Whatever you hear from historians, wine critics or foodie connoisseurs, France will always be considered the home of wine. The Ancient Greeks tried to stamp their claim over it for a while with Bacchus, the god of wine, presiding over raucous parties and symposiums, but the French have long since become the world’s wine masters. When I’Hexagone was introduced (which is the collective name for France and its surrounding islands), the French created the wine laws we still use today, including grape classification, irrigation processes and even details regarding wine labels.
France is the grape master because of the sheer diversity of wine it produces. Its grapes are high quality and world-renowned, each region offering an individual type of wine; from Champagne glamour and the powerful wines of Rhone to rustic reds in Provence and beautiful bottles in Burgundy. There really is something for everyone, and here is just a snippet of what you can expect when visiting France for wine. A great holiday choice!
Where are France’s wine regions?
There are many wine regions in France, and here are the most popular ones:
Burgundy is famed for focussing on ‘terroir’, as opposed to the specific winery or Chateau. This means that the mix of geography, geology and climate is the growers’ main concern – providing the best environment possible for the grapes to flourish in. Burgundy is famous for its Pinot Noir production and the grapes are grown on the slopes of the Cotes.
The best way to explore Burgundy is by bike. Many of the vineyards near Beaune and Pommard are self-guided so take a picnic, hire some bikes and get exploring.
Located 200km north of Paris, this bubbly region needs no real introduction. Home of all the great champagnes, think Dom Perignon, Krug, Moet and Veuve Clicquot, and get tasting! The region became known for its sparkling wines because of Dom Perignon, a French bottler, who realised that carbon dioxide made the bubbles. Adding the carbon dioxide meant that the wine could be bottled even before it was fermented.
Vineyards are everywhere in Champagne, even in the remote villages. The majority of them will offer tours, some for free and some for a small fee, and often they will be family run and traditional. While you’re in Champagne, make sure you visit one of the many champagne museums. These museums are often part of the renowned Champagne Houses which are known as ‘the golden triangle’ of Epernay – Reims – Chalons-en-Champagne.
The Languedoc region in the south of France is well-known for its wine. A particularly good place to start, as the region is quite large, is a village called Saint-Chinian. Located between Minervois and Faugeres, Saint-Chinian is known locally for its robust reds. A small village with just a few tavernas, wine shops and sprawling vineyards as far as the eye can see, the wine here is full of character and is remarkably affordable. The area is mainly known for its red but also does a good Rose.
Bordeaux has a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares making it the largest wine growing area in France. The average vintage (crop) will produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine. While you can find a good bottle of Bordeaux wine at your local supermarket for your dinner table, the region also produces some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the entire world. Like most of the main wine regions in France, the main export from Bordeaux are reds, but the white Sauternes are particularly good, along with the dry whites and sparkling wines (Cremant de Bordeaux.) In summary, almost anything from this region is superb!