When you think about France and wine it seems like there are infinite options. And there pretty much are. Did you know that France produces close to 3,000 different types of wine? Multiply that by the thousands of vineyards and it's easy to can understand why venturing into the French Wine Category can be a little daunting.
But fear not. We're here to help with a quick guide to the 10 major wine making regions in France along with info about each region to point you in the right direction next time you're shopping for a new wine to try.
As they say in France, "Santé!"
(Note: These aren't ranked in any specific order. Champagne is first because it's awesome. Obviously.)
In order to be a true "Champagne," the wine must be from vineyards in the Champagne region and harvested and produced within a set of strict guidelines. This region is famous for their sparkling wine and even more famous for elevating the bubbly beverage to luxury status. The distinct chalky soil of this northern region of France is what gives Champagne its distinct flavor notes versus other areas in France and around the world that produce sparkling wine.
Two of the most well-known cities in this region, Reims and Epernay, are home to some of the most famous Champagne houses: Taittinger, Mumm, Krug, Louis Roderer, Veuve Clicquot and Perrier-Jouët.
On the eastern border of France near the Vosges Mountains you'll find the quaint towns of the Alsace region. An ode to its Germanic heritage, this region produces delicious dry white wines such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer. These wines pair well with roasted chicken or duck, soft cheeses and one of the region's most popular dishes, tarte flambée, a thin, pizza-like dish with fromage blanc, thinly sliced onions and lardons.
One of the most famous French wine regions, Bordeaux wines became some of the most well known around the world thanks to its location along the coast which allows easy access for trade and export.
90% of the wine produced in this region is red; primarily bold and dry in flavor with notes of black currant, tobacco and some minerality. Wines from this area can and last for years, developing more complex flavors with age.
Burgundy or "Bourgogne" is the birthplace of Pinot Noir. This region has 4 levels of classifications for their wine. At the top is the "Grand Crus" while the generic "Bourgogne" appellation is at the bottom.
This region's wine making history dates back to the times of the Romans and the area is steeped in tradition. In an effort to remain true to their roots, they have restrictions on the types of grapes that can be planted in the area. The two most prominent types of grapes grown are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Remarkably this area also has over 1,200 micro-climates and recently applied for status as Unesco World Heritage site to protect their deep tradition of methodical wine growing and making.
Running 200kms from north to south, this area is one of the largest wine producing regions in the country. Wines from this region are often blended from multiple classic grape varieties such as Grenache and Syrah. They are mediterranean wines boasting rich flavors of black olive and plum.
Côtes du Rhône red wines are a very affordable option and a great place to start when looking to venture into new french wine varietals.
One of the lesser-known and smallest wine regions in France, Jura produces exceptional white and sparkling wines. Situated between Burgundy and the Switzerland border, this area experiences cold winters and hot summers. White wines from Jura are classified as "vin juane" or yellow wine that are deep in color and typically served as an apertif wine before dinner. Under the right conditions this wine can age for several decades before being enjoyed.
More than 25% of the wine sold from this region is sparkling wine known as Crémant du Jura. Looking for a new sparkling wine to add to your rotation? Try a wine from this Jura.
This region produces Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre and other bold red blends along with a sparkling wine out of Limoux. The red wines are typically classified as a generic vin de pays and are affordable and attainable. Winegrowers in this region are steeped in tradition and have recently been more focused on producing quality over quantity to raise the reputation of their wines.
It is said that the sparkling wine produced in Limoux was the first sparkling wine made in France, with documented production as far back as the 1540s. (That's almost 50 years before sparkling wine production in the Champagne region.)
This region is the second largest producer of sparkling wines after Champagne, but it also produces white, red and rosé wine. Two of the most popular white wine varietals from this are Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé.
The Loire Valley is a 2-hour ride south of Paris and has close to 4,000 vineyards. It has a lush green landscape and is known for its many beautiful French chateaus along the riverbank.
To the northwest of Bordeaux and located on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, you'll find Médoc. This region is famous for producing some of the most reputed wines in the entire country.
The vineyards in Médoc were mentioned in the Classification of 1855 - a ranking system requested by Napoleon III to rank the country's best Bordeaux wines. To this day, this region is proud to produce the most prestigious and often expensive wines in France.
Provence is perhaps the most well-known region in the world for producing rosé wine. This area along France's southern coast, makes dry, delicate wine with hints of summer fruits like strawberry and watermelon.