French Regional Wine
Among the many traditions and unique characteristics of French cuisine, one aspect that is world-renowned is their viticulture, or wine making. Wine in France has a long history stemming back over two thousand years ago. It is believed that the Romans introduced viticulture and wine to the regions that now make up modern-day France, with evidence dating back to the 6th century BC.
Today, French viticulture is especially unique to the region in which it is situated, a concept known as “terroir.” An important factor that distinguishes regional wine specialties are the types of grapes used, as France is known to grow a wide variety of grapes. Producing wines that are sold all over the world, French wine is guided by official standards set by the Appellation d’Origine Protégée certification system. Historically, France has always been known for the high quality of their wines and their innovative cultivation techniques, both of which have spread across the whole world.
In this post, we will discuss some of the more well-known regions of France, and the type of wines that are unique to each area.
Located in eastern France, along the border of Germany, this region of France is known for white-wines made from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. This region is also known for growing Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir and producing Cremant de Alsace, a local sparkling wine.
Located in the east of France, along the Saone river, the region of Beaujolais has multiple “appellations,” which are geographical regions that are legally defined and protected for the type of grapes they grow. Included in the appellations of Beaujolais are: Beaujolais AOC and Beaujolais-Villages AOC, and the Crus of Beaujolias Brouilly, Regnié, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent. Overall, Beaujolais is known for its production of red wine, and its predominant use of of the Gamay grape.
On the Western side of France, the region of Bordeaux is situated along the coastline of the Atlantic ocean, which has historically allowed their wines easier access to the international markets. While Bordeaux is popular for its variety of blended red wines, they also produce a famous sweet white wine known as Sauternes, such as the famed wines of Château d’Yquem. A few other well-known wines from this region include Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Cheval Blanc, and Château Pétrus.
The Burgundy region, situated on a narrow strip of land in the east of France, is divided into the most appellations out of any French region. With both red and white wines produced in Burgundy, the main grapes used are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The whole region is divided into four main sub-regions: The Cote de Nuits (from Marsannay-La-Cote down to Nuits-Saint-Georges), The Cote de Beaune (from north of Beaune to Santenay), The Cote Chalonnaise, and The Maconnais. Along with this, in the city of Beaune, a yearly wine sale is held every autumn in France’s historic “Hospices” building. Even though the vineyards in Burgundy produce both red and white wines, they are primarily known for their red wines, especially due to their longevity.
Just as the name suggests, this region of France is known for its production of sparkling wine. However, unlike many places around the world, the term “Champagne” is not used in France as a general term for sparkling wines, but rather the specific sparkling wine from the Champagne region. Champagne gains its unique, delicious flavor from the natural growing conditions that exist in the region, such as the chalky soil. Amongst the Champagne vineyards, the best rated names include Krug, Mumm, and Bollinger.
Located in western France, the Loire region, commonly called the garden of France, is home to many styles of wine, including white, red, rosé and sparkling, as well as a unique “grey wine,” which is actually just a white wine made from black grapes. Along with this, Loire is often seen as four sub-regions, specifically Upper Loire, Touraine, Anjou-Saumur, and Pays Nantais. A few varieties these regions are known produce are: Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre), Chenin blanc (Savennières and Vouvray), Melon Blanc (Muscadet), Cabernet Franc (Chinon). Loire also produces many sparkling wines, more than any other region except Champagne.
Ultimately, while these regions do not make up all of French wine culture, they are several of the most well-known regions, as they all produce a high-quality wines unique to their given area. If you wish to learn more about France’s regional specialties, there are many more regions not included in this post for you to explore. Enjoy!