They are part of our daily lives, bottles sold commercially, whether they contain soda, water or alcohol, all have one or two labels whose information is regulated. Let’s pay close attention to the label on a bottle of wine. A true wine identity card, it mentions a lot of useful information for the consumer in their purchasing decision. These mentions become criteria of choice for one, providing information promoting fair competition, protecting one's health and establishing the traceability of the wine. Reading the label should help the consumer understand the wine.
Certain information is indicated on all bottles: this is mandatory by law, in the interests of the transparency demanded by the majority of consumers today.
The sales name of the wine corresponds to its category: wine, liqueur wine, sparkling wine, etc. This name can be replaced by an AOP (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) / IGP (Indication géographique protégée) name.
Note that the sales name “vin de table" (table wine) no longer exists today.
The provenance is a mention which completes the sales name: wine from France, wine from the European Union, etc. It can also appear alone: Product of France.
This is the volume of liquid supposed to be present in the container, the bottle, which varies depending on the category of wine. Indeed, for each category of wine, a range of usual volumes is defined (for example from 10 to 150 cl for still wines). The nominal volume of the most common standard bottles is 75 cl.
The alcoholic strength by volume gives the alcohol content of the wine. It is indicated in degrees or even in half degrees followed by the symbol “% vol. ". It may be preceded on the label by the terms “actual alcoholic strength” or “actual alcohol” or by the abbreviation “alc”.
It is determined from the number of volumes of pure alcohol contained in 100 volumes of wine at a temperature of 20°C (68°F).
To identify the bottler, the terms “Château”, “domaine”, “cru”, “hospices” (for AOP), “abbey”, “bastide”, “campagne”, “chapelle”, “commanderie”, “ domain”, “mas”, “manor”, “monastery”, “monopoly”, “mill”, “priory” and “tower” (for AOP/IGP) can be used to identify an operation. They are reserved for wines entirely obtained on a wine farm (harvesting and vinification).
This statement is accompanied by “bottler” or “bottled by” on labels. In the context of bottling by a third party, also called custom bottling, the information (names and address) is supplemented by the wording “bottled for…by…”.
It is not excluded that these mentions are clarified by additional information such as “wine grower”, “harvested by”, “trader”, etc.
In addition, the terms “bottled at the property” and “bottled at the château” can be used for a wine benefiting from an AOC or an IGP to the extent that at no time before bottling, the wine has been transported outside the vineyard where it was vinified and whose name it claims.
The batch number must appear visibly, legibly and indelibly on the bottle. It is often indicated on the label, but can be placed elsewhere on the bottle, outside the field of vision in which the other compulsory information appears.
The list of known allergenic substances (sulphites, milk/egg-based glues) must appear as soon as they are included in the composition of the wine.
Sulfites, also known as sulfur dioxide or SO2, are a compound whose use is strictly regulated. As long as the sulphite content is greater than or equal to 10 mg/l, the winemaker cannot refrain from mentioning their presence on the label of his wines, even if no sulphite has been added.
Sulfites have antiseptic, anti-oxidase, dissolving and antioxidant properties. They are used in particular to protect the wine from oxidation.
Note that the presence of sulphites, naturally present in grapes, is not incompatible with organic viticulture.
Due to their alcohol content, alcoholic drinks (more than 1.2% vol.) marketed on French territory must carry a health message on their packaging intended for pregnant women recommending non-consumption of alcohol. Bottles of wine must therefore include on their label a message such as “the consumption of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, even in small quantities, can have serious consequences on the health of the child” or, as is often the case, use due to lack of surface area on the label, they must display a pictogram representing a pregnant woman in a crossed out circle.
The European label is represented by the Euroleaf. It certifies that the wine complies with European regulations. This bans synthetic products (pesticides, chemical fertilizers) from vine cultivation and also imposes certain restrictions relating to winemaking such as the use of organic raw materials (sugar, yeast, etc.) or lowering doses of maximum sulphites.
Since 2021, the terms "dealcoholized" (< 0.5% vol.) and "partially dealcoholized" (alcoholic strength between 0.5% vol. and a minimum that varies according to product category) must accompany the sales name of the corresponding wines. The date of minimum durability must also be indicated on the label of wines which have undergone a dealcoholization treatment and whose alcoholic strength is less than 10% vol.
The sugar content is compulsory only for sparkling and aerated sparkling wines. It is expressed in g/l). There are seven authorized indications:
It is optional for other wines.
The vintage refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. This is the year in which the wine is produced. This term sometimes becomes a reference point for consumers when buying a bottle of wine. Indeed, certain years in which weather conditions were particularly favorable and yields were high, augur well for a quality wine. Drought, heatwave, hail, thunderstorms or intense rainfall all play their part in the development and ripening of the grapes, and ultimately in the characteristics of a vintage. The latter can thus be valued on the scale of an entire appellation that has benefited from this favorable production context. Some years are renowned for the quality of their vintage. In fact, it's easy to find rankings of the best vintages by wine-growing region on the Internet.
For wines labelled as "primeur" or "new", it is compulsory to indicate the vintage year. The font size of the indication is at least equivalent to that of the "new" and "primeur" labels.
The names of vine varieties (called "cépages") may be mentioned if the wine is at least 85% made from that variety. In the case of a blend of two or more grape varieties, the wine must be made from 100% of the labelled varieties. Moreover, in the case of PDO or PGI wines, national regulations stipulate that each of these grape varieties must account for more than 15% of the wine blend.
For wines with a PDO or PGI, specific production methods such as "barrel-aged" or "aged in barrel", with or without the name of the barrel wood, may be used when the wine has been aged in a wooden container without contact with oak shavings. The use of one of these terms is conditional on the fact that a wine produced in France has been fermented, matured or aged in wooden containers for a minimum period of 6 months for at least 50% of its volume.
The French AB organic farming logo links the quality of a wine to an environmentally-friendly viticultural production method. It shows that the end product, the wine, complies with precise specifications against which it has been certified. The national AB logo has been in existence since 1985, and belongs to the French Ministry of Agriculture. It enjoys a high level of recognition in France, despite the fact that its use on wine bottles is optional.
At Château La Rose Perrière, the 2023 vintage will bear this logo for the first time, following the vineyard's organic certification in July 2023. Until then, our Château La Rose Perrière and La Perrière vintages were adorned with the Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE) label obtained by the vineyard in 2018.
In order to ensure better traceability of award-winning vintages and provide consumers with a better guarantee of quality, the legislator has established a framework for the organization of competitions, the methods used to award distinctions and medals, and the way they are presented on wine labels. Although optional, these indications on bottles are regulated. They can only be applied to prize-winning batches in wine competitions, which must appear on a list drawn up by the Minister of Consumption and published in the Bulletin Officiel de la Consommation, de la Concurrence et de la Répression des Fraudes (BOCCRF).
For still wines, the sugar content is optional. There are four authorized indications:
From December 8th, 2023, new regulations will apply to the labeling of wine bottles. New information will be mandatory. Wines produced and labeled before this date will not be affected, and will therefore not require any label modification. They can be sold as they are, while stocks last.
All wines produced, bottled and labeled after December 8th, 2023 and marketed in the European Union will have to include four additional key elements on their labels: the nutritional declaration accompanied by the energy value (or caloric value), intolerances or allergies and the list of ingredients contained in the wine.
Beyond the grapes needed to make wine, few consumers have ever wondered what goes into a bottle of wine. Additives/inputs, preservatives...? However, some consumer associations have already denounced the lack of transparency specific to wine bottle labelling, as opposed to food labelling.
With this reform of wine labelling, the European Commission is re-establishing a degree of transparency that will standardize the compulsory indications on the European market from December onwards, thus avoiding the confusion of possible national regulatory initiatives in each European country. Thus, additives such as preservatives and antioxidants, acidity regulators, stabilizers and allergens will have to be declared on the new labels, unlike processing aids (enzymes, fermentation agents, alcoholic fermentation activators, etc.). Consumers will have simple, easy access to the list of additives and their nutritional value.
This new regulation represents a major challenge for wine makers on several levels:
In addition to wine makers, the new regulations could also have an impact on wine distributors, who will benefit from being trained in oenology, so as to be able to explain to consumers the role of this or that additive found in the wines they sell. It is also likely that restaurateurs will review their wine purchasing strategies in light of the new regulations.
However, this reform will be implemented flexibly, with the regulation providing for a 2-year transition period to enable winegrowers and producers to take the necessary steps to gradually comply with the new regulations, and thus meet consumers' expectations in terms of information on the products they buy.
Despite the obvious constraints resulting from this reform, the entire wine industry has much to gain from these new regulations, which require even greater transparency and education on the part of consumers. The trust of customers who, in the end, know little about the product, can thus be regained or reinforced.
For winegrowers, it's now a matter of explaining, reassuring consumers, and pursuing their passion for their trade!
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