WINE REGIONS OF FRANCE
an introduction to
the wine regions of france
The wine regions of France produce the template for premium wine production no matter where else in the world wines are made. France is not the largest producer of wines, in fact Italy has been the largest for a long time. But with French wines it is about quality control and the 'Appellation Controlée system' which ensures the wines reputation is protected.
DEVELOP YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE FRENCH WINE REGIONS WITH THIS EXCELLENT MAP
Other countries are producing good wines and Chardonnay, Cabernet, Sauvignon Syrah and Pinot are made in many of the world's vineyards. The fact that the grapes are in these vineyards indicates that the original model was of course French.
So if would like to know a little more about French wines and the wine regions of France here is a brief résumé. Understanding wines can be confusing, but the trick is not to get too hung up on the details – just enjoy the wine! – that’s a good starting point.
The grand chateaux of Bordeaux produce the finest clarets
and sweet whites. The Bordeaux region lies in the Gironde département. Red
Wines of Bordeaux sometimes called ‘claret’ by the British, is the most popular
image of France’s best wine. You may see vintage bottles of Bordeaux wines at
auctions commanding exceedingly high prices.
Grapes: Bordeaux reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,
Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
Bordeaux whites: Dry and
sweet wines – Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle.
There are five wine
regions in the Loire area and they have very different wines.
Pays Nantais: Grapes: Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet), Folle Blanche
(Gros Plant). The Muscadet
is France's most exported wine. About 50% of Muscadets have the words ‘sur lié’
on the label which refers to a technique in the making of these wines. These
are the better wines so look out for these on the labels.
Chenin Blanc (whites)
Reds – Cabernet Franc; Whites – Chenin Blanc; Sparkling – Chenin Blanc,
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc.
Reds – Cabernet Franc, Gamay; Whites – Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc,
Upper Loire: Grape:
Sauvignon Blanc (whites): Sancerre, Menetou-Salon
and Reuilly: Grapes: Pinot Noir, Gamay (reds/rosés)
Champagne is the
most northerly area of the wine regions of France and produces the finest of
the sparkling wines.
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay. There are also the rosé or pink Champagnes,
made by adding a little still local red wine to the white Champagne.
Blanc de Blancs are champagne using only the chardonnay grape. Blanc de
Noirs is white champagne made from the black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot
Meunier. Prestige Cuvée – these are usually a vintage wine, often aged
longer than ordinary vintage wines.
This area offers a
blend of both German and French culture. Alsace shelters between the Vosges
mountains and the river Rhine and it grows both French and German
grapes. Most wine regions of France are complicated to the novice, but it
is much easier to understand wines in this area as they are named after the
grape varieties and not the villages or properties as in other regions of
France. Most of the Alsace wines are dry to medium dry white wines.
Gewurztraminer – a
deeply coloured wine with a strong alcohol content which goes well with the
regions patés and terrines.
Reisling – a racy
wine good with fish dishes.
Pinot Gris – a spicy,
fruity (orange perhaps or buttery and honey).
Muscat – refreshing
with a musty spice.
Pinot Blanc – creamy,
slightly appley wine.
Sylvaner – a
pungently almost cabbagey wine.
Auxerrois – a simple
Chasselas – light
neutral tasting wine.
Edelzwicker – a blend of any of the above grapes.
Pinot Noir – the
only red grape in Alsace. A sharp, cherry fruit wine.
There are some
passionate controversies as to whether Bordeaux or Burgundy have the finest
wines. The annual production is far less than that of the Bordeaux wines. Some
examples of fine Burgundy wines are:
Cote de Nuits: Grapes:
Red – Pinot Noir; White – Chardonnay and small amounts of Pinot Blanc
Cote de Beaune: Grapes:
Red – Pinot Noir; White – Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Aligoté
Red – Pinot Noir, Gamay, César, Tressot; White – Chardonnay, Aligoté, Pinot Blanc,
Pinot Gris, Sacy
southern most wine region. Grapes: Red – Gamay; White – Chardonnay
The Rhone valley
consists of the northern Rhone and the southern Rhone.
Northern Rhone: Grapes: Red – Syrah; White – Viognier, Marsanne,
Southern Rhone: Grapes: Red – Grenache, Cinsaut, Mourvedre, Syrah,
Carignan, Gamay; White – Clairette, Picpoul, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc,
Roussane, Marsanne, Muscat, Viognier
The Provence area is
known for the pale rosés.
Grapes: Reds – Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsaut, Syrah, Carignan,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Tibouren, Braquet; White – Clairette, Ugni-Blanc, Grenache
Blanc, Rolle, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Terret
Grapes: Red – Carignan, Grenache, Cinsaut, Mourvedre, Syrah, Merlot,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec; White – Clairette, Rolle, Terret, Bourboulenc,
Picpoul, Muscat, Maccabéo, Marsanne, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay
Gascony and South-West
These are small wine
regions of France. They are the areas from Bordeaux down to the Spanish border.
Very traditional vineyards, where they are proud of their traditions.
This of course is
home to such fine French delights such as Foie Gras, magnificent pork, poultry
and Toulouse sausages!
Grapes: Reds -
The Bordeaux varieties plus local varieties.
Jura and Savoie
These small wine
regions of France to the east of Burgundy are dominated by white wines.
Jura: Grapes: White
– Savagnin, Chardonnay; Red – Trouseau, Poulsard, Pinot Noir
Savoie: Grapes: White
– Jacuere, Roussette, Malette, Rousanne, Chasselas, Chardonnay; Red – Mondeuse,
Gamay, Pinot Noir