geographical Indication)
    Definition
    It is a legal system that classifies, identifies and protects wines produced in given geographical areas.

    Objectives
  • Protection de l’origine (Protection of origin)

  • It protects the geographical origin of a wine. Wines bearing this appellation must be produced in a given area.

    This area is characterized by specific elements
    • geography
    • climate
    • geology
    These elements determine the quality of this specific wine.

  • Garantie de la qualité (Quality guarantee)

  • It guarantees a level of quality based on strict production rules
    • standards concerning authorized grape varieties
    • yields
    • winemaking methods
    • aging periods
    • etc.
    Definition
    Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) refers to a category of wines that are produced in a defined geographical region, but have less stringent rules than Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC).

    Flexible rules
    Production rules for PGI wines are less strict. Producers are therefore freer to choose grape varieties, yields, winemaking methods and so on.
    Definition
    The millésime of a wine indicates the year in which the grapes used to make that wine were harvested. It is linked to the specific weather and climatic conditions of that year.

    This is a key factor influencing the character, quality and style of the wine. The specific climate of each year has an impact on the quality of the grapes, their ripeness, and therefore on the characteristics of the wine produced. Some years can be exceptional due to ideal conditions for the vines.
    Definition
    The French word grand cru is used to classify and identify vineyards or vineyard areas considered to be the best in a given wine-growing region.

    The criterias for un grand cru are
    • soil quality
    • sun exposure
    • altitude
    • etc.
    • reputation
    • consumer perception of the wines produced
    • History & heritage
    • Brand reputation
    • Terroir and viticulture
  • History & heritage
  • Does the wine producer’s history go back several generations?
    What viticultural and cultural heritage is associated with the château or domaine?

  • Brand reputation
  • How is the brand perceived in the marketplace?
    What is the reputation of the château or domaine nationally and internationally?

  • Terroir and viticulture
  • What are the characteristics of it where the vines are grown?
    Does the grower attach particular importance to the sustainability and quality of the soil?



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    To remember
  • Classification and appellation

      • Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) – (Protected Designation of Origin)
        • Protection de l’origine (Protection of origin)
        • Garantie de la qualité (Quality guarantee)
      • Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP) – (Protected Geographical Indication)
        • Flexible rules
  • Vintage and producer insight
      • Year of production (Millésime)
      • Evaluating the wine producer: Château or Domaine
        • reputation
        • consumer perception of the wines produced
        • History & heritage
        • Brand reputation
        • Terroir and viticulture

    FAQ French terms for wine

    • a glass of red wine (un verre de vin rouge)
    • a glass of white one (un verre de vin blanc)
    • rosé wine (du vin rosé)
    • sparkling wine
    • a sweet wine
    • a French champagne
    • du pinot gris
    • un verre de Beaujolais nouveau
    • un verre de Champagne?


    https://www.geo.fr/voyage/quels-sont-les-plus-beaux-vignobles-de-france-203242

    https://www.lepoint.fr/dossiers/vins/special-vins/

    https://www.elle.fr/Elle-a-Table/Cote-cave

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