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It’s Always the Right Time for French Wine

French wine is a benchmark of quality around the world for a good reason: From north to south and east to west, France is home to a range of wine styles—and at all price points—that’s difficult to rival anywhere in the world.

What are the types of French wine?

Depending upon where in the country you’re discussing, French wine is produced from grape varieties across the spectrum, including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, Pinot Gris (which is the same grape as Pinot Grigio), Merlot, Syrah (which is the same grape as Shiraz), Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Grenache, Marsanne, Muscat and Muscatine, Viognier, and many, many more.

Where does French wine come from?

Unlike in the United States, most (but not all) wines in France are labeled by where they come from, not what grape or blend of grapes has gone into them. This is because the same grapes have been grown in the same regions for so long—in some cases, well over a thousand years—that different flavors and aromas can be reliably predicted based on which village and sometimes, even, which vineyard, the wine comes from. The entire country is divided up in AOCs, which in French is Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, which loosely translates to the controlled naming of origin. The most famous among them are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, the Rhône Valley (home of the famously food-friendly Rhône blend), the Loire (also called the Loire Valley), Champagne (also called the Champagne region), Châteauneuf-du-Pape (which is in the Southern Rhône Valley), and Beaujolais (which is where the famous Beaujolais Nouveau comes from, as well as many other great Gamay-based wines). Throughout France, rosé blends remain internationally popular (they are also often referred to as rosé wine and French rosé wine, too). Each AOC has its own set of laws that govern not just which grapes can be used in the wines from there, but also how they are planted in the vineyard and treated in the winery.

What are the five most famous wine regions in France?

The five most famous wine regions in France are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire Valley, Rhône Valley, and Champagne. Alsace could also be included in that group, too.

Where is the best wine in France?

This is a deeply personal question, and the answer will depend on individual preference. However, within each region, the five First Growths of Bordeaux’s Left Bank are certainly among the best (Châteaux Margaux, Latour, Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, and Haut-Brion), as well as Châteaux Cheval Blanc and Pétrus on the Right Bank. In Burgundy, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is nothing short of legendary, with Coche-Dury close behind.

What is French red wine called?

Red wine is called vin rouge in France.

How do you pick a French wine?

Picking a French wine requires the same information as picking a wine from any country. Answering these question can help: What style of wine are you in the mood for: Red, white, or rosé? Do you want a dry wine or a sweet wine? Still or sparkling? What kind of food would you like to pair it with? And finally, how much would you like to spend? Fortunately, there are amazing French wines to be found no matter how you answer any or all of these questions. Best to ask one of Total Wine’s passionate, knowledgeable associates for expert guidance.

How is French Chardonnay different from other Chardonnays?

French Chardonnay is produced in a range of styles, just like it is everywhere in the world. However, in its ancestral homeland of Burgundy, most white Burgundy is made with a good dose of French oak, which lends the wine a sense of richness alongside its vibrant energy and telltale minerality. In Chablis, most Chardonnay there is made with no oak, and is, therefore, more lean and linear in style. In California, famously, and the Napa Valley, in particular, Chardonnay tends to be more oak-focused, with riper and more tropical fruit and less acidity. However, that has been changing in recent years.

What is the difference between French Champagne and other sparkling wine?

Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France. It must be composed primarily of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier (you can make white wine from red grapes by gently pressing the berries and not allowing the juice to have extended contact with the skins) or some combination of those three. Then, it must be put through a second fermentation in the bottle (which causes the formation of carbon dioxide that dissolves into the liquid itself, thus producing bubbles), and aged for a set period on the spent yeast cells, which lends Champagne its famous bread-like aromas. If sparkling wine is made anywhere else in the world, or anywhere else in France, even if it follows those exact same laws, it cannot be called Champagne, though the label will likely say Méthode Champenoise or Méthode Traditionelle. The Champagne region itself has famously chalky soils, which lend the wines from there an inimitably mineral character that is reproduced almost nowhere else in the world.

Browse our full selection of French wine online or check out our selection of highly-rated French wine for a great new French wine to try this week!

Want to learn more about French wine?

Visit our Guide to French wine to learn more about French wine.