French Vineyards - Simple Facts and Lists
French Vineyards' origin
French vineyards turn France into the largest wine producing country in the world.
The Greeks planted the first vineyards when they colonized the south of France and founded Marseille in the 6th century BC.
The Romans introduced viticulture when they colonized France some 2000 years ago.
The incredible variety of soils and climates and the pruning and wine-making techniques already produced wines of quality.
From the 5th century onward religious communities deforested the south facing slopes bordering the rivers and developed the French vineyards.
The monks produced wine throughout the Middle Ages for their personal use (sacramental wine), but also for trade.
This guaranteed the quality of wines, which were then drunk by all social classes.
In the 17th century the nobility realized the commercial potential of wine-making and contributed widely to the further development of the French vineyards.
French vineyards after the French Revolution
However, the French Revolution had disastrous consequences.
Indeed, all religious establishments and their vineyards were confiscated and declared national property.
Nobody though knew how to tend the vines and many vineyards turned into wasteland or were developed.
The remaining French vineyards were entirely wiped out by phylloxera between 1850s and 1870s.
They were replanted with French grape varieties grafted onto American root-stocks resistant to the parasite.
Then came WWI and its horrendous devastation and loss of human lives, then the great crash of 1929.
The INAO (see below) was therefore founded in 1936 in order to relaunch French viticulture but also protect the emblematic Bordeaux and Champagne wines from foreign competition.
Tragically this revival was once more slowed by WWII.
However, massive investments and a new generation of winemakers succeeded in reviving the French Vineyards and in taking wine making to new heights.
Several countries produce wines of great quality.
However, but our unique terroirs and the ancestral know-how of our winemakers make our wines the best in the world.
French Vineyards in figures
The French Vineyards represent an area of 900,000 hectares spread over 25,000 wine-making communities.
This represents 13 wine-making regions: Alsace, Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Bourgogne, Champagne, Provence-Corse, Jura, Languedoc-Roussillon, Lorraine, Loire, Rhône, Savoie-Bugey and Sud-Ouest.
These regions correspond to 16 great vineyards: Alsace, Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Bourgogne, Bugey, Champagne, Corse, Jura, Languedoc, Lorraine, Loire, Provence, Roussillon, Rhône, Savoie et Sud-Ouest.
These vineyards are classified as AOC-PDO, PGI and Vin de Table.
This represents 383 appellations, 1313 denominations, and 3245 labeled wines (2959 AOC-AOP and 286 IGP), all colours and labels put together.
The INAO or Institut National des Appellations d’Origines - National Institute of Appellations of Origin was founded in 1936.
It establishes a set of classifications and regulations in order to protect and guarantee the authenticity of our wines.
This labeling system was reformed in 2011.
AOC or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (controlled designation of origin) has become AOP or Appellation d’Origine Protegée (PDO -Protected Designation of Origin).
This French label certifies the geographical origin of a wine.
VDQS or Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (Delimited Wine of Superior Quality) is the second highest label and is very rare.
It applies to a very small number of wines that could potentially be granted an AOC-AOP.
The label is sometimes replaced by AOVDQS - AO meaning Appellation d'Origine.
IGP or Indication Géographique Controlée (PGI - Protected Geographical Indication) is the new label for 'Vin de Pays'.
The former label 'Vin de Table' has become Vin de France.
Denominations are the result of the highly diversified soils, climates and vintages found in France.
Neighbouring vineyards can produce different wines and provide specific properties to their appellation which can then include several AOC-PDO and PGI denominations.
French Vineyards' grapes varieties
France benefits from an incomparable variety of soils and climates due to the diversity of its landscapes and geographical features.
The French vineyards produce wines from a wide array of grapes varieties.
White wines: Aligoté, Auxerrois Blanc, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Chenin Blanc - Pineau de Loire, Clairette, Colombard, Folle Blanche, Grenache Blanc, Gros Menseng, Jacquère, Macabeu, Marsanne, Mauzac, Melon de Bourgogne, Muscadelle, Muscat Blanc, Muscat d’Alexandrie, Pinot Blanc, Piquepoul Blanc, Plantet, Riesling, Roussane, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Sylvaner, Terret Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Vermention, Viognier.
Rosés or gris (grey) wines: Pinot Gris, Grenache Gris.
Red wines: Alicante Bouschet, Aramon, Cabernet France, Cabernet Sauvignon, Caladoc, Carignan, Cinsaut, Fer, Gamay, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Grolleau, Gros Plant, Malbec – Côt, Marselan, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Muscat de Hambourg, Négrette, Nielluccio, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tannat, Villard Noir.
The French Vineyards produce 30% of white wines, and 70% of reds, rosés and gris.
Discover the French vineyards
The 13 French wine regions are divided into regional wine regions:
Alsace - Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin
Bourgogne - Chablis, Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Mâcon
Champagne - Côte des Blancs, Côte des Bar, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Vitry-le-François
Provence-Corse - Corse, Provence
Jura - Arbois, Côtes du Jura
Languedoc- Roussillon Languedoc - Roussillon
Lorraine - Meuse, Moselle, Toul
Rhône - Côteaux du Lyonnais, Rhône Meridional, Rhône Septentrional
Savoie-Bugey - Bugey, Savoie
Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Map of French wines regions by User:SeballaOne is in the Public domain - Resource
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