There is no other country in the world with the same quantity of high quality wines as France, which makes it probably the best wine producer in the world. It is recognized as the largest wine power among all countries that produce wine, producing an average of 4.6 billion liters per year.
For more than 2000 years there has been wine production in France, however, it was only from 1905 that the French government began to have greater control over production and regulation, having created in 1935 the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO), who oversees and regulates the production of wines in the country.
Image: Revista ADEGA
France has 1000km from north to south and from east to west, creating an area of 551,500km² and, if we include the overseas territories, 675,417km².
It is the third largest country in Europe, after Russia and Ukraine.
We can define France's climate as temperate, however, the country is divided into four climatic areas:
- Oceanic climate (west of France): modest annual temperature variations;
- Continental climate (central and eastern France): cold winters and hot summers;
- Mediterranean climate (south and east of France): hot and dry summers, rains from October to April and year-round sunshine;
- Mountain climate (altitudes above 600-800m): high rainfall, snow for 3 to 6 months per year.
The type of soil in France is mostly clay-limestone.
Grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Carmenère and Sauvignon Blanc are responsible for the creation of unique and incomparable French wines, with peculiar characteristics that best express the variations of France's terroirs.
France Wine Regions
There are several wine producing regions in France, but most are small and inexpressive in the international market. The rest of the regions guarantee the prestige and elegance of the best French wine around the world.
- Alsace: the vines in this region are in one of the driest climates in the country, in an area with very low rainfall. Thus, a slow maturation is obtained, which favors these delicate aroma wines.
- Beaujolais: zone with granitic soil, which is favorable to the Gamay variety. This is one of the most famous wines in France, it is light and fruity.
- Bordeaux: Bordeaux wines are world famous. In this region with more than 105 thousand hectares, red wines, fortified wines and white wines are produced.
- Bourgogne: it has a large number of appellations of origin. The best white wines are from Meursult and Puligny.
- Champagne: northernmost region of France, where the main grape varieties are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot-Meunier. The word Champagne is associated with effervescent wines, so the non-effervescent wine in this region is known as "Côteaux Champenois".
- Corsica: in the Mediterranean, this island has ideal conditions for the vineyard. Since it is very close to Italy, the island has adopted many Italian grape varieties such as Vermentino and Sangiovese.
- Jura: produces in small quantities excellent white and red wines. Jura wines are mainly consumed in France and are difficult to find.
- Languedoc-Roussilon: region with 40% of France's vineyard, these wines are elegant and fine.
- Loire: with numerous sub-regions, Loire Valley wines have varied characteristics - from dry and still to fragrant and fruity.
- Provence: given the size of this region and the diversity of climate throughout, the wines are very different from each other.
- Rhône: of quality recognized worldwide, the wines of this region have a particular identity, with expressive character.
- Savoie: due to its proximity to the Jura region, it shares the same characteristics.
- South-west: from many different sub-regions, wines from the South-west can range from liqueur to fruity whites and even red spirits.
Types of Wine from France
In France there are about 110 thousand vineyards spread across the country, with the most diverse terroirs, in the hands of about 69 thousand producers. It is a very developed country with regard to wine production: we can find wines for all tastes.
In France, wines can be classified in four ways:
- Vins de table: make up most of France's wines (55% of total production). These are the lowest quality wines, and cannot contain the name of any specific region, sub-region or vineyard on the label.
- Geographical Indication: wines of superior quality than the vins de table. These are produced from strict rules and come from small regions. They correspond to 15% of the total production of French wines. In total, there are 150 regions of Geographical Indication and most of them are in the south of the country.
- Delimited Wine of Superior Quality (VDQS): constitute the second degree in the quality hierarchy. They come from 22 wine regions, also defined, and represent only 1% of French wines.
- Protected Designation of Origin (PDO): they are the best quality wines, coming from areas classified by specific legislation, which can be sub-regions, cities and even a single vineyard. There are 357 PDO, which correspond to 29% of the country's total production.
There is also the name "Vins de Qualité Produits dans une Region Déterminé" (VQPRD). It was created by the European Economic Community (EEC) to equate the best quality wines from the member countries. In France, VQPRD includes wines of the VDQS and PDO types, mentioned above.
France Grape Varieties
In France there is a greater number of red varieties planted than white. More specifically, there are 687,627 hectares of red grape varieties, and 311,255 hectares of white grape varieties.
The main red grape varieties are: Merlot, Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Cinsault, Pinot and Aramon. And the white ones: Ugni, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Melon, Chenin, Grenache Blanc, Macabeu, Terret and Bacchus.