France enjoys a long history of wine-making. It is believed that the country has produced wine for more than 2,500 years. In fact, many French wines are named for the regions where they are produced. Areas such as Cognac, Champagne, Chablis, Bordeaux, and Burgundy instantly bring to mind their eponymous alcoholic counterparts. Not only has France produced wine for thousands of years, but the country has done so extremely well. French wine is enjoyed worldwide, and U.S. sales show it is the preferred table wine. When visiting France, one immediately recognizes that wine is imbued in the region’s culture, customs, and traditions. Wine is served at every meal and is not limited to adults only. The French are so infamous for their wine that talk of the “French Paradox” fueled countless U.S. citizens to purchase bottles of deep reds for their health. Studies have shown that the French have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, and this has been attributed to the resveratrol found in red wine. When discovering French wine, it’s important to understand the terminology used, regions where wine is produced, and the variations in wine taste and flavor.
Primary wine-growing regions vary according to whom you speak with, but there are main areas known for producing wine. French wine regions include Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Loire Valley, South West, Ces du Rhe, Alsace, Languedoc, Provence, Roussillon, Beaujolais, and Armagnac. Each region is recognized for the wines produced. Many regions are world-renowned for the quality of wine produced. The Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualitregulates each region.
Bordeaux wine is some of the world’s most famous. The Bordeaux region is the largest wine-producing area in France. It is believed that the area has produced wine since the 1st century. Bordeaux largely produces red wine, followed by Sauternes (white dessert wine), rose, and sparkling wine. Popular grapes used in this region include Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Bordeaux is divided into the right and left banks. Those new to French wines often begin by drinking varieties produced from the right bank. Left-bank wines contain greater amounts of tannin and age for longer periods. Bordeaux wine may be divided into various styles. With more than 80% of the wine produced in this region being red, this style predominates. Bordeaux wines include Red Bordeaux and Red Bordeaux Supieur, Red Ces de Bordeaux, Red Libourne, Red Graves, Moc, and dry and sweet white wines.
The French region Burgundy is known for its red and white wines. White Burgundy is Chardonnay, while red Burgundy is Pinot Noir. Burgundy is divided into various sub-regions, including the Ce Chalonnaise, Ce de Nuits, Ce de Beaune, and Maconnais. Additional regions include Chablis and Beaujolais.
While Burgundy and Bordeaux are known for their red wines, Alsace is regarded for its whites. Several grape varieties are cultivated in the region. These include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling. Alsace is heavily influenced by German culture; therefore, the wines are more harmonious with those found in Germany rather than France. Alsace produces some of the most exquisite French white wines.
Alsace isn’t the only French region that produces white wine. The Loire Valley also produces fine white wines including Pouilly-Fum Sancerre, and Muscadet. Various regions are within the Loire Valley’s wine-producing areas. These include Chinon, Muscadet, Anjou-Saumur, Vouvray and Touraine, Sancerre, and Pouilly-Fum The area is adjacent to the Loire River, and conditions are right for several grape varieties. While the region is known for its white wines, the Anjou-Saumur region and Touraine produce reds.
France is known for its wide array of wines. They include a variety of flavors, tastes, and price ranges. Those visiting the area will find many benefits from familiarizing themselves with the country’s long-established wine-making history. You may learn more about French wine in the links below.
- France Winery Tour
- Burgundy Region
- The Wines of France: Chablis
- Le Cordon Bleu French Regions: Champagne
- Wine Basics: Dictionary of Basic Wine Terms
- Glossary of Terms for Enology, Viticulture, and Winemaking
- Wines of France: The Bordeaux Region
- Wine in France
- Wines and Spirits: France
- French Wine Labeling Rules
- Earliest Evidence of French Winemaking Discovered
- French Culture, Customs, and Traditions
- Malbec, the Resurrection of France’s Forgotten Wine
- French Wine has Italian Origins
- French Wine Producers and Consumers
- Wine for Beginners: Champagne
- Bordeaux History Notes
- Wine for Beginners
- Travels in France: Stories Create the Terroir of Burgundy
- Barrels and Ageing Wine
- A French Revolution that Ushered in the Golden Age of Wine
- The First French Winemakers Learned Everything they Knew from Etruscans
- Chardonnay History and Selections at FPS
- Through the Vine: Types of Wine and Food Pairings
- Wine Grape Varieties