French Wine

France – the home of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne – is arguably the world's most important wine-producing country. For centuries, it has produced wine in greater quantity – and of reportedly greater quality – than any other nation. Wine is ingrained in French culture at almost every level of society; it is the drink of both the elite and the common people, and a key symbol in Roman Catholicism, France's majority religion.

The enduring attraction of French wine is not necessarily its volume or prestige, however, but rather the variety of styles available. Consumer preferences have changed over the centuries, encouraging the development of new styles of wine from the terrain and grape varieties available to France's vignerons. Red, white, rosé, sweet, dry, sparkling, opulent, austere, mineral-scented, fruity – French vineyards have produced wines to match each of these descriptors. © Wine-Searcher

French wine: an enduring tour de force

The diversity of French wine is due, in part, to the country's wide range of climates. Champagne, its most northerly region, has one of the coolest climates anywhere in the wine-growing world – in stark contrast to the warm, dry Rhone Valley 350 miles (560km) away in the southeast. Bordeaux, in the southwest, has a maritime climate heavily influenced by the Atlantic ocean to its west and the various rivers that wind their way between its vineyards. Far from any oceanic influence, eastern regions such as Burgundy and Alsace have a continental climate, with warm, dry summers and cold winters. In France's deep south, Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon enjoy a definitively Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot summers and relatively mild winters.

Geology and topography play equally important roles in the diversity of French wine. The country's large number of independently recognized wine regions and sub-regions reflects its wide range of soil types – and the landscapes that created them. Each sub-region can be defined by its particular geographical features, which in turn create specific characteristics in the wines produced there. From the granite hills of Beaujolais to the famous chalky slopes of Chablis and the gravels of the Medoc, the sites on which France's vineyards have been developed are considered of vital importance and are at the heart of the concept of terroir.

A region's terroir dictates the grape varieties used to produce its traditional wines. In the days before efficient vine husbandry, vignerons grew whatever was best suited to the local soils and climate, choosing from the (often limited) selection of grape varieties available to them. Thus, the relationship between French wine regions and their key varieties have evolved naturally over many centuries, as exemplified by the close relationship between Pinot Noir and Burgundy. Where a variety has been used in multiple regions, the style(s) of wine it produces in each also evolved naturally. Compare, for example, the difference between Chardonnay in Champagne (crisp, tart, acidic, sparkling), and in Macon (rounder, riper, richer, fruitier).

France's appellation system was created in the early 20th century and has since been imitated in many other countries. This complex system of laws ultimately defines each wine region and its boundaries and imposes strict rules around winemaking practices. Protecting the names of French wines and guaranteeing the quality and provenance of the products themselves are its key objectives. No other country has developed its appellation system to such an extent; as of 2012, there were more than 450 controlled appellations under the AOC titles and a further 150 Vin de Pays/IGP titles.

A key factor in the development of the complex, comprehensive categorization of France's wine styles and quality levels is their sheer volume and diversity, as discussed above. Every year, the country produces more than 50 million hL of wine (6500 million standard bottles) from around 1.9m acres (775,000ha) of vineyards.

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Most Popular French Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Grape
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, France Bordeaux Blend Red 1st 95 $723
Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac, France Bordeaux Blend Red 2nd 95 $1,006
Dom Perignon Brut, Champagne, France Champagne Blend 3rd 94 $217
Petrus, Pomerol, France Merlot 4th 96 $3,620
Chateau Margaux, Margaux, France Bordeaux Blend Red 5th 95 $780
Chateau Latour, Pauillac, France Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot 6th 95 $854
Chateau Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, France Bordeaux Blend Red 8th 95 $656
Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, France Bordeaux Blend Red 9th 94 $146
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France Pinot Noir 11th 97 $21,416
Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes, France Sauvignon Blanc - Semillon 12th 96 $481
Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauillac, France Bordeaux Blend Red 13th 93 $173
Chateau Palmer, Margaux, France Bordeaux Blend Red 14th 94 $360
Chateau Cheval Blanc, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, France Bordeaux Blend Red 16th 95 $746
Louis Roederer Cristal Millesime Brut, Champagne, France Chardonnay - Pinot Noir 17th 95 $280
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache Grand Cru Monopole, Cote de Nuits, France Pinot Noir 18th 96 $5,215
Chateau Leoville-Las Cases 'Grand Vin de Leoville', Saint-Julien, France Bordeaux Blend Red 19th 95 $269
Chateau Cos d'Estournel, Saint-Estephe, France Bordeaux Blend Red 20th 94 $227
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac, France Bordeaux Blend Red 21st 94 $215
Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe, France Bordeaux Blend Red 22nd 94 $192
Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint-Julien, France Bordeaux Blend Red 24th 93 $130
Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien, France Bordeaux Blend Red 26th 93 $114
Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien, France Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot 27th 95 $226
Chateau Pichon-Longueville au Baron de Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac, France Bordeaux Blend Red 30th 94 $190
Chateau Angelus, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, France Bordeaux Blend Red 32nd 94 $436
Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, France Bordeaux Blend Red 33rd 94 $452
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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