French wine originated in the 6th century BC, with the colonisation of Southern Gaul by Greek settlers. Viticulture soon flourished with the founding of the Greek colony of Marseille. Wine has been around for thousands of years in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, but France has made it a part of their civilisation and has considered wine-making as an art for over two thousand years. Not only did the Gauls know how to cultivate the vine, they also knew how to prune it. Pruning creates an important distinction in the difference between wild vines and wine producing grapes. Before long, the wines produced in Gaul were exceptionally famous all around the world.
Two concepts central to the better French wines are the notion of terroir, which links the style of the wines to the locations where the grapes are grown and the wine is made and the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system, replaced by the Appellation d’Origin Protégée (AOP) system in 2012.
Appellation rules closely define which grape varieties and winemaking practices are approved for classification in each of France’s several hundred geographically defined appellations, which can cover regions, villages or vineyards.
French Wine Regions
There are ten major wine growing regions in France, plus a number of smaller areas. Indeed there is commercial wine production in every region of France, except for the regions bordering on France’s north coast. The main regions are: Alsace, Bergerac, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Champagne, Cote du Rhone, Jura, Languedoc, Loire Valley, Madiran, Provence, Rhone Valley.
French Wine Appelations
The wine classification system of France was under overhaul from 2006, with a new system fully introduced as of 2012. The new system consists of three categories rather than four, since there will be no category corresponding to VDQS from 2012. The new categories are:
Vin de France, a table wine category basically replacing Vin de Table, but allowing grape variety and vintage to be indicated on the label.
Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP), an intermediate category basically replacing Vin de Pays.