Of course, France is known for its excellent wines. Here are some fun facts about France’s wine culture (you never know, they might come in handy at your next wine tasting or cocktail party).
French wine is produced in thirteen regions throughout the country. Each year, French vineyards produce between 50 and 60 million hectoliters of wine, or 7 to 8 billion bottles.
France is the birthplace of nearly all the classic varietels found throughout the world. For centuries, the French vines have been exported to thousands of wine producing regions in Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany), North America (Washington, Oregon, California), South America and Central (Mexico, Brazil, Chile), South Africa and Australia, among others.
Common French white grape varietels are Chardonnay, Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Muscadet, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and white Burgundy.
Some popular French red grape varietels are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre, Pinot Black, and Syrah.
Many French vineyards are associated with a château (castle and estate), therefore the names of these wines are the same as the château. It is important to note that in France, wines are generally named for the vineyard (or region) in which they were produced, not the grape variety that was used to produce them.
The quality of wines produced in French vineyards are controlled by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (IANO). This institution is responsible for the inspection of the quality classification of French wines. French wines are typically grouped into 4 categories.
Appellation (AC) ou Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) : This classification is reserved for the top wines in France.
Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDSQ) : These are also high quality wines, yet they do not meet the same production requirements as those with the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) classification.
Vin de Pays : The regulations for Vin de Pays are less stringent than those for AOC or VDSQ wines. Think of these as your good “daily drinkers.”
Vin de Table : Literally “table wine,” vins de table are inexpensive wines that are consumed with nightly dinners at home in France.