French Wines

A Pinot noir almost ready to be harvested

The French people have a very long and close relationship with wine. The first major productions began as the Romans advanced through the country northwards from the Mediterranean and introduced the wine growing technics.

However in the 11th century, it was the knowledgeable and educated Benedictine and Cistercian monks who began to build an "industry" with the grapes grown on the sloping hills of the Rhone valley. They developed methods which are still used today, such as the plantation of the grape, pruning, harvesting, pressing, fermentation and storage in cellars. The monks derived many of the varieties of grapes (Cépages) such as the Pinot, Gammay and Chardonnay.
You can still witness the importance of the tasks undertaken by the religious monks in many small villages, where you will find old oak wine presses, capable of pressing many kilos of grapes. The designations of the Crus, Grand and Premier given by the monks are still valid today.

It was the French revolution which then changed the geography and ownership of the the vineyards. As the lands were confiscated from the rich and noble to be divided amongst the citizens.

Napolean introduced the laws of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, A.O.C. which guaranteed the origins of each wine, most of these names are still used to day.

The principle wine growing regions of France

There are many very well known wine growing areas in France such as Bordeaux in the southwest; Burgundy in the central east; the Loire valley and the Côte de Rhone. However, do not forget the lesser know wine regions such as Sancerre and Chablis for example.

Here is a list in alphabetical order of the different regions:

  • Alsace
  • Armagnac
  • Beaujolais
  • Bordeaux
  • Burgundy
  • Chablis
  • Cahors
  • Champagne
  • Cognac
  • Corsica
  • Gaillac
  • Jura
  • Loire
  • Longuedoc
  • Provence
  • Savoie
  • Sancerre

A Wine map, showing the major vineyards and wine production regions in France.

Articles about French wines

The following pages have specific information and details from some of the wine growing areas and villages:

Temperatures for serving French wine

A brief guide to serving wines at the ideal temperature.

°C°F
Dry white wine
Normal
Crus

8-10
10-13

46- 50
50-55
Sweet white wine
Normal
Sauternes

5-8
7-10

41-46
45-50
Rose wine
Normal
Arbois
Crosica

8-10
11-13
10-12

46- 50
51-55
50-54
Red wine
Normal young
Crus Bordeaux
Crus Burgundy

13-15
16-18
16-18

55-59
60-64
60-64
A Burgundy vine yard

This photo was taken in the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy and shows a vine yard of red Pinot Noir grapes, a few days before the harvest.

Just for information, generally you serve a red wine at room temperature, but do not server the wine as soon as you open the bottle, let it breath. If the wine is a few years old it may be a good idea to decanter. When the wine is poured into your glass, gently swirl the wine and use your hands to warm the glass, this allows odeurs of the fruits to develope.