Everything You Need to Know About French Wine Regions in Under 5 Minutes
Looking to level up your French wine knowledge in as little time as possible? We’ve got your back. We created this quick, 5-minute guide to France’s major wine regions to let you in on the key facts surrounding the country’s most popular viticultural areas. Get acquainted with France’s 12 major regions, the grapes it grows, and the wine styles it's known for producing in just a matter of minutes. Perusing your local wine shop or browsing your favorite wine bar’s list just got a whole lot easier!
In this article
Overview: Deemed the world’s capital of sparkling wine, Champagne is home to some of the most prestigious bottles of bubbles in the world.
Main grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier
Fun fact: Wines produced exclusively from Chardonnay are labeled as Blanc de Blancs, whereas wines produced entirely from Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier are referred to as Blanc de Noirs.
Overview: Located in the shadows of the Vosges mountains, this easterly French region is best known for its monovarietal white wines, produced all across the dryness - sweetness spectrum.
Grapes: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Muscat
Fun fact: Alsace is the number one region of certified biodynamic producers (Demeter) in all of Europe.
Overview: Often known as the birthplace of the concept of terroir, Burgundy is regarded as the king of site-specific farming. These small-production wines are some of the most sought after bottles in the world.
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
Fun fact: The specific sites that Burgundian wines come from are locally referred to as lieux-dits (loo-deet).
Overview: Located just south of Burgundy’s Maconnais region, Beaujolais is beloved for its refreshing, easy-drinking reds produced from the Gamay grape. These wines are often produced via carbonic maceration, which keeps fruit-forwardness high and tannins low.
Fun fact: Beaujolais is home to many natural wine producers, and is arguably where France’s natural wine movement was born.
Overview: France’s Rhône Valley is broken into two parts: Northern Rhône and Southern Rhône. The Northern Rhône is best known for its rustic, ageworthy bottles of Syrah, whereas the Southern Rhone is better known for its affordable, everyday blends. White wines are produced in both halves of the Valley, though red wines are more commonly produced.
Grapes: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne
Fun fact: The Northern Rhône is responsible for just 5 percent (approximately) of the entire Valley’s production!
Due east of Burgundy and Beaujolais, the Jura is one of France’s most up-and-coming regions at the moment. Here, zesty, acid-laden reds and textured, palate-coating whites dominate the region’s winemaking scene, most of which are produced from regionally-specific varieties. Like Beaujolais, the Jura is also home to a handful of famous natural winemakers, including Anne and Jean-Francois Ganevat, Pierre Overnoy, and Bénédicte & Stéphane Tissot.
Grapes: Savagnin, Chardonnay, Poulsard, Pinot Noir, Trousseau
Fun fact: The Jura is highly regarded for its rare vin jaune (yellow wine) production, which is similar to the famed oxidative Sherry wines of Spain. Post-fermentation, wines destined for vin jaune are left to age in barrel for six years or more, where they experience high amounts of oxidation. This process both reduces the amount of liquid in the barrel and allows a film of yeast (similar to flor) to grow, which creates intense, flavor-packed wines that are unlike any other.
Overview: Corsica is France’s only wine-producing region located on an island. Here, salty sea breezes keep vineyards ventilated, and the saline-tinged character of these vineyard sites is often felt (and tasted) in its wines.
Grapes: Nielluccio, Cannonau, Vermentino
Fun fact: Before officially becoming part of France, Corsica was frequently passed back and forth between France and Italy, and many of the latter’s nuances are still found in Corsican culture today.
Overview: Although small amounts of red and white wines are produced here, Provence has become synonymous with world-class rosé production. These wines are generally produced from a handful of grape varieties and are beloved for their refreshing, sea-influenced flavor profiles.
Grapes: Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Rolle (Vermentino)
Fun fact: Provence is responsible for more than 40% of all rosé production in France.
Overview: When it comes to viticulture and vinification, there’s really nothing that the Languedoc can’t do. Although best known abroad for its hearty red blends, the Languedoc also boasts a strong fortified (sweet) wine production, and is also responsible for creating the méthode traditionelle, which is the sparkling winemaking technique used in Champagne today.
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan
Fun fact: Languedoc literally translates to “Language of Oc,” which pays homage to the original language of the south of France. Bonus fun fact: “Oc” is the equivalent of “Oui” in modern day French.
South West / Sud Ouest
Overview: Although frequently found in the shadows of neighboring Bordeaux, France’s South West region is certainly not one to be overlooked. Here, hearty red blends and crisp, easy-drinking whites provide budget-friendly alternatives to more expensive neighboring areas (and for those who like distilled beverages like Cognac and Armagnac, you’re in the right place!)
Grapes: Cot (Malbec), Tannat, Merlot, Negrette, Petit Manseng
Fun fact: Cahors, Gaillac, Bergerac, and Buzet are four major appellations to keep an eye out for when looking for high-quality, affordable dry wines from the South West. Monbazillac and Jurancon are go-tos for sweet bottles.
Overview: Bordeaux’s viticultural areas are split by the Garonne River, which splits the area into Left Bank and Right Bank. Left Bank red blends are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas Right Bank red blends are dominated by Merlot. All five of the region’s First Growths are found on the Left Bank. Bordeaux is also home to a significant sweet wine production, based in the Barsac and Sauternes appellations. The area between the two Banks is referred to as the Entre-Deux-Mers.
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon
Fun fact: One of the first classifications for wine, the Bordeaux Classification of 1855, was implemented by Napoleon III to designate the highest quality Bordeaux wines from other regional bottles.
Overview: Spanning from north central France (around the city of Orléans) to the salty Atlantic shores of Muscadet, the Loire Valley is one of the country’s most diverse wine-producing regions. The area is known for its refreshing, dry white wines produced in Muscadet, Sancerre, and Pouilly-Fumé, as well as its earthy, pepper-tinged reds crafted from Cabernet Franc. Chenin Blanc in the central portion of the Valley is responsible for a vast amount of wine, ranging from bone dry bottlings to sticky sweet expressions, made in both still and sparkling formats.
Grapes: Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne
Fun fact: The Loire Valley is an excellent go-to region for delicious, quality wines that won’t break the bank.
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Raise Your Glass to a Festive Season with the best varietal wines from France, courtesy of Virgin Wines!
In partnership with Vin de France