France has many beautiful regions known for a vast array of wines. Each of these French wine regions has their own signature type of wine. The wine that each regions produces is the product of many factors, such as the temperament of the soil, the climate, and the cépage, or variety of grapes used. Understanding these factors can lead to a deeper appreciation of the wine and a better ability to select a French wine based on information on the bottle.
Alsace lies along the Northeast border of France, right next door to Germany. This German influence means that wines produced in Alsace are dry Rieslings. Also popular in the region are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and the local Crémant d’Alsace.
Alsace lies near the Rhine, which gives the French soil a sandy quality. This sandiness and gentle autumn light makes it ideal for varieties like Pinot Gris. The soil also encourages the highly aromatic fruit notes and pale color that Alsace wines usually feature.
Located in the Northwest corner of Burgundy, Chablis is known best for its unoaked varieties of Chardonnay. This exclusion of oak aging gives Chablis Chardonnays a more mineral quality, rather than the usual butteriness that comes from the oak barrel.
Instead, Chablis tends to have white flower, pear, and citrusy topnotes with a lingering and acidic finish. Thanks to the semi-continental climate and clay soil of the region, Chablis wines are delicious but difficult to grow.
Perhaps one of the most well known wine regions of France, Champagne can attribute its festive associations in part to French artists like Toulouse-Lautrec and Alfons Mucha.
Their advertisements, commissioned by Champagne houses, catapulted Champagne wines into stardom as the drink of celebration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known for their signature fizz, Champagnes come in a variety of sweetness ranging from the dryest Brut Nature to the very sweet Doux which are considered dessert wines.
Spanning the entire length of the Loire River valley, this region may be the longest of the regions. This wide distance means that Loire wines come from a variety of climates and soil qualities, giving the region quite the array of tastes and styles.
If variety is the spice of life, Loire is the spiciest of France's growing regions with exciting options in both reds and whites alike.
In comparison to Loire, Bordeaux is incredibly homogenous when it comes to wine. That's not say though that Bordeaux wines are boring.
The cépage of most Bordeaux wines consists of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Because of this, Bordeaux is best known for sophisticated red wines, which tend to be medium bodied with fruity flavors ranging from tart to sweet.
Savoie and Jura wines come from a growing region that is very alpine and high in altitude. The climate makes for juicy but tart red wines and lean white wines that make mouths water. Savoie is home to over 23 varieties of grapes.
Originally owned by Italy, the region wasn't annexed by Italy until the 1860's. This gives the wines a uniquely Italian twist that plays nicely against the features that come from the climate of the Alps.
The Beaujolais region heavily produces Gamay based wines.
These feature unique flavor combinations that are both earthy and fruity, with notes of blackberry, pomegranate, banana and even potting soil.
Rhone can be divided into two smaller regions, with the northern region producing savory Syrahs and the south focusing on blends of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.
The gravelly soil and cool climate of this region makes for great reds, which is why so few white wines come from the area.
With over 43,000 hectares of vines, Provence is the largest of the wine growing regions France has to offer.
Its short distance from the Mediterranean and rolling hills (which is great for grapes, which need sufficient drainage) give the area excellent yields and lovely vintages. A whopping 88% of Provence wines are rosés.
Blended reds featuring flavors like herbal oregano, plum, licorice, and red raspberry are what this region does best.
Languedoc-Roussillon is also known for its sparkling dry Limoux which is thought to be the original inspiration for Champagnes. Situated along the coast, this Mediterranean climate makes abundant reds.
As the name suggests, the region sits in the southwest portion of France. The region is broken into four sub regions, which each has its own unique soil qualities, climates, and signature wines.
A good tip to remember about the Sud-Ouest region though, is that one can find wines similar to Bordeaux, but at a lower price since the region has not yet peaked in fame. Sud-Ouest is also the original home of Malbec wines, which hail from the Lot River area.