France has a reputation as being the home of fine wine. Wine lovers flock to vineyards throughout the country to see the wines where they grow.
Producing between 7-8 billion bottles of wine a year, France is one of the largest producers in the world.
The origins of the world famous vineyards
It is likely that the Greeks and Romans introduced vines to France and found perfect growing conditions in many areas. As in many other European countries once under rule of the Roman Empire, wine became a part of daily life and a trading commodity by the time the Romans left.
Around the 5th century, the Church took over the main task of managing vineyards and making wine for the Holy Sacrament. Everyone has heard of Dom Perignon, a brand of champagne named after a French monk. Eventually royalty and aristocrats owned vineyards and them individual owners. Wine became a cultural thing in France, and still is.
“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing” said Ernest Hemingway.
French wine today
During the 19th century, France’s wine industry suffered near-decimation at the hands of North American aphids called Phylloxera. The problem was finally overcome when a French winegrower, Leo Lalliman, suggested that American root stock, which was immune to the bug, be used in French vineyards.
The vineyards of Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy recovered quickly and so did the French economy.
Nowadays nearly every region of France produces wine with the exception of the far northern regions. Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Loire Valley, and the Rhone Valley are the amongst the top areas.
French wine Appellation classification
In 1855, emperor Napoleon III suggested the development of a classification system to identify the best wines in Bordeaux. The so-called first through fifth crus (growths) was highly subjective, but is still in place today with very few changes.
In the 1930s appellation d’origine côntrollee (AOC) ws introduced in France. Based on the idea that wine and food that comes from a certain region needs to be defined and as such, the distinctive characteristics of each region’s produce are protected and able to maintain their quality and prevent fraud. For instance Champagne can only be called Champagne, if it’s grown in the region of Champagne. Strict rules govern wine classification to this day.