France is synonymous with world class, quality wines. While even the most novice of wine drinkers will recognise the famous names of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, wines are commercially produced in every part of France except along the northern coast. In this article, we explore the most well-known French wine regions… as well as a few you might not have heard of!
France produces over 3,000 different wines across two million hectares of vineyards. Generally speaking, the map of French wine regions can be divided into northern vineyards known for their white wines, and southern vineyards (with the exception of the Jura and Savoy) that are known for their red wines. The main wine areas of the French wine region map are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, Champagne, the Loire Valley, Alsace, Rhône, Provence and Corsica.
On the Western Atlantic coast, Bordeaux is among the most famous of wines. This region primarily produces red wines from world-renowned chateaux in the Medoc sub-region, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. The wines made here are typically blends using cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sometimes cabernet Franc.
Burgundy, or ‘Bourgogne’, in the east is a region where red and white wines share equal prominence. Unlike others, Burgundy places its greatest emphasis on ‘terroir’ in the production of two main grape varieties: chardonnay for white wines and pinot noir for reds. Wines from the Côte d’Or are among the most prestigious, but also the best in the world.
Situated close to Belgium and Luxembourg, Champagne is the most northern and coldest of the French wine regions. Together with chalky soils, this provides the ideal circumstances for creating its famous sparkling wine that now goes hand in hand with celebrations around the world.
This wine area offers some of the most scenic vineyards found anywhere in France, some in the grounds of majestic castles. White wines dominate the area. from dry chenin blanc to tangy sauvignon blancs and light muscadets.
Côtes du Rhône is renowned for the production of its wines and is home to the highly regarded Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Most wines from here are generally Mediterranean blends using classic southern grapes including viognier, syrah and grenache.
On the Mediterranean coast, Provence is located at the southern end of the Rhone Valley. Wine has been made here for over 2,600 years, making it the oldest destination on the French wine region’s map – and it is the only region that dedicates almost all of its production to rosé.
Nestled in the foothills of the Rhine valley beneath the Vosges mountains, Alsace is a region steeped in Germanic tradition. Influenced by Germany, Alsace primarily produces dry and fruity white wines including riesling, sylvaner and gewürztraminer. The Alsace wine route is one of the oldest and most picturesque trails enjoyed by wine travellers.
Arguably the most underrated wine region in France, Languedoc-Roussillon accounts for more than a third of the country’s entire wine output. Although once associated with mass production, the region has recently undergone a transformation to become firmly established on the map of France’s top wine regions.
The “Sud-Ouest” is the fifth largest wine region and located in the southwest corner of the country. The region has three times more vineyards than the Napa Valley and twice as many as Burgundy. The South West is one of the least populated in France with a large diversity in grape types. In terms of wine, this region is often considered to be a hidden gem.
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean under French rule, although its closeness to Tuscany suggests Italian origins that are apparent in its wines. It is one of the few places in the world that wines as diverse as pinot noir, tempranillo and barbarossa can be found growing together.