Babylangues’ Tips For Choosing A Good French Wine

The world of French wine can be very confusing, so here are our simple guidelines to help you pick out a good bottle of wine from the shelf. French supermarkets, cavistes (wine merchants) and épiceries (corner shops) are always stocked with endless bottles – most of them French – and the simple act of choosing a nice bottle can often be very overwhelming!

1) Choose a wine that was bottled where the wine was made. This means that the grapes were grown and the wine was made under the winery’s control. Look for the words mis en bouteille au château or mis en bouteille à la propriété.

2) Choose a wine that comes from a particular region renowned for its grapes. Wines that are from these regions have the words Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée or Appellation d’Origine Protégée or their abbreviations AOP or AOC on the label. These appellations usually imply that the wine will be of good quality.

3) The bottle capsule (the metal part around the top of the bottle) will tell you lots about a bottle of wine:

Coosing a good french wine - Capsules


  • If it is green – this means that it is one of the aforementioned wines AOC or AOP labelled wine, and is an indication of good quality wine.
  • If it is blue it means that it is a vin de pays or a vin de table – usually associated with being a cheaper and more everyday wine.
  • If the capsule is red, this means that it is neither AOC, AOP nor a vin de pays or a vin de table, so it is just wine. This wine will not have been produced in a specific way or be from a specific region.

On Each Of The Bottle Capsules There Is Also A Letter

  • The ‘R’ signifies récoltant, which means that the wine was bottled by the same person that owns the grapes and produced the wine.
  • The ‘N’ stands for Négociant or non-récoltant, meaning that the vineyard does not belong to the person who bottled or made this wine.
  • The ‘E’ is for entrepositaire agréé, which means that the wine is marketed and commercialised by someone who has little connection with the grape-growing process at the vineyard, and has often bought the grapes in bulk.

in Summary

If you choose a bottle with a green metal capsule marked with the letter ‘R’, you are more likely to find a good French wine. This does not mean, however, that all other wines will be horrible, many other wines (especially table wines (vin de table)) are very good – it all depends on what you enjoy!

4) In France you can find good bottles of wine for a very low price, so you should not assume that the more expensive bottles will be better! In supermarkets aim for bottles in between 5€ and 8€.

5) Choose a wine depending on the occasion. If you are going to a party where the wine will be shared with friends, it is usually recommended to choose a white or a rosé wine as more people will drink them. If the wine is to accompany a meal, the usual recommendation is to pick a wine with an equal weight to the food. For example, if you are going to have a have a heavy meal, you should have a heavier, richer wine. Lighter, more delicate meals need a light wine. As a general rule, white wines go well with seafood, light salads and chicken, whereas red meats and stronger flavours go well with red wines.

6) Take a trip to a caviste (in Paris Nicolas is a popular wine chain) and see if they have any wines available for you to try.

7) Remember which wines you like (and which wines you do not!). Make a note on your phone, take a picture or write it down somewhere.

Key in your search for France’s best bottles of wine is to remember that everyone has different tastes, and especially when it comes to wine! You will come across bottles you enjoy more than others, so try not to be too disappointed if you encounter a wine that is not to your taste!