Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Read a Wine Crate (French)

Most wooden wine boxes and crates have the engraved logo of the winery that made them.

A very common question we receive is: How can I tell where my wine box or crate is from?

1. The first indication is size. A 12 bottle crate (shown below) is almost always from France. Very few other countries produce this size. There are a few Italian wineries like Ruffino, and some California wineries such as Far Niente that make them, but overall 12 bottle crates are almost exclusively French.

2. The above picture is an example of four 12 bottle wine crates from France. All four are from three different regions:

The Moulin Saint Georges and Lafaurie-Peyraguey are from Bordeaux

Domaine De La Janasse is from Rhone

Louis Jadot is from Burgundy.

There are also sub-regions inside of regions. Sub-regions are loosely familiar to cities inside of states. Manhattan for example is a city inside of New York State. The same applies for sub-regions inside of Bordeaux or Burgundy. St. Emilion for example is a sub-region of Bordeaux.

The sub-region isn't always on a crate from France, but if you see a sub-region it's from France. The Lafaurie-Peyraguey is from the sub-region of Sauternes. The Domaine De La Janasse is from the Chateauneuf Du Pape (House of the Pope) sub-region of Rhone. The Louis Jadot doesn't display a sub-region on the front. It's actually displayed on the long sides of the crate. This is another place to look for info.

The word Chateau means mansion in French, so when you see the word Chateau it's from France.

3. Another tell-tale sign of a French wine crate is the word Grand Cru; which is a highly esteemed French winery designation. The designation of Grand Cru is given to a winery that produces the best wine in the world (outside of the First Growth designation).

There is a 100% guarantee that a Grand Cru crate is from France.

4. It's not always obvious when looking at the front panel where the wine box or crate is from. As pointed out previously, the Louis Jadot doesn't have any descriptive writing on it's front side. Many Burgundian crates are actually branded on the long right or left hand sides, not the front. An example picture of a side-branded crate is below:

5. The Chateau Angelus is actually a crate from Bordeaux. Not Burgundy. This is an example of how wooden wine box designs and descriptions can be subtle. The vast majority of Bordeaux wine boxes aren't engraved on the long side, but Chateau Angelus is an example of a Bordeaux winery that does.

Chateau Angelus still displays the word Chateau as well as it's sub-region (St. Emilion). You can immediately determine that this crate is from Bordeaux.

French wine crates are fairly easy to read. So are wineries from the USA. The tough ones are from Italy and Spain. That's for another post though.


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