French Wine

Wine and cheese, cheese and wine - in France they are inseparable.

As well as being home to the best cheese in the world, French wine is also considered rather special.

The French have got the reputation of being gourmands meaning that to an outsider, every other French person seems like a wine and cheese expert.

While this may not be strictly true, it is true that the French are quite particular when it comes to their wine and cheese, which is maybe why they produce some of the best in the world.


French vineyards

Wine production goes back to the 6th century BC. St. Martin of Tours (316-397) was something of a wine-hero - he was actively engaged in the equally nobel endeavors of spreading Christianity and planting vineyards.

By the Middle Ages, the wine making tradition and knowledge was kept by monks. It was they who had the best vineyards. Over time this was handed over to the nobility however, that system was obviously not in accordance with the rules of the French Revolution so many French vineyards were confiscated.

The French wine industry was doing very nicely until a giant plague of grape pests spread throughout the country, and Europe, in the 1860s leaving vineyards desolate. The economy suffered a setback, and the two world wars that were to come did not in its recovery in the slightest. The French wine industry suffered the consequences for decades.

But in time the French vineyards did recover and slowly over time reached the same top quality standards. The Appellation d'Origine Controlee (controlled term of origin, called AOC) was put into effect by the French government in 1935, to protect its wine industry. It promised defined standards, with labeling criteria for proof of quality.


So why is French wine just so damn good? There is not one exact answer to that question, but a combination of several factors.

One of these factors may be the winemakers' skills, inherited from centuries-old tradition. Another important aspect is the terroir which means a set of of natural factors, in the case of France, the terroir make the country's regions excellent for wine production as to produce the best in the world. The climate is also a big influence. Whatever the combination of factors, the truth is that French wine is incredibly popular and well respected.

The concept of terroir is something French vignerons hold in very high esteem. It refers to the natural factors of a particular region's vineyard in a specific region, such as soil, altitude, slope of hill or terrain and orientation toward the sun and no matter how close they are, no two French vineyards share the same terroir, which translates basically in the fact that a variety of grape can be planted in many different regions and they wine it will produced will be considerably different.

The Grapes

Cabernet Sauvignon

Most of the international grape varieties have a French origin (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, etc.). What we're trying to say is that it is thanks to their cultivation in France that they became known and spread in the world. However there are some "obscure" local variety that is known only internally.

Most types of grape are associated with a specific region. For instance Syrah is associated to Rhône, CabernetSauvignon to Bordeaux. There are also many varieties associated with one region even though they are found in many, such as Champagne and Chardonnay to Bourgogne and Sauvignon Blanc to Loire and Bordeaux.

In this way, Cabernet Sauvignon is not produced in Rhône or Chardonnay in Bordeaux despite favorable climatic conditions. When in Paris be sure to try different varieties of French wine and choose your favorite!

If you want to learn more about wine regions in France, check out our page on the top ten French wine regions.