The Best Wine Regions in France


15th November 2021

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By
Anthony Moss

Bonjour, fellow wine enthusiasts!

Join us on a journey to France where we’ll discover the best wine regions in France, some of the incredible features that make them so unique. From the creme de la creme of world-class wineries that feature on everyone’s bucket-lists, to some of the region's best-kept secrets, we plan to take a peek behind the veil to show you some of our favourites.

One of the first questions we hear is, why France? What makes it so special? One of the main drawcards happens to be the country’s diverse climate and its terroirs. Thanks to the rich soil, rainfall, sunlight, and so on, seventeen of France’s twenty-two regions are suitable for vines and produce a startling 3,200 varietals of wine over roughly 835,805 hectares.

Based on the distinct environments in which they grow, the different regions also became responsible for producing various types of grapes, as some thrived in areas where others failed. The best example of this is how, in almost every case, France’s northern vineyards are best known for their white wines while the south is celebrated for their red wines. This also applies to Champagne!

A group of people standing in front of a vineyard in France

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

The Best and Most Famous Wine Regions in France to Visit

Now that we’ve revealed just how vast the vineyards are, it’s time to talk about the most famous and best French wine regions. While there are bound to be some names you recognise, such as Provence, Bordeaux and Champagne, we hope to surprise you with a few more and perhaps one or two unexpected destinations.

While the wines are the star of the show for the purpose of this blog, it would be remiss of us not to remind you that France is also one of the culinary capitals of the world and birthplace of the Michelin Star, an award first given out in 1926. Find out more on our Beautiful Cars and Michelin Stars page.

A couple having their photo taken with the French countryside in the background

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Champagne

Let’s begin with one of the most well-known wine regions in the world, Champagne. While this region has become a household name for sparkling wines, real Champagne must actually originate in the Champagne region of France and requires legal verification to be classed as true ‘Champagne’. Its origins take us to the northern territories of France, bordering Belgium and Luxembourg, where the weather is cooler and the soil more chalky.

Each tiny bubble is produced by a fermentation process that takes place inside the bottle. In France, the traditional method by which Champagne gains its effervescence is known as Méthode Champenoise.

There are several different types of Champagne as well as various prestigious ‘houses’ that are lauded for their impeccable quality and taste, including names such as Bollinger, Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon, and Taittinger. Fun fact, Dom Pérignon is arguably the best known Champagne house in the world as its namesake, a Benedictine monk, invented the sparkling sensation we know today. Or did he? Although a wonderful story, and true in some parts, we know the Dom worked tirelessly to improve the quality and renown of Champagne he was not, in fact, responsible for its creation - myth officially busted!

Now for the lingo - there are two types of Champagne, a Blanc de Blanc (white of whites) and a Blanc de Noir (white of blacks). The former is purely made from Chardonnay grapes and offers fruity, citrusy notes, whereas the latter is a blend of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, which provides a slightly earthier taste.

Picturesque chateau surrounded by vines in Champagne, France

Image: Wonderlusting

Burgundy (Bourgogne)

Best known for its dynamic terroir, Bourgogne successfully produces both red and white wines, specifically Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Stretching all the way from the north of Lyon to the South of Paris, Bourgogne comprises the most appellations (a legally determined and protected wine region) in France. Interestingly, this particular region is also the origin of both types of grape and has since gone from strength to strength in improving its varietals.

In terms of what to expect, the Pinot Noir offers notes of cranberry, hibiscus and earthy herbs - a truly delightful combination. Chardonnay’s from this region are either oaked or unoaked, offering very different palates - the oaked will take you on an earthy adventure from truffles and white button mushrooms all the way through to apple, quince, pear, and fresh lemon. Unoaked, on the other hand, is more buttery and offers its drinker a fruitier medley of pineapple, peach, citrus and even almond. It’s definitely worth doing several tastings - where better to sample a Chardonnay than in its birthplace?

As the former capital of Bourgogne before Dijon, we recommend visiting Beaune to experience some of the best wines in the world, soak in the culture and experience the heart of the estate. This is also one of the most fascinating places to tour wineries as the Bourgogne region remains close to its roots by continuing to follow the centuries-old winemaking traditions that made it so sought-after in the first place!

Views over a town in Burgundy, France from a vineyard located on a hill nearby

Image: The Good Life France

Beaujolais

Sometimes considered an extension of Bourgogne, Beaujolais is most famous for its red wines. Made from a very particular type of grape, a Gamay, expect notes of cherry, plum, violet and peony. There are a total of twelve appellations in Beaujolais, Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais-Villages AOC and 10 Crus - some of which produce white wine as well as a sparkling rosé, however, the reds are the true heroes here.

Beaujolais largely gained its fame from one particular wine, the Beaujolais Nouveau, one of the most popular vin de primeur in the world. What makes that so special? A vin de primeur is a wine sold within the same year it was harvested - a rarity for reds! The Gamay grapes start their fermentation process just a few weeks before being sold, like clockwork, on the third Thursday in November.

The Rhône Valley (Côtes du Rhône)

Next, we head to The Rhône Valley in southeast France where warmer climes and nearby Rhône River create the perfect environment for France’s largest producer of wine. This verdant valley is responsible for a variety of traditional red wines made from grapes such as Grenache, Syrah and Viognier. You may be wondering, did we really just say Viognier, a white grape? In the Rhône Valley, Viognier and Syrah grapes grow alongside each other and some winemakers choose to blend up to 20% (the legally permissible level) Viognier into their reds.

When exploring the Rhône Valley, it is worth noting that the styles and compositions of blends produced in this region vary from north to south so make sure you sample both - research is important after all! To the north, steep terraced hillsides and granite soil come together to create six types of wines, we’ll tell you about two of our favourites - the Côte Rôtie Syrah with characteristic notes of coffee, truffles, chocolate, raspberries and spice. Once you have experienced it for yourself, the price tag will make sense! The second is Condrieu, a wine that only permits the use of Viognier grapes. When picked and produced correctly, it has glorious notes of peach and honey, however, if the grapes are too ripe it becomes sickly sweet and a bit like bubblegum. Fun fact: at one point this particular Viognier grape almost faced extinction due to its tendency to be low-yielding and easily destructible.

We’re sure many of you have heard of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation but for those who have not, the wines produced here are some of the most sought-after from the southern Rhône region and need to feature on any wine connoisseur's bucket-list.

Views from a vineyard overlooking the Rhône Valley and River in France

Image: Vivino

Picardy

Picturesque Picardy features on our lesser-known list of places to visit. At first glance, it’s perhaps not a wine-lovers paradise per se and is, in fact, not currently listed as an official wine region of the country. However, its viticultural history brings it to our attention.

Thanks to its northern location, Picardy is a perfect place to produce Champagne! Which it does so, quite successfully we may add, in three varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. After receiving its legal right to make and sell Champagne in 1936, the region has since become responsible for 10% of France’s Champagne production.

While you’re here, give their locally produced ciders and beers a chance too!

Provence

Welcome to the home of rosé! Going back around 2,600 years, it’s no wonder that Provence is known as France’s most historic wine-growing region. Years of consistency and dedication have resulted in a fabulous, fruity dry rosé that features notes of watermelon, celery and strawberries. Although a few reds are also produced here thanks to the warm, Mediterranean climate, they’re not the hero of this region.

Provence has eight major appellations with its flagship, Bandol, featuring Mourvèdre reds. Produced in a small sub-section of Bandol, Mourvèdre reds are known for their rich red colouring and delightful palate of plum and herbs.

Whether you’re a wine lover or not, the postcard-worthy villages, lush lavender fields and pleasant climes are bound to draw you in.

Experience the lavender fields in Provence

Image: Caractere

The Loire Valley

Prepare for fairytale-like castles, endless stretches of vineyards and lush landscapes. The Loire Valley is not only a wine lover's picture-perfect paradise but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as a place with a seriously varied climate!

A total of four wine-producing regions situated along the Loire River are responsible for producing superb Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc grapes. Upper Loire brings Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre to the table, Touraine a Chenin Blanc and spicy Cabernet Franc, Anjou-Saumur produces dry Savennières, sweet Coteaux du Layon and Saumur reds, and last but not least, Pays Nantais is the savant of dry Muscadet and Melon de Bourgogne. A decadent day trip could see you explore each of these unique regions!

Overlooking beautiful vines up to the impressive Villemenant castle in the Loire Valley, France

Image: Votre Chatuea de Famille

Normandy

Situated just north of Paris, coastal Normandy is known for its delicious cheese and seafood, but did you know the area also produces wine? Although it is not listed as an official wine region in France, it still counts in our books. In fact, it’s so off the wine map, there is only one vineyard in Normandy! Les Arpents du Soleil (Acres of the Sun) recently revived its viticulture and currently produces four vintages of red and white wines using Pinot Noir, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Melon, Müller-Thurgau and Sauvignon Gris grapes.

Although it’s still relatively early days, we hope to see more from the region!

France wine regions final thoughts

Whether you’re sommelier-level, a lover of fine wine, or someone who is simply interested to learn more and try vastly different varietals, you can’t go wrong with the French wine regions. Take a pre-planned self-drive organised by our team or join us on a tour to experience the level of excellence for yourself.

A woman taking part in a Champagne tasting in France

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

You can explore the stunning regions of Beaujolais, Burgundy and Champagne on our Beautiful Cars & Michelin Stars Supercar Tour - a fully hosted and managed supercar tour, or perhaps cruise the backroads of Provence with a friend or loved one on our Provence and Cote d'Azur Self Guided Drive.

contact our team or visit our website to find out more.