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Comprehensive description of all European growing areas, their grape varieties, traditions and legal rules with maps.

Description to France

France is a relatively young wine-growing country compared to Greece and Italy. The first vines were brought to France in the 6th century BC by the Greeks, who founded Massalia (Latin Massillia = Marseille) in the southwest on the Mediterranean coast. At this time, the land that was only later called Gaul by the Romans was inhabited by the Celts. A lively trade developed and the Greeks covered the demand. When the Greeks migrated to the Po Valley in the 5th century, they got to know Italian wine and began to import it. The later French had been consuming wine for a long time before they began to cultivate it themselves on a large scale. The conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) led to systematic distribution. This took place in the 1st century in the Rhône valley, in the 2nd century in Burgundy and Bordeaux and in the 3rd century on the Loire. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (232-282) lifted the ban of Emperor Domitian (51-96) and ordered the planting of vines throughout Gaul in the middle of the 3rd century.

The King of the Franks and later Emperor Charlemagne (742-814) gave decisive impetus to viticulture in what is now France through his decrees. In the monastery of Cîteaux in Burgundy, the Catholic order of the Cistercians was founded in 1098 and quickly spread throughout Europe. The monks perfected viticulture in terms of soil type selection, grape variety selection and winemaking, which had an impact throughout Europe. But the Benedictine order, whose most famous member was probably Dom Pierre Pérignon (1638-1715), the "inventor" of assemblage, the artful blending of wines, was equally important for viticulture. It is also worth mentioning that wine was included in the French revolutionary calendar, September was given the name Vendèmiaire (Wine Month).

In 1855, the famous Bordeaux classification took place, which had a great influence on the quality class systems that subsequently emerged, but which vary greatly from region to region (see Grand Cru). Shortly afterwards, the country was the starting point of the greatest and most comprehensive disaster in the history of viticulture, when phylloxera and powdery and downy mildew began their campaign of destruction across Europe from the 1860s onwards. France was particularly hard hit, with over three-fifths (700,000 ha) of its vineyards destroyed. At the same time, however, the "Golden Years of Bordeaux" signalled a new beginning when vineyards were planted on a large scale in the Médoc.

In France, it was recognised early on that a wine with unmistakable characteristics is produced on a certain type of soil, under the influence of the local climate (microclimate), certain grape varieties and also the art of the winemaker. The beginnings were already made by the Cistercians. In the first third of the 20th century, the term terroir was coined. In the 1920s, the vineyard owner Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié (1890-1967) described the ideal grape varieties for Châteauneuf-du-Pape on the basis of the soil and climate typical there in an area he defined. Further impulses were given by the agriculture professor Joseph Capus (1868-1947), who together with Boiseaumarié is considered the initiator of the appellation system.

Today, French wine is regarded worldwide as something exceptional and as an expression of cultural perfection. The well-known English wine author Hugh Johnson described this very aptly in his book "Atlas of French Wines": "In the course of history, a form of cultural perfection has developed in various places on earth that defies any logical explanation. If one thinks of the Middle East, it is religious fertility, the name Germany is associated with music, the name Italy with architecture. But if you speak of France, you involuntarily think of dining pleasures. The French choose and prepare their food with more zeal and care than anyone else in the world. Surely this ingenious talent for enjoyment has helped the French to become the creators of the finest wines."

Vineyards and grape varieties

In terms of grape varieties, different philosophies or styles prevail. In the south and south-west, especially in Bordeaux, red wines in particular are blended from several varieties, these are the classic cuvées, for which there is the term Bordeaux blend. In the more northerly regions, however, such as Chablis, Alsace, Loire, Savoy and above all Burgundy, the wines are usually made from a single grape variety. In Burgundy in particular, the site system and the associated classification system are particularly pronounced. Within the framework of EU grubbing-up programmes, around 180,000 hectares of vineyards were cleared between 1988 and 2010. Languedoc-Roussillon was particularly affected by this.

In 2012, the total vineyard area was 792,000 hectares, of which 41.5 million hectolitres of wine were produced. This puts France among the world leaders with Spain and Italy (see also under wine production volumes). this year there were 68,500 winegrowing enterprises with an average of 9.1 hectares of vineyards (Champagne 2.4 and Bordeaux 14.4). About 45% process the grapes themselves and produce 55% of the output, the rest supplies to winegrowers' cooperatives. The production consists of 45% red wines, 43% white wines (most of them in brandy) and 12% rosé wines. About 62% are AOP wines, 18% IGP wines and 20% Vin de France. The grape variety index 2010 (ex statistics by Kym Anderson):

Grape variety Colour Synonyms or French name Hectare
Merlot red - 115.746
Garnacha Tinta red Grenache Noir 90.991
Trebbiano Toscano white Ugni Blanc 83.445
Syrah red - 68.587
Cabernet Sauvignon red - 54.434
Mazuelo red Carignan 53.155
Chardonnay white - 44.593
Cabernet Franc red - 36.902
Pinot Noir red - 29.738
Gamay red Gamay noir 29.698
Sauvignon Blanc white - 27.931
Cinsaut red Picardan Noir 20.800
Melon de Bourgogne white Melon 12.364
Sémillon white - 11.693
Pinot Meunier red - 11.088
Chenin Blanc white - 9.825
Monastrell red Mourvèdre 9.257
Colombard white - 8.173
Muscat Blanc / Muscat white - 7.671
Cot red Côt, Malbec, Pressac 6.123
Garnacha Blanca white Grenache Blanc 5.004
Viognier white - 4.395
Alicante Henri Bouschet red Alicante Bouschet 4.322
Vermentino white Rollé 3.569
Riesling white - 3.513
Muscat d'Hamburg red - 3.504
Gewürztraminer / Traminer white Gentil Rose Aromatique, Savagnin Blanc 3.168
Gros Manseng white - 2.959
Tannat red - 2.914
Macabeo white Maccabéo 2.628
Pinot Gris white - 2.617
Muscat d'Alexandrie white - 2.610
Marselan red - 2.599
Aramon Noir red - 2.547
Caladoc red - 2.464
Chasselas white - 2.450
Clairette white Blanquette, Clairet, Clairette Blanche 2.405
Auxerrois white Auxerrois Blanc 2.365
Grolleau Noir red - 2.350
Mauzac Blanc white Mauzac, Mausac 1.991
Aligoté white - 1.953
Folle Blanche white - 1.770
Garnacha Roja white Grenache Gris 1.699
Fer red Fer Servadou 1.592
Sangiovese red - 1.589
Muscadelle white - 1.589
Marsanne white Marsanne Blanche, Roussette Grosse 1.437
Roussanne white Petite Roussette, Roussanne Blanc 1.352
Villard Noir red - 1.320
Villard Blanc white - 1.129

Wine-growing regions

The country is divided administratively into 95 départements. The wine-growing areas are spread fairly evenly over three quarters of the surface. Under the protection and supervision of the INAO, there are around 400 AOP areas (quality wines) and around 100 IGP areas (country wines). Unlike Italy (where this is 100% identical), there is little correspondence between wine-growing regions and political boundaries:

Karte von Frankreich - Weinbauregionen

France was the first country to geographically register its wine-growing areas. This was done by defining legally valid areas and boundaries from which the specific quality of a wine can be clearly derived. This is unambiguous and unmistakable through the appellation in question. The better a wine, the more precise the regulations and, as a rule, the smaller the area. The special system of "controlled origin" is described under Appellation d'Origine Protégée; it is controlled by the INAO authority.

Wine categories / quality levels

In August 2009, the EU wine market regulation came into force with fundamental changes to the wine designations and quality levels. The designation AOC may continue to be used as an alternative. The three quality levels are (see also in detail under Quality System):

  • Vin de France (formerly Vin de table or table wine) = wine
  • IGP (formerly Vin de pays) = country wine
  • AOP (formerly AOC or AC) = quality wine

Vinde France (Vins sans Indication Géographique = wines without geographical indication): Replaced the former designation Vin de table. For this, grape varieties from all over France are permitted. There are wines without and with indication of grape varieties and/or vintage. The INAO is not responsible, as is the case with quality wines and country wines, but the Anivin de France association.

IGP (Vins avec Indication Géographique = wines with protected geographical indication): Replaced the former designation Vin de pays. The wines are subject to less strict production guidelines. Although recommended grape varieties and maximum yields are defined, there is more freedom than with AOP. Grape varieties other than those recommended can also be used. A hierarchical distinction is made according to size or scope into IGP régionales, IGP départementales and IGP de petites zones. The six largest regional IGP areas are Atlantique, Comté Tolosan, Comtés Rhodaniens, Méditerranée, Pays d'Oc and Val de Loire.

VDQS (Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure): This level was created in 1949 as a preliminary stage for the AOC rank. The production guidelines must now be prepared according to AOP standards and the link to the terroir must be proven. These wines are thus upgraded to AOP.

AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protégée): The new top of the quality pyramid. Compared to the old AOC, controls by independent bodies have been strengthened. There are three levels: AOP Cru (wines from a vineyard, site or parcel), AOP communal (wines from a commune) and AOP regional (wines from a region). See in detail under Appellation d'Origine Protégée.

Special classification systems: In addition to the EU-compliant quality levels, there are sometimes confusing classification systems in France that vary from region to region. These are the Bordeaux classification for Médoc and Sauternes from 1855, the Burgundy classification, and the Graves and Saint-Émilion classifications, which are carried out at regular intervals. See a complete list under Grand Cru.

Institutions and bodies

Influential French wine writers and critics are or were Michel Bettane, Guy Bonnefoit, Pierre Brejoux, Thierry Desseauve, Patrick Dussert-Gerber, Odette Kahn, Alexis Lichine, Émile Peynaud, Olivier Poussier, André Simon and Christian Vanneque. The most important wine magazines or wine guides include the four works Guide des Vins, Hachette, Le Guide des Meilleurs Vins de France and Le Grand Guide des Vins.

In addition to national ones, there are also some important international viticultural institutions with headquarters in France for research and development, standards and norms, and professional associations. These are CPVO (Community Plant Variety Office), FIJEV (Federation Internationale des Journalistes et Ecrivains des Vins et Spiritueux), IFV (Institut Français de la Vigne et du Vin), INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine), INRAE (Institut national de recherche pour l'agriculture, l'alimentation et l'environnement), ISVV (Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin), OIV (Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin) and UPOV (Union internationale pour la Protection des Obtentions Végétales).

France map: From French_vineyards.svg: *France_blank.svg: Eric Gaba(Sting - fr:Sting)
derivative work: Sdaubert (talk) / derivative work: Furfur (talk) - French_vineyards.svg, CC BY-SA 2.5, link

In this section you will find
currently 147,233 Wines and 23,237 Producers, including 2,211 classified producers.
Rating system Their sources in Wine Guide Tasting samples