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Wine is being produced throughout France and has been done for over 2,500 years with certain Châteaux dating their history back to Roman times, around 6th Century BC. Ranking second in the world in per-capita consumption and first in total production quantity. More so than the overall quantity of wine is the quantity of truly great wines coming out of France makes the nation the envy of wine-making nations worldwide.
Two concepts pivotal to the higher end French wines, in particular, are the idea of 'terroir' and the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system. Terroir refers to the way the geography, geology and climate find their way into the glass, telling a story of the origin of the wine. The AOC was set up in 1935 and has the primary goal of protecting the authenticity of the wines and the livelihoods of the producers. Appellation rules strictly define which varieties of grapes and winemaking practices are approved for classification in each of France's several hundred geographically defined appellations, which can cover entire regions, individual villages or in some cases, like in Burgundy even specific vineyards.
Classic wine regions in France include Champagne (home of Champagne), Burgundy (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot), Alsace (Aromatic varietals), Loire Valley (Chenin Blanc, Crémant) and the Rhône Valley (Syrah, Grenache Mourvedre)
The Bordeaux classification of 1855 is still in use, as is the Sauternes and Barsac Classification of the same year. Wines from certain regions can be bought En Primeur, which is when the wine is sold prior to it being bottled.
Languedoc-Roussillon is oft called by the abbreviated 'Languedoc' - It's the coastal region of southern France from Provence to the Pyrenees Mountains and borders with Spain. With over 3 times the amount of vines than the entire of Bordeaux it's a vast region that produces a lot of wine. Vin de Pays d'Oc and sparkling Crémant de Limoux are two of its most famous exports.
The regions history when it comes to wine is a long a rich one, however it is also home to some of the newest AUC appellations in France, like Cabardès, which was only officially recognised in 1999. The region is a haven for enthusiasts of wine on a budget, for it is here you can find some remarkably high-quality wines without breaking the bank. Given the higher amount of sun hours experienced in the South of France, the wines coming from there are more full bodied and rich than from other more prestigious regions.
In the recent past (1970's) Languedoc region was known to produce vast amounts of cheap wine that didn't help its reputation region at all, however a steady improvement now sees it responsible for producing some great value wines that are generally blends, though not entirely so. Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Chardonnay, Carmenere, Cinsault and Picpoul are some of the most common widely planted varietals. Grower cooperatives produce some remarkable wines alongside their more traditional winery neighbours.
Cotes du Roussillon
More similar to Spain than to Languedoc, Côtes du Roussillon is a sun-drenched region on the eastern edge of the Pyrenees. The appellation is crossed by three rivers - the Agly, the Têt and the Tech - which have carved the landscape into hills and terraces perfect for winemaking. The soil is varied throughout the region - granite, gneiss, and schist dominate the north-west, red limestone is common throughout Corbières, and the Aspres is primarily made up of clay and sand.
Côtes du Roussillon is one of the less selective AOCs - wines from this region can be made from the traditional varieties of Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Carignan (the most important in the region), Lladoner Pelut, Cinsault, Macabeu and Malvoisie, and a number of introduced grapes including Syrah, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Marsanne and Vermentino.
Any red wines from the region must be made with at least three varieties of grapes.
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