No visit to France would be complete without a visit to a French wine valley. There are several to choose from, so regardless of what part of France you’re traveling in, you can easily explore a French wine region or two.
In France, the character and consistency of the earth (terroir) is one of the key ingredients in determining a wine’s quality and reputation.
The other is the AOC system (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) which specifically defines which grape varieties and winemaking practices are allowed in each
of France’s geographically defined areas or appellations.
Each of the wine regions listed below contain several appellations.
At the bottom of the page is a map.
Closely bordering Germany in northeastern France, Alsace is different from the any other French wine region. It’s the only wine region in France where white wine is grown almost exclusively.
Grapes grown here include Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Pinot Noir.
The city of Colmar lies in the heart of the Alsace wine region and is the perfect venue from which to explore this beautiful French wine valley.
When considering French wine, Bordeaux is often the first wine region which comes to mind. It is the most famous French wine region and the second largest region in France with wine grapes grown in over 250,000 acres of vineyards.
Bordeaux is known for its rich red wines, most notably its Cabernet Sauvignon; however Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot are also grown here. Surprisingly, a small quantity of white wine is produced here as well, usually Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion.
Geographically, Bordeaux lies in the southwestern France near the Atlantic Coast.
The Bourgogne wine region and the Pinot Noir grape go hand in hand. Bourgogne lies in the central portion of France bordered by Dijon to the north and Lyon to the south.
While many people think of Beaujolais as being a distinct French wine region, it actually makes up the southern portion of Burgundy between Macon and Lyon. What Pinot Noir is to Bourgogne, Gamay is to Beaujolais.
The most notable white wine grape grown in Bourgogne is Chardonnay. Interestingly, Chardonnay is grown in the Bourgogne appellation of Chablis, which is north east from Dijon.
Champagne is the wine region of France from which this sparkling beverage gets its name. Champagne encompasses the cities of Reims, Epernay and Chateau Thierry in northeastern France.
The climate is cooler in this French wine valley adding to the perfect conditions in which to grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the only 3 grape types legally allowed in true Champagne.
Jura and Savoie
These two French wine regions are often overlooked. They are quite small and produce unique, yet perhaps not distinct wines. Several types of both red and white wine grapes are grown in this region that lies near the Swiss border and the city of Geneva.
This is the largest of the French wine regions with vineyards covering over 800,000 acres. It is also the largest vineyard area in the world.
Even though it is not highly regarded worldwide, one in ten bottles of the world’s wine and one in three bottles of French wine comes from this region.
Languedoc and Roussillon are situated on the Mediterranean Sea near the city of Montpellier. Several types of both red and white wine grapes are grown here.
The Loire Valley
While taking in some of the famous Chateau of the Loire Valley, you will no doubt come upon some of its prized vineyards. While its appellations are spread throughout the region, most follow the Loire River and are between the cities of Nantes and Orleans.
The Loire Valley is best known for its white wine grapes Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. Some red wine is also produced here.
While Provence does not have a stellar wine reputation, when you are traveling in this warm, dry region, their wines are sure to impress. Located along the Mediterranean Sea between the cities of Cannes and Marseille and just beyond, Provence produces a wide range of red wines.
The Rhone Valley
This French wine valley is known for its distinctly spicy red wines. The two most popular grapes grown in the Rhone Valley are Syrah and Grenache. At one time in history the Rhone grapes were used to improve the unsuitable wines grown in Bordeaux and Bourgogne. Today, they stand alone as exceptional.
The Rhone Valley lies in the south of France between Lyon to the north and Provence to the south.
We hope you have enjoyed your brief tour through each French wine valley. If you’d like to read about our experiences in Champagne and Bourgogne, our blog contains some entries.