Take a trip around France’s most prominent wine regions with Hugues Rondouin, founder of Parisian wine bar LQV Le Quinze Vins.
Thirsty for wine knowledge? Let us take you on a journey to 8 prominent wine regions in France to discover more…
Text by Cherrie Yu, illustrations by Tim Cheng
This region can be divided into five wine-producing areas: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs (producing most of the Grands Crus), Côte de Sézanne and Côte des Bar. Big houses such as Salon and Roederer produce vintage Champagnes only in top years. It is also the only region in France to blend white and red wines to make rosé, mainly from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
The Loire Valley
France’s third largest wine region is celebrated for its easy-to- drink, sharp and mineral wines, some of which can be kept for decades. Nantes produces Muscadet wines made from Melon de Bourgogne white grapes. Sancerre is home to some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines. Try some Chenin- based Vouvrays from the 1950s, you will be amazed at how young they taste.
The prevalence of French wine owes its success to Bordeaux,which was for centuries the prominent port for wine exports mainly to England. The Gironde River separates the main wine regions. Médoc is famed for Cabernet Sauvignon with top châteaux, including Haut-Brion and Lafite Rothschild. Sauternes is known for sweet wines made from thin-skinned Sémillon grapes. On the right bank, Saint-Émilion (Château Cheval Blanc or Angelus) and Pomerol (Château Pétrus) are known for their Merlot-based wines.
The biggest wine-producing region in France produces spicy and full-bodied red wines mainly from Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. White varieties include full-bodied and structured white wines made from Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Traditionally home to simple, easy-to-drink wines, this region has seen the rise of some great domains in the past 20 years. Major appellations include Fitou and Corbière, which produce rich, generous and fruity wines.
Alsace in the easternmost part of France is home to its driest vineyards, mainly in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, with Haut-Rhin to the south and Bas-Rhin to the north. The main grapes are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. It is home to 51 Grands Crus, ranging from very dry to sweet wines affected by noble rot such as Vendange Tardive and Sélection de Grains Nobles.
This region is home to a plethora of appellations called “climats”. France’s smallest wine region, Burgundy or Bourgogne produces rare Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Southeast of Chablis, Côte d’Or produces Burgundy’s most famous Grand Cru wines such as those from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Côte de Beaune, Meursault and Montrachet are said to be the world’s best white wines. Further south Côte Chalonnaise makes good-value wines such as Mercurey, Rully and Pouilly-Fuissé.
This region is attracting a lot of attention with winemakers from Burgundy buying up land in Jura to grow Chardonnays. With its dry continental climate, the region is known for oxidative wines such as vin jaune made using a similar process to Sherry, developing under a flor-like strain of yeast. Red wines are produced from Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir grapes while whites are made from Chardonnay and Savagnin. Top names in the region include Ganevat, Tissot and Puffeney.
Wines from the upper part of the Vallée du Rhône Septentrionale have the highest reputation and prices but only account for five per cent of France’s total wine production. Red wines from Syrah grapes are produced in areas such as in Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Cornas, while white wines are made from Viognier in Condrieu or a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne in other appellations. The southern Rhône valley is also home to appellations Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Tavel, the only appellation in this region allowed to make dry rosé wines.