Cost: Average price $13
Where buy now: Sunfish Cellars and Stinson Wines & Spirits for $11.99, North Loop Wines & Spirits
Region: Savoy, France
I’ll admit, French wines confuse the hell out of me. The label is all kittywampus. What am I reading? The wine type, the region it’s from, where it’s produced- WTF (and that “F” doesn’t stand for “French”)? The French government regulates what grapes can be grown where. Therefore, wineries don’t usually print the wine varietal on the label. This assumes that when you see where the wine is produced, you’ll automatically know what kind of wine it is.
Très difficult. Sacre bleu! If French wine wasn’t so delicious I’d just write the whole country off. So, I’m going to attempt to give you my down and dirty guideline to understanding a French wine label, Savvy Lush style.
The biggest words on the wine label are going to be the producer/winemaker and the appellation/region. You’ll also see the vintage and extra stuff like the wine’s ranking. There are four grades:
AOC or AOP – Appellation Controlée
VDQS – Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure (demarcated wine of superior quality)
Vins de pays – Country wines
Vins de table – Table wines
Watch this video, if for nothing else, the dude’s rad mustache. If you’re like me, you need a visual aide. Hope this helps. http://www.ehow.com/video_6377667_read-french-wine-label.html/Read French Wine Label
Let’s look at this wine’s label. Up at the top you’ll read “Vin de Savoie”. This denotes the origin- it’s made in Savoie/Savoy region of France. The next notable item is “Abymes”. This is the name of the vineyard [or the maker’s name] for this particular wine. In this case, it just so also happens to be a village in the Savoy region. See how confusing this all can be? Below that is “Domaine Labbé”, which denotes the wine maker/winery.
Whew! Now that today’s lesson on label reading is done, let’s cover the “sciencey” details. This wine hails from the Eastern side of France tucked in the Alps bordering Switzerland. The wines produced are in small batches that rarely leave the region. Have you heard of the Jacquére grape? Didn’t think so. Most of this wine is consumed by locals and vacationers as this spot is huge with both Winter tourists (skiing) and Summer tourists (hiking).
The Domaine Labbé vineyard is unique in that it doesn’t sit high up the mountain side, rather it sits low on the valley floor. It gets a lot of sunshine and fresh Alpine air.
From The Vineyard’s website:
“Labbe and his team control yields by strategically de-budding vines in the spring. This labor intensive practice is rare to find at this price point. Grass grows in the rows between the vines to fertilize and oxygenate the soil – this practice also forces the vines’ root systems to go deeper for nourishment and soak up the terroir of the subsoil. Vinification practices preserve both varietal typicity and freshness – the cellar temperature is controlled, and indigenous yeasts are used in fermentation. Labbe uses only non-reactive tanks and foudres for aging.”
If you’ve ever had a chance to visit the Alps, you know they are breathtaking. If you haven’t, put it on the “bucket list”. One of the first words that comes to mind is “pure”. This directly relates to the water and air: fresh, clean, open, free. Before I get all Julie Andrews on your ass, I still haven’t described the wine!
It truly smells and tastes like the mountains from which it came. Graceful, fresh aromas emerge from the pale lemon green liquid (I smelled light citrus, pineapple and soft apple). Ethereal floral hints also mingle with the citrus fruits. This dry white wine tastes of fresh citrus and floral natures, and is balanced by minerality and crisp acidity. It’s a wonderful cross between Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay.
Now, what does one eat while enjoying this Alpine wonder-tonic? Oysters, shellfish and sushi if you swing that way. Cheese fondue is native to this region. Therefore, if you’re fonduing, pour the Abymes alongside it. If fondue isn’t your bag, a grilled cheese with gruyere, caramelized onions and a quick smear of mustard would be heavenly.
I drank it at Sunfish Cellars with their seasonal savory flatbread pizza. This consisted of an exquisite garlic sauce topped with cured meats, pepperoncini, red pepper flakes and mozzarella. I implore you to visit and tell Erica you want the Abymes and savory pizza combo. She’ll know exactly what you mean.
I hope I’ve begun to help demystify the elusive French wine label. Since two truths have been held for centuries, there’s little chance of them changing. First, French wine is delicious and worth exploring. Second, the French are going to do things their way so you best follow along lest you miss out on an abundance of life’s pleasures.