The 10 wine regions of France are:
Located in south-western France in the provinces of Poitou and Aquitaine. This is the world’s largest fine wine region and the largest region of vineyards in France.
When you think of Bordeaux wines, you are thinking at the serious end of the wine spectrum. No other region quite matches the tremendous variety of wine that come from Bordeaux.
Only Burgundy can match the wines for greatness and quality. Bordeaux produces Medoc, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Graves and Sauternes.
This wine region is in central France. These wines became famous throughout Europe mainly in the 14th century, and connoisseurs will argue long and hard about whether the wines of Burgundy or Bordeaux are the best.
Burgundy red wines are full-bodied and mellow; Burgundy white wines are very dry. Both are sold under the name of the township or district they come from. Those bottled in the same estate where they were made and aged bear the ‘Mise en Bouteille…’ label.
Burgundy produces Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and the ever-popular Beaujolais nouveau, a wine of the Gamay variety produced in the Beaujolais (AOC) region of France that is authorised for immediate sale following fermentation.
Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. It is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, from which it takes its name.
Champagne was known in Roman times, but it was Dom Pérignon, cellarmeister at Hautvillers Abbey, who had the idea of making it sparkle by means of double fermentation. Today, this process is carried out by using cane sugar and yeast.
The most renowned vineyards are on the Montagne de Reims, along the valley of the Marne, the Côte des Blancs and the less well-known but no less delightful Côte des Bars in Aube-en-Champagne.
The region of Alsace ranges along the French bank of the Rhine, and produces delightful dry, fresh, fruity wines.
The principal wines of Alsace are Reisling, Gewurztraminer, Traminer and Sylvaner, which may be sold under those names, but which must also bear the AOC labelling for Alsace.
Almost all wines are white, except those made from the Pinot Noir grape, which are very pale red, often rosé.
The Loire valley produces good rather than great wines, but wines that are eminently drinkable, to be consumed when they are young, and slightly chilled (including the red wines, too).
The best known are Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre; the white wines of Vouvray and the red wines of Chinon and Bourgueil. A nice choice of white wines (dry or sweet) comes from Saumur, while the wines of Anjou are mostly white or rosé and a few reds.
Finally there are the dry, white wines of Muscadet.
The wines of Provence (Cotes de Provence) tend to be full-bodied and full of flavour, while the rosés are light and fresh.
Whites are full-bodies, too, and excellent with fish and other seafood. The wines of the Cotes de Provence are for drinking when they are young.
Between Burgundy and Alsace, the Jura produces excellent value-for-money wines that won’t hurt your pocket.
The wines, notably Cotes du Jura, Arbois and Chateau Chalon, come from the south of the Franche-Comté region. Jura tends to be under-rated, and most wines are produced by blending.
But they are excellent value, and a wonderful accompaniment to any meal.
In the southern part of France, from the Rhône River to the Pyrénées, the Languedoc is now producing excellent wines, which are a basic level (Vins de Pays d’Oc) are excellent table wines.
Most of the wine served on a daily basis in French homes comes from this area, known locally as the ‘Midi.
Those of superior quality are labelled according to the VDQS regulations (Corbières, Minervois, for example). VDQS is the second highest qualification for French wines, below Appellation Contrôlée.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly Savoie has a small number in vineyards close to the border with Switzerland.
The variety of quality wines produced in the principal regions of France tends to overshadow those that are less well known outside of France.
But many of these little-known wines are simply excellent and well worth seeking out, for example Bergerac, Mont Ravel and Monbazillac from south of Bordeaux.
You must also try Jurançon from the Pyrenees, the lovely Gaillac from the Tarn, and the fizzy alternative to champagne from Limoux.
What is French wine?
In France, the label ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’ guarantees a wine’s origin and production methods, but the lack of it doesn’t mean that the wine isn’t fit for drinking, and many of the vins ordinaires or vins de table are excellent for general quaffing.
Wine lies very much at the heart of French culture, and the country has a long history of wine production that dates back almost 2,000 years. For the most part, French wine is consumed, and is meant to be consumed with, meals.
By law the label must give the following information:
- The name of the wine which, most of the time, is the place of origin or sometimes a proprietary name.
- The exact place, or at least the country, of origin.
- The “Appellation d’Origine” or “Appellation Contrôlée” if appropriate.
- Mention that the bottling was done by the owner of the vineyard, if such is the case.
- Name of the shipper.
- Name of the importer.
- Alcoholic content of the wine.
- Volume content of the bottle.
- Vintage, if any.
The words ‘MISE EN BOUTEILLE’ give an indication of who did the bottling. Any one of the following expressions means that the wine has been produced, aged and bottled in the same estate: ‘Mise en bouteille au Chateau’; ‘…à la Propriéte’; ‘…par le Propriétaire’; ‘…dans nos caves’.