Although the wines of France are of abundance, the great regions are comparatively few. Here’s our guide to the Great Wine Regions of France…
The Great Wine Regions of France
Alsace vineyards produce excellent, refreshing, white table wines. Separated from Germany in the east by the Rhine, the Alsace region produces wines that are similar to their German cousins, such as Rieslings. However, the dry and full-flavoured, spicy Alsatian wines, 90% of which are white, are stronger in taste and alcohol than German wines.
With 310,000 acres of vineyards, Bordeaux is a wine-producing area three times the size of Burgundy and is the largest fine wine-making region in the world, as well as the most legendary. More than half the fine wines of the world come from France and about half of these are from Bordeaux. Although the reputation is built mostly on red wines, of which 90% are made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, especially those from the Médoc, St-Èmilion and Pomerol districts, the region produces the entire gamut of wines, including dry, sweet, whites and rosés
Burgundy is home to some of the most appealing wines in the world, as well as producing two of the most popular wines in France: Beaujolais and Chablis. In general, Burgundian wines are fruity, dark, full-bodied and sweet compared to Bordeaux wines which are light, dry, and delicate. Burgundy red wines tend to mature much faster than those of Bordeaux. Also, unlike Bordeaux, many wines must be made using a single grape. Burgundy wines vary greatly. Less than one quarter of Burgundy Wines are white, with Chablis the best known among them.
Champagne produces a wine so famous that many people do not know precisely what it is. Champagne is rigidly controlled and strictly defined in France, and the name, far from applying to all sparkling wine, is only legal when applied to the one unique wine that is made in the region of Champagne for which it is named. 83,000 acres of vineyards produce about a million bottles of Champagne a day!
The Loire is sometimes regarded as the most beautiful French wine region. The river is wide and tranquil, the landscape is quiet and undulated. The wines reflect the mood of the landscape and are soft, pleasant, charming and light. White wines make up three-quarters of the production and may be dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, and are generally preferable to the reds.
The Rhône stretches from Switzerland to the Mediterranean, its banks lined with vineyards, often planted on steep slopes. Rhône reds are sturdy, big, perfumed and often magnificent, such as the Châteauneuf-du-Papes. The whites also have a distinctive vigour of their own. The rosé from Tavel is probably the best known of all Rhône rosés
Languedoc is the largest single wine producing region on Earth, with more than 740,000 acres of vineyards and they are responsible for a third of France’s wine production. In 2001, Languedoc produced more wine than the entire United States of America. Languedoc is considered to be the “new-world” of French wine and is an exciting region to watch, with many new ideas and techniques being first trialled here. Originally planted by the Romans, it made its name as table wine in the 18th and 19th centuries when the wine was transported by barge to Paris, where it was consumed by a thirsty population. The wine was light and low in alcohol content, and the volume was enormous. Like Bordeaux wines, Languedoc wines are generally a blend, with the more prominent varieties being Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan for the reds and Picpoul, Grenache Gris and Viognier for the whites.
Want to know more?
Whilst many of our cruises feature a fantastic variety of local wines that perfectly complement the cuisine served on board, we also provide a collection of chartered ‘Wine Appreciation Cruises’ in Italy and France. Here, wine experts will conduct onboard tastings as well as taking you to some of the region’s renowned vineyards for exclusive tasting sessions. Often, you’ll taste some of the finest wines available – from premier to grand cru vintages.
For more information on Wine Appreciation Cruises, click here.