Regional Wine Guide: France

Carly MERETT

Kiss of wine

France is famous for its winemaking. Moreso, they’re defined by their prestige in doing so in the most classic and refined fashion. So much so they’ve redefined winemaking in modern times and sought to future-proof the industry for not only themselves but for the benefit of Europe and the winemaking world.

French city centre side walk surrounded by wine shops and fromageries.

History

French winemaking dates back to the 6th Century BC. While it was the Greeks who brought wine to France, it was the French who made an art out of winemaking. They birthed modern winemaking techniques as we know them today.


Despite this long history, French winemaking has not been immune to the external factors impacting Europe over the centuries. Outbreaks of disease, plagues and world wars left it vulnerable, and in 1937 they created the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), intended to protect the authenticity and quality of French wine. 

Walkway down French vineyard found across France.

Main Regions and Varieties

Unlike most winemaking nations, wine is grown and produced across the entire country. Notable regions to keep your eye out for, though, are Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Provence, Champagne and Burgundy.

Major regions are:

Bordeaux

The wine region where the most famous wines come from! Red wine dominates this region with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot said to first originate here. They’re also the two most widely distributed wines from the region. 

Loire Valley

Defined by the river that runs through it, this region is France’s exclusive white wine region — we say that because only 10% of wine exported from France is white. Loire is home of Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc

Provence:

Balancing out our chosen regions is Provence. 80% of the wine produced here is Rose, and they’ve even established a research institute dedicated to the style. Provence is also the oldest wine region in France. 
Close up of French grape hanging on its vine.

grapes 

Red, white, rose, sparkling… you name it, France has probably made tonnes of it. In order of production, French wine production is split like this. 


Red wine: Merlot, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

White-wine: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semmilon

Cabernet Sauvignon

Perhaps the most famous French wine, it’s a Bordeaux classic. It is well structured with high tannins and medium acidity. Taste for dark fruits, liquorice and tobacco!

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the darling of the Bourgogne wine region, where it also has an exclusive subvariety called “white burgundy” (or white Bourgogne). Often considered the best in the world, French Chardonnay has higher acidity and citrus flavours with a light, elegant body. 

Sauvignon Blanc

Another popular and well-produced wine from France, originating in Bordeax. Despite the varying styles even within France, Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc tends to be crisp, dry and aromatic — typical for a cooler climate Old World Sauvignon. 
Restaurant table found in French city centre consisting of two gasses of Champagne and coffee cups.

Wine styles

While it is difficult to wrap up each of the wine styles in France, each deserves a mention since the French do them so well.

Red

Red is widely seen as the more popular style in France and makes up roughly 70% of their wine production. They have beautiful aromas and texture and remain the pinnacle of winemaking around the world. 

White

Primarily produced in the cooler norther regions of France, French wines are light, dry and elegant. Chardonnay, which originated in Burgundy, is the most widely drunk wine in the world.

Champagne

You can’t wrap up a French wine guide without mention of Champagne. Exclusively produced in Champagne, the region where Sparkling Wine was first ever produced, anything else made with the same technique outside of this region cannot claim the name. 
FUN FACT: Wine is in the top ten of French exports by USD. Now, when you compare that with other top ten items such as Air and Spacecraft or Pharmaceuticals, that might give you some idea of how much wine is worth to the French.
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Crisp Sauvignon Blanc
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Smooth Chardonnay
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