James Suckling-Fronsac, Bordeaux, France- ""Sweet-berry, bark and black-olive aromas follow through to a medium to full body with chewy tannins and a lightly austere finish. Some crushed-stone undertones.""
For centuries, French wines have set standards to inspire winemakers around the world. No other country has France’s long history of fine wine production, which has helped define wine styles around the world.
How significant is France in the world of wine? The most popular international grape varieties, from Chardonnay to Merlot to Cabernet Sauvignon, are native to France. In many years France produces (and consumes!) more wine than any other country. Its production and export of fine wines is unmatched.
The ancient Greeks were the first to take advantage of France’s potential for wine production, as they planted vines in their colonies along the Mediterranean coastline more than 2,500 years ago. After the Romans conquered Gaul in 51 B.C., they took vines and winemaking practices north across the land. In the following centuries, Christian monasteries became centers for viticulture, and their monks made pioneering advances in both winemaking and distilling. By the Middle Ages, the English had already recognized the excellence of wines of France, and while they controlled Bordeaux they expanded the region’s existing vineyards to supply the brand-new export market.
Red grapes produce an amazing array of red wine types: from the boldest, heartiest big reds, to elegant and structured dry red wines, to sweet and simple picnic sippers. So much depends on where grapes are from and what the winemaker does with them, but the most important factor is the variety of the grape itself.
There are the familiar international red varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and more – produced in the world’s top winemaking regions. Then there are regional red varieties, which produce types of red wine nearly synonymous with their place of origin, such as Sangiovese, from Italy, and Tempranillo, from Spain. There are hundreds more red grape varieties regularly used to make wine around the globe.
Most red wine varietals fare best in warmer climates, where they can ripen fully before harvesting. So climate and soil – as well as market demand – determine the best grape types to plant in a particular vineyard. In Europe, centuries of tradition, trial and error determined what wine grapes grew best where, and modern regulations have enshrined those winemaking practices into law.
Our red wine guide details the flavor profiles and regions of the most popular red varieties – plus a few you may not yet know. Use it as a road map for Total Wine & More’s selection of more than 8,000 wines. You’ll learn everything there is to know about your favorite red wines, and we’re sure you’ll find some new red wines to love.