French Wines 101

France is one of the most renowned wine-producing countries in the world. In fact, France is the second-largest producer of wine globally, only beaten by Italy. In 2021, France produced approximately 37.6 million hectoliters of wine.

Each country which produces wine tends to be known for certain wine varieties based on which grapes grow best in the country's climates. Some of the most famous French wines include Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhône Valley.

Interestingly, things are done a little differently in France. Wines are classified by their region of origin rather than by the grape variety used to make the wine. This means a Bordeaux wine, for example, could be made from a blend of different grape varieties, but it must be produced in the Bordeaux region to be labeled as such.

Wine Regions

The six wine regions of France are:

  • Bordeaux: Bordeaux produces some of the most expensive wines in the world.
  • Burgundy: The Burgundy region produces wines in much smaller quantities than the Bordeaux region, making these wines more rare.
  • Champagne: Champagne and sparkling wines are made in this region. Making this type of wine is labor-intensive, which is why authentic champagne is expensive.
  • Languedoc-Roussillon: Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine region in France, but many of the wines from this area are not exported out of the country.
  • Loire Valley: The Loire Valley region produces most of France's white wine.
  • The Rhône Valley: The Rhône Valley produces many red wines, including Syrah and Grenache.

Types of French Wines

France produces all types of wines, thanks to the country's many grape varieties. The types of French wines can be broken into the following categories:

  • Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel
  • White: Chardonnay, Moscato, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Rose: Provençal rosé and White Zinfandels
  • Sparkling: Champagne and sparkling wine

The History of French Wine

The Greeks and Romans are credited with bringing wine to France. Winemaking started in France in the 6th century BC with Greek settlers. But, it wasn't until the 300s, when Romans planted vines in France's major wine regions, that French wine really emerged.

The French wines we know and love today came to be how they are because of mistakes. Winters in 1708 and 1956 in Bordeaux destroyed existing vineyards and forced owners to replant on more progressive lines. This helped French wine transition out of its "claret" wines phase, and wines became darker and more robust.

Today, French wines are known for their exquisite flavors, often with fruit notes and pleasant acidity.

Drinking French wine is a beautiful treat best enjoyed with a rich meal or a light dessert.

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