Discover details on the fine French wine regions. Find out about Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais and more. Uncover the types of red wine that grow in each region and find tips to visit.
Grapes, vineyards and chateaux are everywhere in France, all supporting the country's large wine business. France has some of the strictest rules and regulations to ensure the producers continue to sell the highest quality of wines. Because of the high quality of wines France produces, many regions from around the world keep their eye on them.
The history of French wine making started around 600 BC in what is now Provence. At that time, the Greeks began planting vines near present day Marseille along the Mediterranean in the southeast of France.
Throughout the years, the quality and quantity of the wines improved and word spread about all of the fine French wine. The industry here and in most of Europe then took a major blow in the 1860s.
This was when the US unknowingly introduced Phylloxera to Europe. Phylloxera is a small, but very damaging bug that feeds on and destroys grape vines. Many of the US plants were resistant to the bug, but the European ones were not.
The bug came over to France in some US based vines. They wanted to conduct an experiment, so they shipped vines from the US to France.
No one had any idea that the Phylloxera bug came along for the ride and it did major damage. It spread in France, then Europe, then many other regions throughout the world. At that time, many thought that the wine business would never recover, but it did.
France firmly believes that terrior is the main driver in the quality of wines produced. Terrior is a combination of the soil, location, weather and other natural elements that make up where it is grown.
Their focus on the link between quality and terrior led to the creation of the Appellation d'Origine Controlee or AOC system. It was set up in 1935 by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine or INAO.
It is a complicated system, but designed to regulate the quality of the wines. There is a set list of regulations each producer follows in order receive the AOC designation. They then add the fine French wine designation to their labels. Learn more about the classifications and get some tips on how to read the French labels.
Today, France grows more grape varieties than any other country in the world. This creates the diversity of the fine French wine selection. Two-thirds of the wines produced in France are red.
You will find some common types including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. You will also find other classical French varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Gamay and Mourvedre. These are just some of the types grown in France.
There are several famous regions in France including Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, The Rhone, The Loire Valley, Alsace, Languedoc Roussillon and Provence. You will also find a cluster of smaller regions in the southwest.
When you think of fine French wine, many people think of Bordeaux. This area is responsible for the production of the largest amount of fine wine in the world. It is also one of the most recognized regions in France.
Bordeaux is located in the southwest part of the country. Its ability to grow amazing wines is due in part to the bodies water located in or near it. They help keep the temperature in the area mild and help with the high quality of the soil.
Bordeaux's focus is on reds. Almost 90% of the ones produced here are red. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the two most important types grown here. Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Malbec and Petit Verdot are four other reds from Bordeaux. These six reds make up the famous Bordeaux blend.
Bordeaux has a number of sub-regions. It also has its own quality classification system.
Learn all about Bordeaux wines including more details on some of its most popular and well known AOCs, regions and classifications:
Are you planning a visit to Bordeaux? If so, check out these helpful guides:
Here are a few recaps of my visits to wineries in the Bordeaux region:
Located in the central eastern part of France is Burgundy. This is the only region in France with both an English and French name. The French call it Bourgogne and this is usually what you see on the labels when buying a bottle.
In most of this area, you will find two prominent grapes. The dominant white grape is Chardonnay and the primary red is Pinot Noir. If you travel down to Beaujolais, you find mostly of Gamay.
Although this is a very small area, it is broken out into five smaller sub-regions. They include Chablis to the north and Beaujolais on the south. In the middle are Cote d'Or, Cote Chalonnaise and the Maconnais regions. You can find Fine French wine in many of these sub-regions.
The Champagne in France is another producer of fine French wine. Both the area and the wines produced carry the Champagne name.
This is one of the northern most French regions, which also makes it one of the coolest wine producing regions in the world. It is located about 90 miles northeast of Paris.
Only wines that follow the proper AOC guidelines here can use the Champagne name on their labels. Many people confuse all sparkling wines with Champagne, but the two are different. The Champagne name is strictly enforced.
The next one is the Rhone Valey. It is another one that focuses primarily on reds.
The fine French wine from the northern and southern areas are very different. That is why many people discuss the wines from the north and south as if it is two different regions.
The northern area of the Rhone is not very big, but produces most of the fine French wine from the entire region.
Due to the size of the southern end, it produces a larger variety of wines. The dominant red in the south is Grenache followed by Syrah and Mourvedre.
Find more information on the northern and southern Rhone regions including tips for finding for buying their red wines:
Alsace is located on the far eastern side of the country. Germany is located just a few miles to the east and it mainly produces white wines.
The Languedoc Roussillon is one of the most interesting regions. It is not as well-known as many of the others in France, but produces over a third of the wine in the country.
Located in the southeastern part of France, it sits just to the west of Provence. Part of it borders the Mediterranean Sea and you will find some of the oldest producers in France here.
There is a large variety of red wines grown in the Languedoc Roussillon. Some of the top reds include Grenache, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Learn more it here.
More people think about the amazing food from Provence than the wine. However, this is an up and coming area in France.
It is located to the east of the Languedoc Roussillon in the southeast part of France. The southern part borders the Mediterranean Sea.
This one produces reds, white and rose wines. A large amount of the production in this area is rose. For years, locals have enjoyed the dry rose wines and they are now starting to share them with the world.
Heading back over to the western side of France is the Loire Valley. It is located just to the north of Bordeaux and southwest of Paris.
The Loire is one of the largest regions and splits into five distinct sub areas. Each one has its own identity and quality of the fine French wine from its sub region.
Due to the size and diversity, the Loire does not consider itself as having a predominant variety. Here you will find white wines such as Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. You will also find red wines including Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Malbec. Some varieties only grow in this region.
Three regions shine above the rest when it comes to Cabernet Franc. Uncover information about these Loire Valley wines, so you know what to look for when buying reds from here.
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