The wine regions of France are undoubtedly some of the best and most famous in the world. France and wines are two things that have always gone hand and hand. Just to realize the sheer scale of what we are talking about, here are a few wine related numbers.
- France is the 2nd Wine consumers in the world after the USA (4.7bn -3.7bn bottles) with a population of only 67M vs 329M)
- 11% of France surface is dedicated to wine (that’s nearly the surface area of West Virginia with 23100 sq mi)
- 1 farm out of 5 produces wine
- There are 85000 wine producers
This post was sponsored by Secret Food Tours. Photos from Pixabay.
In fact, the major wine regions in France all share similarities. These include being located South of Paris and being on the path of a major river. There are 11 wine regions with 101 sub-regions in France. We’ll put aside the Champagne region as calling it wine would be like calling Foie Gras merely a “pâté”.
Best Wine Regions in France
1. Alsace/Lorraine Wine Region
Starting in the East by the German border, we have the Alsace/Lorraine Region, known for its exceptional white wine cépage, they produce great Riesling & Gewurztraminer wines. The subtleness of the flavors makes them perfect partners to most seafood and a great many lightly flavored cheeses.
*Cépage is a French term which means the variety of a grapevine or varietal.
2. Jura’s Gold
Heading South we reach the mountainous region of the Jura to find the “Jura’s Gold” known as le Vin Jaune (the yellow wine). Made out of the unique savagnin cépage this typical wine dates back to the Gauls period (before 5th Century AD).
Creamy poultry stews or trouts are its soulmates but it stands its ground to accompany Foie Gras as well.
3. Burgundy, France
On the valley opposite to Jura, we have the Burgundy Region and probably one of the cornerstones of Red Wine with countless awards winning pinot noir among which probably the most famous and expensive one: the Romané Conti ($582000 for a bottle from 1945).
But red wine is not its only strength, Chardonnay cépage used in the Chablis creates a fantastic white wine or a bubbly. Burgundy wines are extremely versatile and match countless types of dishes which is also why they trust podiums and competitions.
4. Beaujolais Wine Region
In the same area, we have the Beaujolais Region, known for …. The Beaujolais wine. Probably the best known wine in the world among non-wine aficionados with the much awaited yearly release of the Beaujolais Nouveau.
Wherever you see a cured meat platter Beaujolais wine is not very far away.
5. Savoy Wine Region
From there we can see the Alps foothills and the Savoy Region. It is probably one of the smallest wine regions in France, but it produces high quality dry white wines that are a great accompaniment to the local food based on cheese fondues.
6. Rhone Valley
We then reach the famous Rhone Valley down to the Mediterranean, pathway of the Roman Legions to conquer the Gauls. It’s one of the oldest wine regions of France and the home of the famous Chateauneuf du Pape.
Rhone Valley region’s wines are best suited for starters or cheese platters.
7. Provence and Corsica Wine Region
Another amazing area, we have Provence and Corsica and the domination of Rosé that alone represents 50% of the wine produced. And no, Rosé is not made by blending white and red grapes together.
At the start of the winemaking process you have the maceration.
- No maceration creates white wine
- Up to 6h and you get rosé wine
- From 4 days to a month you have red wine
As a matter of fact, you can produce white wine from red grapes.
You can enjoy your chilled Rosé with olives, a grilled fish, or with some salad during a hot day.
See our Provence Road trip Itineray
8. Languedoc Roussillon Wine Region
Following the shore westward we have the Languedoc Roussillon Region, home of the famous Syrah and Grenache cépage. Bringing fuller flavors without the tannin charge of the Bordeaux wines, beef, and lamb roast are the perfect match for the reds while seafood and goat milk cheeses will accompany the whites.
See our short but sweet time in ochre colored town of Roussillon
9. Land of the cabernets wines in South West France
Stuck between the Pyrenees mountain range and the Bordeaux region up North, the South West Region is the land of the cabernets wines. But this region also has the widest range of cépage and wine types, there is literally a wine for everyone there.
The best pairing with cabernets are meats like the duck, roasted, preserved, geezers, foie gras for each and every dish you will have a wine to match.
10. Bordeau Wine Region
On the Atlantic coast, the Bordeau Region is the kingdom of Merlot cépage. The land is composed of no less than 8650 châteaux vineyards along with the famous Pétrus, Yquem, Cheval Blanc, Margaux, Latour, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild all spread between Bordeaux and the Médoc region.
Some of the rarest and finest red wines are produced there. But it could have been very different after the Phylloxera epidemic wiped out the entire “Vitis vinifera”, the common grape vine, in 1875. The salvation of the wine production was owed to the repatriation of the grapes from the USA.
11. Loire Valley
Last but not least the largest wine region of France, the Loire Valley, also known as the other Champagne region due to its ever-improving production of quality bubbly from Chardonnay cépage. Sauvignon, Cabernet, Gamay and Pinot (gris and noir) are but a few of the cépage composing this treasure chest of wines and flavors.
Loire Valley wines will nicely accompany any poultry dishes, fishes and cheeses.
The 12th Region
We have just mentioned the existing regions but as we write this, the world we live in is changing, global warming is affecting us but it’s even more true in the vegetal world. Here we have a surprisingly interesting collateral effect from the warming.
In recent years, more and more people have been looking to purchase lands up and downstream of Paris on the Seine river shores. The rumor has it that it will become a new wine region as with the temperature steadily rising, the formerly unsuitable region for wine might become a new Eldorado. This will not happen tomorrow but give or take 5 or 10 years and you might pop the cork of Seine Valley wine. So keep an eye out for it…
Fun fact about wine & school
In September 1956 a decision was taken by the National Education Ministry and the Public Health Ministry, a decision that would concern tens of thousands of French people and undoubtedly influence their future. Wine was banned from school cafeterias between kindergarten and 5th grade, replacing the jugs of wine (sometimes watered down) with jugs of water or milk, Middle and High School were caught up by the same decision in 1981 when the last glass of wine was served to a 6th grader 🙂
French Wine Pairing Tips
Without being an expert in wines here are three guidelines for enjoying a good wine with your meal:
- Natural pairing or Terroir pairing: choose a wine from the same region of your dish and cheese
- Intensity pairing: you don’t want one to overwhelm the other, i.e pick a Sauvignon or a Riesling for your oysters and a Syrah-Grenache for your bbq or the other way around
- Contrast pairing: pick a wine which aromas will pair with your food, sweet and salty, tannic and spicy (as in spices), sweet and spicy (as in hot)
Overall, the wine regions of France are undoubtedly some of the best in Europe and most famous in the world. We highly recommend you visit them when you come to France and our wine experts would be delighted to tell you (and taste with you) all about these French wines, on our 5 Star rated food and wine tours. See you soon!