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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 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, which was only later called Gaul by the Romans, was inhabited by various tribes of Celts (Allobrogians, Ambians, Arvernians, Biturians, Cenomans and others in France, Noricans in Bavaria and Austria). 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.

Frankreich - Probus und Karl der Große

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 taken into account in the French revolutionary calendar, September was given the name Vendèmiaire (Wine Month).

In 1855, the famous Bordeaux classification took place. This had a great influence on the later quality class systems, which vary greatly from region to region. 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 hectares) 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 at an early stage that a wine with unmistakable characteristics is produced on a specific soil, under the influence of the local microclimate, as well as specially selected grape varieties. The Cistercians laid the foundations as early as the Middle Ages. 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 Joseph Capus (1868-1947), who, together with Boiseaumarié, is considered the initiator of the appellation system.

Wine-growing regions

France was the first country to record its wine-growing areas geographically. 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. The country is administratively divided into 101 (96 in Europe) 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 about 400 AOP areas (quality wines) and about 100 IGP areas (country wines). Unlike Italy (where this is 100% identical), there is little correspondence between wine-growing regions and political boundaries:

Frankreich - Karte von Frankreich und Bordeauzx

Wine-growing region


Main towns


Armagnac Gers, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne Also 12.000
Bordeaux Gironde Bordeaux 113.000
Burgundy Côte d'Or, Saône-et-Loire, Nièvre, Sâone-et-Loire Dijon 40.000
Champagne Ardennes, Aube, Marne, Haute-Marne Épernay, Reims 34.000
Cognac Charente Cognac 75.000
Alsace Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin Strasbourg 15.000
Jura Jura Lons-le-Saunier 1.900
Corsica Corse-du-Sud, Haute-Corse Ajaccio 7.500
Languedoc Ardèche, Ariège, Aveyron, Haute-Loire, Gard, Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées, Hérault, Lot, Lòzere, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Orientales Montpellier, Toulouse 201.000
Loire Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe, Vendée Angers, Nantes, Saumur 70.000
Lorraine Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle, Vosges Metz 125
Provence Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, Vaucluse,
Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes
Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Marseille, Nice 25.000
Rhône Ain, Ardèche, Drôme, Isère, Loire, Rhône, Savoie, Haute-Savoie Lyon, Montélimar 80.000
Roussillon Pyrénées-Orientales Perpignan 23.000
Savoie Haute-Savoie, Savoie Chambéry 2.100
Southwest France Arriège, Aude, Aveyron, Cantal, Charente, Charente-Maritim, Dordogne, Gers, Gironde, Hautes-Pyrénées, Landes, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne,
Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Tarn
Angoulême, Carcassonne, Montauban 160.000

Grape varieties and vineyards

With regard to 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.

There are almost 70,000 winegrowing enterprises with an average of nine hectares of vineyards. Around 45% process the grapes themselves and produce 55% of the output, the rest is supplied to winegrowers' cooperatives. The production consists of 45% red wines, 43% white wines (most of which are made into brandy) and 12% rosé wines. Around 62% are AOP wines, 18% IGP wines and 20% Vin de France. In 2014, the total vineyard area was 789,000 hectares, of which 46.5 million hectolitres of wine were produced. This puts France among the world leaders with Spain and Italy (see also under wine production volumes). The grape variety table in 2016 with the top 50 (statistics Kym Anderson):

Grape variety Colour Synonyms or French name Hectare
Merlot red - 108.483
Trebbiano Toscano white Ugni Blanc 78.842
Garnacha Tinta red Grenache Noir 78.631
Syrah red - 62.211
Chardonnay white - 47.451
Cabernet Sauvignon red - 46.555
Cabernet Franc red - 32.327
Mazuelo red Carignan 31.760
Pinot Noir red - 31.602
Sauvignon Blanc white - 28.084
Gamay red Gamay Noir 24.095
Cinsaut red Picardan Noir 15.930
Pinot Meunier red - 12.130
Sémillon white - 10.234
Melon de Bourgogne white Melon 9.550
Chenin Blanc white - 9.432
Viognier white - 8.823
Monastrell red Mourvèdre 8.754
Colombard white - 8.441
Muscat Blanc / Muscat white - 7.333
Cot red Côt, Malbec, Pressac 6.100
Garnacha Blanca white Grenache Blanc 5.130
Vermentino white Rollé 4.642
Riesling white - 4.025
Marselan red - 3.662
Gewürztraminer / Traminer white Gentil Rose Aromatique, Savagnin Blanc 3.320
Caladoc red - 3.062
Gros Manseng white - 3.046
Pinot Gris white - 2.867
Alicante Henri Bouschet red Alicante Bouschet 2.607
Tannat red - 2.513
Muscat d'Alexandrie white - 2.462
Auxerrois white Auxerrois Blanc 2.409
Muscat d'Hamburg red - 2.325
Clairette white Blanquette, Clairet, Clairette Blanche 2.042
Grolleau Noir red - 1.949
Aligoté white - 1.927
Roussanne white Petite Roussette, Roussanne Blanc 1.831
Macabeo white Maccabéo 1.657
Piquepoul Blanc white Picboul, Picpoul de Pinet 1.564
Folle Blanche white - 1.554
Mauzac Blanc white Mauzac, Mausac 1.526
Sangiovese red - 1.503
Fer red Fer servadou 1.502
Marsanne white Marsanne Blanche, Roussette Grosse 1.484
Muscadelle white - 1.412
Garnacha Roja white Grenache Gris 1.253
Petit Manseng white Manseng Blanc, 1.247
Pinot Blanc white Auvernat Blanc 1.181
Aramon Noir red - 1.167

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

Vin de France (Vins sans Indication Géographique)

Wines without geographical indication. It 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 (Indication Géographique Protégée)

Wines with a 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 now had to be prepared according to AOP standards and the link to the terroir had to be proven. These wines were thus upgraded to AOP.

AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protégée) or
AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée)

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 dating 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).

Probus: History Vienna WIKI
Charlemagne: From Albrecht Dürer - Public domain, Link
France: From French vineyards, France blank
Eric Gaba( Sting- fr:Sting) derivative work: Sdaubert (talk)
derivative work: Furfur (talk), CC BY-SA 2.5, link
Bordeaux: By Domenico-de-ga, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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