France is one of the largest and most important wine producing countries in the world and creates between six and eight billion bottles of wine each year. The wines produced are incredibly diverse, and include red, white, rose, sparkling, sweet, semi-sweet, and dry. Some are inexpensive and simple, while others are famous and very pricey. The numerous styles of wines can be attributed to the diversity in wine growing regions found across France. Two million acres of vineyards make up the predominant wine growing regions of the country and include Alsace, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire Valley, and Rhone Valley.
The specific climate conditions, soil, altitude, underlying rock, and slope of the land are referred to as the terroir, and it varies greatly not only from region to region, but within single regions as well. When the same grape varietal is planted in different areas, it can produce very different wines. From the cooler temperatures of northern Champagne, to the hot and sunny summers of Languedoc-Roussilon, winemakers cultivate whatever grape variety is best suited to the particular conditions of the region. Because of this, certain grape varieties have become closely associated with particular regions, like Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux and Syrah in Rhone.
In 1935 a system of laws was passed in an effort to protect the quality and integrity of French wines. The Appellation d’Origine Controlee (or AOC) system was established to help protect the consumer against fraudulent activity and to assist in determining the style and taste of particular wines. The AOC laws define the set boundaries of specific wine-producing regions, villages, and vineyards, and impose rules regarding the winemaking techniques and practices used within these areas. They also dictate what grape varieties can be harvested within a region, the minimum level of alcohol the wine must contain, and the maximum yield allowed. Although the AOC laws have been successful in regulating wine quality and production, it has also resulted in an increase in price of French wines as adhering to the laws and policies can by costly. Since the institution of the AOC in France, many other countries have created their own similar laws, though without as much success.
French wine originated in the 6th century BC. During the Middle Ages it was the monasteries that had the resources and the knowledge to produce wine, and the monks were the primary winemakers. Wine was produced for mass celebrations as well as to generate income, and the wine created was thought to be exceptional.
Depending on the region where the wine was produced and the classification of the wine itself, the amount of information included on French wine labels will vary.
The highest-ranking wine classification is the Appellation Controlee, or AC. This classification is highly regulated and includes almost all the top-ranking famous wines of France, such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Champagne.
Lower-ranking wines are classified as Vins de Table, or table wines. These may be blends of grapes and are generally not extremely high quality. The wines do not even need to come from France unless the bottle label states “Product of France.”
An appellation is a defined and protected area where grapes are grown for wine. There are more than 300 appellations in France.
Although France has been the biggest consumer of French wines, wine consumption in France has been on the decline in the last 40 years.
We enjoyed 2015 ChÃ¢teau Tourril CuvÃ©e Helios made of 100% Roussanne in Minervois, in the center of Languedoc Roussillon. Kiwi, peaches, tangerines, a lovely aperitif wine, John says. Charming,... Read more
- Region: France - Roussillon
The Champalou house style produces wines of great elegance and tenderness, highly aromatic with impeccable balance. No one comes close to copying their distinct style. Read more
- Region: France - Loire
- Importer: Kermit Lynch
Chateau Fontanes Les Traverses De Fontanes Rouge 2013Cabernet Sauvignon
Made by Cyriaque Rozier, who is also the winemaker at Chateau la Roque, the 2012 Les Traverses de Fontanes is a solid blend of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that has lots to like. Exhibiting notions of... Read more
- Region: France - Languedoc
- Importer: Kermit Lynch
Chateau Laulerie Bergerac Blanc 2014Sauvignon Blanc
80% Sauvignon Blanc; 20% Semillon Read more
- Region: France - Southwest
- Importer: Michael Skurnik
Medium body with medium tannin; mostly red berries with some dark berries on the nose and palate. Bright with good acidity. This wine cries for a cheese plate or even a plate of charcuterie. Of... Read more
- Region: France - Loire
Cotes Du Rhone Domaine La Manarine 2014Grenache / Garnacha
Gilles Gasq honed his skills as an assistant to Paul Jeune, famed proprietor of Domaine Monpertuis in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Now, from his own "petite" domaine in the arid clime of Southern Rhone,... Read more
- Region: France - Rhone
- Importer: Neal Rosenthal