French Wine Regions
There are many more French wine regions than most people realize. Of course there are the most famous like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, but these big boys are not the only ones that deserve your attention. There is a wealth of brilliant and characterful wine coming from many other regions such as the Loire, Alsace, the Rhone, Provence, the Jura, Savoie, and more. France is one of our absolute favorite wine producing countries because of its diversity and the long history of wine making. It produces many of the most compelling and enthralling wines in the world.
Like many European wine regions, French wine regions generally only produce a handful of general styles of wine based on what is allowed by law for their appellation. Only select grapes and styles of wine are allowed. So while learning about all the different regions may seem daunting, in a basic sense each region produces a limited number of types of French wine. That being said, there may be dozens of sub-appellations, producers and other factors that make each region complex and interesting, worthy of a lifetime of study and exploration.
For example, Burgundy can only grow two red grapes, Pinot Noir and Gamay. All the wine coming from Burgundy contains one or both of these two grapes. Thats it! No Cabernet Sauvignon, no Merlot, etc. While on the one hand this may seem simplistic, Burgundy is rife with complexity as there are dozens of smaller sub-regions and dozens of named vineyards within each of those regions. It can get complicated quickly, despite only growing 2 red grapes!
Another thing to consider when exploring French wine regions is that most French wines are named for their location of origin, not for the grapes contained within. A grand cru Burgundy will not say Pinot Noir anywhere on its label, even though it is 100% Pinot! New World wine growing regions such as California, Oregon and Australia usually do label the wine as the grape variety, although there are exceptions. Therefore, when first exploring French wines it can be a bit confusing because you don't see the familiar names on the labels (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc.). Instead, you'll need to recognize the regions and the styles of wine that come from each. For more tips on reading wine labels, see the How to Read Wine Labels page.
Below are links to wine regions of France that you can follow to learn more about. Obviously there are lots of regions and sub-regions so we will do our best to keep adding pages. If there is a particular region you are interested in but don't see here, contact us and let us know and we will try to make it a priority to post a page soon!
- Bordeaux: One of the most famous wine producing regions in the world, Bordeaux is best known for its powerful red wines which can age well for decades. Based on several grape varieties that are very well known around the world, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, there are many sub-appellations and even dry and sweet white wines made in Bordeaux.
- Burgundy: Potentially one of the most seductive and fascinating wines in the world, yet also controversial and hard to grasp at times, this complex region is limited in the grapes that can be grown, but complex in the sub-regions, producers and styles that result. Burgundy produces both red wines (principally from Pinot Noir) and white wines (principally from Chardonnay).
- Champagne: The most famous sparkling wine on the planet, Champagne is practically synonymous with celebration, elegance, wealth and even excess. Yet the wines themselves can be some of the most compelling and seductive from anywhere. Most of the wine produced from this French wine region is sparkling and white or rosé, produced mostly from three grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
- Loire Valley: The Loire river valley covers a large swath of western France all the way to the Atlantic. Along its length are a huge number of appellations producing wines of all types from many different grape varieties. The is truly one of the largest of the French wine regions and also one of our favorites!
- Muscadet: This once maligned appellation has made a comeback and is now on a roll. The top producers are making stunning wines of profound minerality and reverberating energy. These are not just boring, insipid wines anymore!
- Sancerre: One of the more famous regions in the Loire makes almost exclusively crisp, dry white white from the Sauvignon Blanc grape, although a small amount of red and rose are produced as well.
- Vouvray: One of my favorite appellations in the world for white wines, Vouvray is one of the kings of the Chenin Blanc grape. Producing everything from dry, intense wines to sticky sweet dessert wines, the best producers here can be absolutely stunning.
- Rhone: The Rhône valley in France is the home to many wine producing appellations along its banks and surrounding hills. It is generally separated into the Northern Rhone and the Southern Rhone. The red wines from the north are primarily made from Syrah with small amounts of white wine produced as well. The south can grow a number of different red grapes including grenache, mourvedre and syrah and is best known the small appellation of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
- Nothern Rhone Valley: The Northern Rhone is home to Côte Rôtie and Hermitage, two of the most famous French wine regions. Producing both red wines mostly from Syrah and a number of white wines as well, this is a small but fascinating region.
- Southern Rhone Valley: The Southern Rhone is home to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a wine blended from a number of different grape varieties. However, there are several other appellations in this region. The wines tend to be wild and sauvage but can have great complexity and finesse.
Return to the top of the French Wine Regions section.