Knowing the basic structure of the info on labels can help you hone in on what you love best. (photo by Jenny Gorman for Wine and Whiskey Globe)

One dirty little secret even experienced wine lovers won’t tell you?  They don’t always know how to really read a label. Hey, we get it. They can be confusing—and who wants to admit they don’t know exactly what a Sancerre is when the wine shop clerk is recommending it?

As part of our ongoing series on label anatomy, we “read” a basic French red.

Grand Vin de Bordeaux

The wine is from the Bordeaux region of France. Generally, this particular phrase doesn’t mean anything more than that. Anyone who makes wine in Bordeaux can use this phrase on the label.

Chateau Breillan

This is the domaine, the house, that made the wine. It is one of hundreds of smaller castles surrounded by vineyards, and has a wine history dating back to the Middle Ages.


The vintage, or year in which the grapes were grown. 2015 in Bordeaux is considered a verygood, though not legendary year.  The following year was better!


The Haut-Medoc is the area within Bordeaux where this wine originates. Located on the Left Bank of the Gironde River, this wine is more likely to be a cabernet-based blend (as opposed to a merlot-heavy one from the right bank.)

Appellation Haut-Médoc Contrôllée

This means it meets all of the quality standards of the regulating authorities to officially be called a Haut-Médoc wine. Good quality French wines will have some reference on the label to the AOC or Appellation d’Origine Controlle.

Mis en Bouteille au Château

Roughly translated it means “bottled at the winery.” This wine came from an estate where it was produced on site—from grapes to vinification to bottling.