French Wine

Wine is produced throughout France, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year. France is the largest wine producer in the world. French wine traces its history to the 6th century BC, with many of France’s regions dating their wine-making history to Roman times.

The advance of the French wine industry stopped abruptly as first Mildew and then Phylloxera spread throughout the country, indeed across all of Europe, leaving vineyards desolate. Then came an economic downturn in Europe followed by two world wars, and the French wine industry didn’t fully recover for decades. Meanwhile competition had arrived and threatened the treasured French “brands” such as Champagne and Bordeaux. This resulted in the establishment in 1935 of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée to protect French interests. Large investments, the economic upturn following World War II and a new generation of vignerons yielded results in the 1970s and the following decades, creating the modern French wines we know today.


Classification French Grape Varieties
The classification system for French wine has been under overhaul since 2006. The new system consists of three categories rather than four, since there will be no category corresponding to VDQS from 2012. The new categories are – Vin de France, a table wine category basically replacing Vin de Table, but allowing grape variety and vintage to be indicated on the label, Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP), an intermediate category replacing Vins de Pays, and Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP), the highest category essentially replacing AOC wines.

As an example of the rules, although climatic conditions would appear to be favourable, no Cabernet Sauvignon wines are produced in the Rhône, Riesling wines in Loire, or Chardonnay wines in Bordeaux. (If any such wines were produced they would have to be declassified and would not be allowed to display any appellation name or even region of origin.)
Numerous grape varieties are cultivated in France, including both internationally well-known and obscure local varieties. In fact, most of the so-called ‘international varieties’ are of French origin, or became known and spread because of their cultivation in France. Since French appellation rules generally restrict wines from each region, district or appellation to a small number of allowed grape varieties, there are in principle no varieties that are commonly planted throughout all of France.

Most varieties of grape are primarily associated with a certain region, such as Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux and Syrah in the Rhône Valley for producing French red wines, although there are some varieties that are found in two or more regions, such as Chardonnay in Bourgogne (including Chablis) and Champagne, and Sauvignon Blanc in Loire and Bordeaux for producing French white wines.

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