Famous French Wine Regions: An Introductory Guide For Enthusiasts

Informational

Red Wine and Grape in Vineyard Autumn Season

Many people who visit France have a particular taste for French wine. This is no surprise, as the French are known for their love of wine and the many different types they produce. However, with so many wine regions in France, it can be challenging to know where to start if you want to explore French wines. 

That’s why we put together this introductory guide about the most famous wine regions in France as a start to your French wine region journey.

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Famous Wine Regions in France

1. Bordeaux

Route des Chateaux, Vineyard in Medoc, famous wine estate of Bordeaux wine, France

Area: 296,596 acres

Best wines: Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Chateau Le Pin from Pomerol, Chateau Petrus

Bordeaux wine region is considered the most famous French wine region and where famed grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot are found. 

Bordeaux is a beautiful blend of two distinct sides, the left bank and the right bank. The wines on the left bank are big with blackcurrant, mint, and tobacco flavors that will make your mouth water for more, while those to the right bank have delicate hints like black cherry and mint mixed in between their velvety texture.

The world-famous Bordeaux region is home to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in history. Here, the wine production process has become a shorthand for elite winemaking, with handpicking grapes at the chateaux being key and focusing on making wines that reflect their terroir.

Two main rivers, Garonne and the Dordogne, and an estuary provide a unique environment that gives wines from this area their perfection. Over 10,000 wineries or chateaus along these natural boundaries offer nothing but quality of life to those who call it home.

2. Burgundy or Bourgogne

Chateau with vineyards in the autumn season, Burgundy, France

Area: 74,000 acres

Best wines: Châteaux des Quarts – Pouilly Fuissé, Domaine Henri Delagrange Les Bertins Premier Cru, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, DRC Richebourg Vosne-Romanée, Musigny Georges Roumier

Burgundy is a destination for lovers of fine Burgundy wines, as it has been producing both red and white wines since medieval times. The dominating varietals grown in this area are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay grapes, making up the Beaujolais family.

The Burgundy region is known for its large number of prestigious French wine classifications or appellations, particularly Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC). The Cote de Nuits, the Cote de Beaune, and the Maconnais are all premier sections, while Beaujolais can sometimes be considered a separate part of Burgundy itself and Chablis between it and Paris.

The Pinot Noir grape thrives in Burgundy's moderate climate, characterized by warm summers and cold winters. The region is home to one of the best red wines you can find on the market today - Red Burgundy wine from Louis Jadot. These wines are often quite pricey but worth every penny if quality matters most to you!

3. Champagne

Champagne Vineyards at sunset, Montagne de Reims, France

Area: 84, 016 acres

Best wines: Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs NV, Champagne Serge Gallois Blanc de Blancs, Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV, Charles Collin Blanc de Noirs Brut, Maison Mumm RSRV Blanc de Noirs Brut Grand Cru

Champagne is among the wine regions in France in the Northeast that produces delicious wines. The most well-known kinds are sparkling white wines made from three different grape varietals, namely Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Their elegant white wines can only be found about 100 miles outside Paris - making it one of the world's best vineyards!

The wine of the Champagne region has a rich history, with five major growing areas and different classifications for sweetness. The most popular is Brut Champagne that ranges from dry to extra-dry based on the sugar content.

The wine region of Champagne is a perfect place for many reasons. It's located in the north, which means cooler temperatures and vineyards at higher altitudes contribute to producing excellent wines. 

4. Alsace

Village of Barr in Vineyard landscape in the region Alsace, France

Area: 37,000 acres

Best wines: Trimbach Riesling Clos St Hune, Domaine Weinbach Riesling Schlossberg, Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Grand Cru, Josmeyer Fromenteau, Emile Beyer Tradition

Alsace is the French wine region that doesn't name wines by place of origin. They instead identify them according to the grape varietal. White wine dominates their vineyards like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris, which are also famous grapes in this quaint culture.

With over 90% of the wines being white wine, there is a wide variety to choose from. These wines typically have floral or peachy notes to them and are medium-bodied with moderate alcohol content. Alsace wine offers unique flavors with characteristics that can't be found in New World wines. 

The Alsace Gewurztraminer has low acidity and high alcohol content while still being light-bodied due to its zesty aromatic spice blend, which is unlike any other white wine on the market today. If you want even more flavor than this versatile variety, then try out either the Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris, which provide fuller-bodied with rich flavor profiles.

5. Loire Valley

Vineyard in the famous winemaking region -Chinon, Loire Valley, France

Area: 185,000 acres

Best wines: Alphonse Mellot 2016 Edmond (Sancerre), Château de Tracy 2015 Haute Densité, Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Le Chêne Marchand, Château De Fesles Bonnezeaux, Touraine Azay-le-Rideau

The Loire Valley is home to one of the most scenic and romantic regions in all of France. The region's lush vineyards are famous for their fairytale castles and picturesque rolling hills. The natural beauty rivals the wine production that brings people to this area in droves. 

Many different grape varieties are grown in Loire Valley at various points along the river, including dry Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadet. The Loire Valley wine region comprises four sub-regions: Upper Loire, which produces Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre wines. 

Furthermore, Touraine’s cold climate creates Chenin Blanc wines with diverse flavor profiles such as spicy Cabernet Franc red. Anjou-Saumur also makes dry Savennières, sweet Coteaux du Layon and Saumur red wines. And finally, Pays Nantais can be credited for Muscadet and Melon de Bourgogne whites.

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6. Rhone Valley (Côtes du Rhône)

Vineyards of Cote Rotie, Rhone Valley in France

Area: 175,475 acres

Best wines: Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle, E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline, Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, Château de Saint-Cosme 2017 Côte Rôtie, Le Cigare Volant from Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The Rhône wine region in southern France is located alongside the 150-mile long Rhône river path, and it contains several well-known wine legends such as Hermitage. This area has made a name for itself by producing wines like Côte Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape that are widely known around this world. Its largest appellation in the South is Côtes du Rhône.

French wine is divided into two principal regions: the Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône. The North has an older, more respected reputation but only accounts for 5% of total production while 95% comes from the South; this may be due to its warmer climate with mild summers and harsh winters instead of a continental one with cold winters.

This area has more than 6,000 properties that produce various wines from white to red and even sparkling varieties. There are private wineries and cooperatives within this small land space, so it can be challenging to find which ones provide your favorite drink because there are just too many options!

7. Provence

Saignon village, Vaucluse region, Provence, France

Area: 108,051 acres

Best wines: Chateau Vignelaure 2019 Rosé, Château des Bertrands 2019 Rosé, Château Vannières La Patience Rosé (Bandol), Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge, Château de Pibarnon Bandol

Provence has roots that extend back over 2,600 years ago in France's most historic wine-growing regions, where rose wines are the main focus. Dry rosé from this land will have hints of fruit such as watermelon, strawberries, or even celery.

Provence, the warm and sunny region close to France's Mediterranean coast, is a fantastic location for vineyards. With many similarities with Southern Rhône wines in terms of climate, grape, and wine style used, Provençal wine has gained quite an international following among lovers of Southern French reds.

The flagship appellation from Provence is Bandol. A small area in Bandol makes Mourvèdre reds which have deep red colors and notes such as plum and roasting meat with herbs. There are eight significant appellations to this region, each producing its unique wines, but all tasting undeniably good!

8. Languedoc and Roussillon

vineyards in the wine region Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Area: 700, 000 Acres

Best wines: Domaine De La Pertuisane Le Nain Violet Grenache, Château Des Jaume Cru Maury Sec, Domaine Lafage Nicolas Grenache Noir, Domaine de Baron'Arques Limoux, Domaine de Baron'Arques Limoux Blanc

Languedoc-Roussillon is catching up to the more popular wine regions in France, accounting for a third of its production. In fact, it is the largest French wine region. Languedoc Roussillon was once known as a mass producer of low-quality wines. However, the area has undergone many changes and transformations to become firmly established on the map as an authentic French winemaking territory with unique wines that deserve plenty of recognition.

The Grenache wines in this region are characterized by bold flavors, like raspberry and plum, but if you prefer more subtle tastes, try a Carignan. These have notes of dried cranberry or raspberry with hints of licorice. Many are aged over one hundred years for those who love sweet reds, resulting in flavors reminiscent of caramel, cinnamon, and raspberries.

Blanquette de Limoux is one of the world's oldest sparkling wines. It has roots in Languedoc, as it is made using the region’s Mauzcar grape, which gives off flavors similar to baked apples.

9. South West

Vineyard landscape-Spraying of the grapevines-Vineyard southwest of France

Area: 134,393 acres

Best wines: Crocus La Roche Mère, Chateau Lamagdelaine Noire, Château Lagrezette, Cahors, Georges Vigouroux Château de Haute-Serre Malbec, Jean-Luc Baldès Clos Triguedina Probus

The South West is an interesting region of France, as it includes three different areas: Aquitaine, Limousin, and Midi-Pyrenees. However, the French wine zone does not include Bordeaux due to its productivity which qualifies it as a separate area from "Sud-Ouest.”

The South West is a region as diverse and rich in flavor as the wines it produces. The presence of both the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea contributes to its wide variety of climates. Some areas have moist, maritime air thanks to the ocean breeze, while other inland regions experience dry heat due to their continental climate.

The region's wine portfolio is an assortment of wines from diverse areas. Jurancon and Monbazillac offer sweet, tannic reds, while Cahors has full-bodied Bordeaux lookalikes in its vineyards. Furthermore, Gaillac offers sparkling wines with a wide range of dry whites all around you!

10. Corsica

Vineyards in Corsica, France

Area: 15,115 acres

Best wines: Domaine De Tanella - Clos Marc Aurele, Domaine Maestracci Corse Calvi E Prove Rose, Domaine Vico Vin de Corse Clos Venturi Rouge, Domaine Comte Abbatucci Ajaccio Faustine Vieilles Vignes Rose, Domaine Vetriccie Rose, IGP Ile de Beaute

Located in the Mediterranean Sea, Corsica might be closer to Italy than it is to France. However, this island has been under French rule for centuries and consequently produces wines that are often similar to Tuscan wines of Northern Italy. 

A diverse variety of grapes from Pinot Noir to Barbarossa make their way onto Corsican vineyards as they grow on slopes with a diversity unmatched by most other regions around the world today.

Corsica is a small island with only nine appellations, but the most exciting thing about these wines isn't just that they're all produced locally- it's how much of them are consumed on Corsica! The Vin de Pays designation recognizes its production methods and regional style.

Corsica's warm, sunny climate is perfect for growing grapes. The island has the best sunshine levels in France and much less rainfall than in mainland Europe. This means that vineyards thrive here all year long - high-output viticulture!

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11. Beaujolais

Sun is rising over vineyards of Beaujolais, France

Area: 50,112 acres

Best wines: Domaine Anita Coeur de Vigneronne, Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais Nouveau, Domaine Anita Prémium Les Brureaux, Chénas, Château du Châtelard 2016 Renaissance, Fleurie, Domaine de la Pirolette 2017 La Poulette, Saint-Amour

Beaujolais is among the wine regions in France famous for its flavorful, fruity red wines made from Gamay. It's located in eastern France, close to Burgundy, and sometimes considered part of the Rhone administrative region despite being south.

The region of Beaujolais is well-known for its wide variety of red wines. The high-quality wines are those in the ten "crus" (ten vineyard areas long recognized as the finest in this area) that each has an appellation title: Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouille, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie, and Saint-Amour).

As a borderline continental climate, Beaujolais provides for ripe fruit-driven flavors that Nouveau-style wines are known to have. The Massif Central and Alps offer the perfect remedies against cold weather as it can be too warm in the summertime.

Other Popular French Wine Regions

French red and rose wine grapes plant

12. Brittany

Best wines: Pommeau de Bretagne, Fraise de Plougastel Bretagne, Crème de Cassis – Bretagne, Cidre Cornouaille A.O.P., Liqueur de Pomme de Bretagne

Bretagne, also known as Little Britain, is the wine region in France that's a wine-growing area. It was once an official winemaking region of France, but it no longer holds this title due to its lack of vineyards and declining production. However, recently there has been a movement towards revitalizing viticulture by creating recreational vineyards with high demand for locally sourced wines from local producers.

The wine culture in Brittany follows two main varieties: Muscadet and Gros Plant. These white wines originate from this region of France but are most popularly found near the Loire Valley, where they surround Nantes- historically a part or territory belonging to Brittany. This area is commonly known as "Le Pays nantais.”

13. Île-de-France

Area: 42,000 acres (before)

Best wines: Pieru Rose, Domaine Vetriccie Rose, Francois Labet Pinot Noir, Yves Leccia Domaine d'E Croce YL Rose, Barton & Guestier B&G Reserve Pinot Noir

Vineyards are not so common in Ile-de-France, but there were numerous vineyards from the middle ages to the 18th century. Ile-de-France was considered one of France’s first wine regions, surprising because that era only has a few vines left today.

The Ile-de-France wines are among the world's most popular. The grapes used in this region include Chardonnay, Semillon, and Sauvignon - many of which are famous for their delicious flavors found throughout Parisian cuisine. 

The Suresnes vineyard is currently the largest in Ile de France, measuring a mere one hectare. The wines of this region are modest and local; only 11 hectares exist today for wine production, with a total output of 33,000 bottles annually.

14. Jura

Area: 4,570 acres

Best wines: Domaine Jean Macle Chateau-Chalon, Emmanuel Houillon - Pierre Overnoy Arbois-Pupillin Poulsard, Anne et Jean-Francois Ganevat Cotes du Jura Les Vignes de Mon Pere, Jacques Puffeney Arbois Vin Jaune, Bruyere & Houillon Arbois-Pupillin Ploussard

The Jura region of France is adored by sommeliers around the world for its delicious and one-of-a-kind wines. It is nestled between Switzerland and Burgundy, and the grapes from this small area are grown on hillsides adjacent to green mountains that make it a stark contrast with nearby Burgundy's more urbanized landscape.

The Jura region is a small but essential French wine-growing area. Their most famous wines are Vin Jaune, or "yellow wine," an oxidative white reminiscent of a Fino Sherry. Jura's cold winters and warm summers create a similar climate to the Côte d'Or, or even southern Alsace.

This variation in temperature between valley and hillside locations creates an ideal home for wine grapes. Visitors to this region of France can enjoy all its beauty from its pastoral landscapes, quaint villages, and vineyards.

15. Picardy

Best wines: Blanc de blanc, Blanc de noir, Rosé Champagne, Hypocras, Saugette

Picardy is a region in the North of France that produces quality wine, ciders, and other produce. Their Picardy Calvados has been noted for their excellent taste, and it can't be found anywhere else. Local beers are also worth trying!

The Picardy region is found in the northern part of France and covers about 19,400 square kilometers. This region has a total population of 1,908,000, with its capital city being Amiens.

The region of Picardy in France is one of the producers of Champagne wine, making up 15% of all French production. The area was permitted to produce alcohol by law in 1936.

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16. Savoy

Area: 5,600 acres

Best wines: Domaine Belluard Savoie Les Alpes, Domaine Belluard Savoie Le Feu, Domaine Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Rose Sparkling, Domaine Belluard Savoie Ayze Mont Blanc Brut Zero, Patrick Bottex Bugey Cerdon La Cueille Sparkling Rose.

Located just south of Lake Geneva, Savoy is a mountainous wine region in France. Not only does it boast some pretty picturesque views and slopes to offer, but it also has one-of-a-kind wines. 

The Savoy region is one of the most famous wine regions in Eastern France. The vineyards are scattered among four departments: Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isère, and Ain, with Switzerland on its eastern side and Jura to the north. These areas under cultivation make up almost 0.5% of total French production, making it a significant part of France's viticulture tradition.

The region is located in a mountainous environment just outside of the Alps, which can be seen from its microclimate. The continental climate has some alpine and Mediterranean impacts that are created by both location and altitude.

17. Normandy

Best wines: Christian Drouin Domaine Coeur de Lion Vintage Millesime Calvados Pays d'Auge, DOM Benedictine Liqueur, Lemorton Grande Réserve Vieux Calvados Domfrontais, DOM B&B Benedictine Liqueur & Brandy, Eric Bordelet Granit Poire

Normandy, a region of France known for its cider and calvados, has an interesting history. It is not officially recognized as a wine-producing region by the French government, but it has a rich heritage in viticulture, with its cultivation techniques dating back centuries.

The five central departments in the region are Calvados, Eure, Manche, Orne, and Seine-Maritime. The vine was cultivated during ancient times before production ceased at the end of the 19th century.

The vineyards of Normandy are the perfect place to enjoy a nice wine glass or bottle of wine. With a few vineyards, it produces 15,000 bottles annually, and most turn out as white wines, with one being an award-winning red wine!

Conclusion

With all the different wine regions in France, each having its unique style, it's no wonder that there is such a variety of French wines. From light white wines to rich dry red wines, you can find any type of flavor profile for your palate. 

What are some of your favorite French wines? Which wine regions in France do you want to visit first? Let us know in the comments below.


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