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Capsule on the wine bottle
How do you recognize a bottle of French wine in your wine rack? Because on the head of the capsule is the image of La Marianne. With around that the text République Française, the letters D.G.D.D.I., the contents of the bottle and around that some numbers and letters about where and by whom the wine was made. Due to other legislation, French wine bottles are now without La Marianne.
La Marianne on the capsule of wine produced in France has been mandatory since 1960.
From July 1, 2019, that requirement expired.
So it is increasingly common to find a bottle of French wine in and out of France without La Marianne. And because of cost savings, often immediately but completely without a capsule. Might take some getting used to, such a bare cork in the bottle, with no hood. But the wine is no different because of it.
The purpose of the “stamp” on the bottle was to let the buyer – and the tax authorities – know that taxes and duties had been paid. The letter D.G.D.D.I. stands for Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects. Similar to the Dutch tax and customs authorities.
Easy for the government to control and easy for the consumer to recognize that it is “legal” wine. But for winemakers who produce multiple types of wine a costly affair because each category of wine has a different color seal.
An unprinted capsule costs – in small runs – easily €0.15 each.
Without Marianne, no tradition
But why is this news now? Because nowadays, more and more bottles without capsules are coming on the market. Submitted by cost. Everything on and in the wine bottle has become more expensive due to sharply increased (raw material) costs – glass, labels, wine production, transportation. In large part due to the war in Ukraine.
And despite the fact that most French winemakers are hugely committed to tradition – like La Marianne – theirs is ultimately also about money.
Marianne, by the way, is the national personification of French pride in the republic. She symbolizes the “Triumph of the Republic,” Liberty and Reason. Since 1999, Marianne has even been included in the official logo of the France.
Wax or sealing varnish
Even for French winemakers, such a bare neck of the bottle takes some getting used to. To still give the wine bottle a traditional look , they dip the neck – of usually more expensive wines – in some kind of sealing lacquer or wax. That appeals, especially to the French, to tradition. Documents used to be imprinted by monarchs and dignitaries with an imprint of a signet ring in sealing wax to ensure authenticity.
There are even winemakers who have gone so far as to develop a stamp/seal that is printed on the bottle in the still soft wax. Like Vignoble Guillaume from Charcene in the Jura. On the spot where La Marinanne formerly stood now stands the proud coat of arms of the Guillaume family; they have been making wine since 1732.
The wax coating repels moisture, mold and pests. And the neck of the bottle is less vulnerable to damage. That the wine drinker sometimes barely gets the cork out of the bottle – because some of the wax is rock hard – is of secondary importance. Tradition has been saved.
In many cases, the cork is quite easy to pull through the relatively soft wax layer. So press the corkscrew into the wax, twist and pull. Do keep a cloth handy to clean the edge.