France, which is home to some of the most famous regions in wine history, is probably the most important country in the world for making wine. It has made more wine than any other country for hundreds of years, and it is said to be of higher quality. Wine is a big part of French culture, and it is drunk by both the rich and the poor. It is also a key symbol of Roman Catholicism, which is the main religion in France.

The thing that keeps people interested in French wine, though, is not necessarily how much or how well-known it is, but rather the variety of styles it comes in. Consumer tastes have changed over the centuries, which has led French winemakers to create new styles of wine from the land and grapes they have access to. French vineyards have made wines that are red, white, rosé, sweet, dry, sparkling, opulent, austere, smell like minerals, and taste fruity.

Climate


Because of the great variety of climates in France, the country produces a large variety of wines. Champagne, its most northern region, has one of the coolest conditions anywhere in the world for producing grapes, in sharp contrast to the warm, dry Rhône Valley, which is located about a thousand kilometers and three hundred and fifty miles to the southeast.

Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the many rivers that go through it, the climate of Bordeaux, in the southwest, is distinctly maritime. Eastern regions like Burgundy and Alsace, which are far from the water, have a continental climate characterized by hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters.

The climate in the southern French regions of Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon is unmistakably Mediterranean, with long, hot summers and short, moderate winters. The Mediterranean and Atlantic climates, on the other hand, have a significant impact on the South West (it is a geographical inbetweener – often expressed in the style and makeup of its wines).


Natural features

The unique characteristics of the wines from each region and subregion can be traced back to their distinct physical environments. Many winegrowing locations, like most wine regions, are located along or near alluvial systems and rivers, which provides for ideal growing conditions and, historically, served as important trade routes.

The Loire, France’s longest river, has its beginnings in the central plateau and the vineyards of the Auvergne, flows through the so-called Upper Loire (with its flagship regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé), then becomes the Loire Valley (Touraine and Anjou), and finally encompasses Muscadet and the smaller Vendée-Poitou.

Bordeaux’s coastal location has helped it become an important transportation hub for its inland neighbors, such as Bergerac on the Dordogne and the Côtes de Duras (and other South West France regions) on the Gironde.

The uniqueness of French wine is owed in no small part to the country’s unique geology and topography. The diversity of soil types throughout the country and the resulting topography has resulted in a vast number of officially recognised wine regions and subregions.

These range from the lowlands of the west, including the lower Loire valley (and the likes of Muscadet) and the greater Cognac region south of the Loire and north of Bordeaux, to the mountainous and hilly eastern regions of Savoie and Jura (and, further south, the less well-known IGP Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence).


Terroir

The grounds on which France’s vineyards have been produced are considered of fundamental importance and are at the heart of the concept of terroir, from the granite hills of Beaujolais to the famous chalky slopes of Chablis and the gravels of the Médoc.

The indigenous grape varietals utilised in a region’s classic wines are determined by the climate and soil conditions found there. Before the advent of modern methods of vine care, vignerons had to rely on trial and error to determine which grape varietals would thrive in their regions.

Grapes

A prime example of the natural evolution of the intimate association between a French wine area and its signature variety over several centuries is the bond between Pinot Noir and Burgundy. Where a grape type has been planted in more than one area, the wine it yields has naturally developed its own distinct character in each of those locations. For instance, one may taste a marked contrast between the Chardonnay found in Champagne (crisp, tart, acidic, sparkling) and that found in Mâcon (milder, more mellow, non-sparkling) (rounder, riper, richer, still).

The top grape varieties planted in the country are: 

Merlot, Ugni Blanc, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Franc, Carignan

Wine Law

The appellation system, essential to French wine law, was defined and enforced by the INAO in 1935. The INAO regulates yields, vine density, training and pruning, grape types, production methods, ageing, minimum alcohol by volume, must weight, and geographical limits.

The laws protect quality (minimum weight, minimum alcohol, yields), prohibit adulteration (production, maturation, regional borders, varietals), and prevent fraud (vine density and pruning).

These regulations, however excessive, are useful. Regional quality requirements determined marketability. If a region wants to keep making their signature wines, these traditions must be kept.

The AOP system is a model for European quality assurance.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Ruilly were the first AOCs in 1936. After VDQS collapsed, the AOP system became the cornerstone for industrial quality assurance rather than France’s best. AOP doesn’t always mean good wine.

Since 2009, AOP labels have been authorised on AOC wines. (This is a complicated issue that did not resolve itself.)

AOCs and AOPs can overlap like nesting dolls depending on the wines and whether the producers actively seek their own designation. When an AOP region believes its wines are better than those of the rest of the AOP or wants to expand its market share, this can happen. Example: Bordeaux AOP contains Pauillac AOP, Bordeaux Superieur AOP, and Bordeaux AOP.

Vin de Pays (VdP) winemakers have more quality control latitude. This allows for greater winemaking innovation, but because the wines don’t sell for as much as AOP wines (even if they’re better), the label is typically utilised for mass manufacturing of lower-quality wines.

Certain wines can also use the EU-approved IGP label if they wish.

“Vin de France” is the lowest tier French wine. Restaurants and oenothèques sell “vin rouge” wines. Mass-produced, low-quality wines labelled by varietal and vintage use this to compete globally. Alsace is the only French AOP that labels wines varietally.

Appellations


Many countries have adopted similar systems to France’s appellation system, which was established at the turn of the 20th century. This elaborate legal framework establishes the boundaries of each wine area and regulates every aspect of the winemaking process

Its primary goals are the protection of French wine brand names and the assurance of the authenticity and high quality of French wine. More than 450 controlled appellations fall under the AOC titles, and another 150 fall under the Vin de Pays/IGP titles; no other country has developed its appellation system to such an extent.

As we’ve established, the enormous number and variety of France’s wine offerings were crucial factors in the development of the sophisticated, all-encompassing categorisation of wine types and quality levels. More than 50 million hL of wine, in the form of 6500 million standard bottles, are produced annually from a total of about 1.9 million acres (775,000ha) of vineyards.

Some Famous Must Try French Wines 

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2016

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2016 is a wine from Pauillac, Bordeaux and is a 1st Cru Classé. According to, it is described as an “awesome Lafite” that is elegant to a fault and has the classicism of the very best vintages. But maybe out of all the 100 point wines of 2010, the it would be better to own this than drink it.

Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon is a brand of vintage Champagne that was founded in 1668 by Eugène Mercier. It is one of the most famous Champagne brands in the world, favoured by royalties and celebrities, and was the Champagne of choice for the royal wedding of Lady Diana to Prince Charles. The latest vintage release is the 2012 Dom Perignon, which is produced from only exceptional grapes and is described as having an intense flavour with a multi-dimensional taste named Explosive Harmony by the Maison. Dom Perignon is labelled as a dry Champagne with a crisp taste and a fruity aroma, although it can taste a bit acidic if too much is consumed. One bottle of the 1959 vintage of Dom Perignon was sold for $42,350 in 1971.

Fleur Petrus

Ah, Château La Fleur-Pétrus, a true gem of the Bordeaux wine region. Located in the heart of Pomerol, France, this estate is renowned for its rich and smooth wines that tantalize the palate. With three parcels situated on the plateau, the vineyard produces a wine with a captivating bouquet of ripe, red fruit and a lavish, opulent taste. The fruit is perfectly balanced and leaves a memorable impression on the drinker. Château La Fleur-Pétrus has a rich history, with its roots tracing back to when it was acquired by the legendary winemaker Jean-Pierre Moueix in 1953. The estate is blessed with old vines, with a composition of 91% merlot, 6% cabernet franc, and 3% petit verdot, creating a unique blend that sets it apart from others.

Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2011

Allow me to introduce you to the Trimbach Cuvee Frédéric Emile Riesling 2011, a magnificent white wine from the renowned wine region of Alsace in France. Produced by the historic Maison Trimbach, this wine boasts a bright medium-gold color, with a bouquet of sweet nectarine, succulent apricot, juicy pineapple, and candied peaches. On the palate, it is full-bodied and rich, with intense depth and a beautiful mineral flavor that lingers.

I must mention that this vintage of Trimbach Cuvee Frédéric Emile Riesling has received quite the recognition, being rated an impressive 92.4 points on average by the Cellar Tracker community.

And now, a brief history lesson. Maison Trimbach has a rich legacy, having been established in Ribeauvillé, France since 1626. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century, under the leadership of Frédéric-Emile Trimbach, that the winery truly began to make its mark on the global wine stage.