Dating back to the Roman times, France’s wine making history goes back to 6th century BC. Today France is the largest producer of wine in the world and home to almost all the noble / international grape varieties. It produces some of the most expensive wines in the world that are sold internationally and even regular everyday wines sold only in France. Producing all styles of wines – red, white (dry, semi-sweet and sweet), rose, sparkling and fortified, one thing common between all French wines is that they are terroir driven. Terroir refers to the unique combination of natural factors associated with any particular region / vineyard. It includes such factors as soil, underlying rock, altitude, slope of hill or terrain, orientation toward the sun, and microclimate (typical rain, winds, humidity, temperature variations, etc.) It is this terroir that has formed the basis for the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system of classification of wines. The appellation rules define the area, grape varietal and wine making methods and a wine must follow these rules to gain classification under their AOCs. Most other classification systems in the world are modelled on the French system. As of 2005 there were 472 different wine AOCs in France.
France can be divided into the following main wine producing regions. Each of these regions is further divided into communes or villages. Either an entire village can be one single AOC or consist of numerous AOCs within, depending on the terroir.
Bordeaux: Possibly the most famous and best source of fine wine in the world, Bordeaux lies along the Gironde River and is divided into Left Bank and Right Bank along its tributaries. Bordeaux wines are mostly red but it also produces some world class sweet wines like Sauternes. These wines are further divided according to quality and the best ones are typically aged for a long period of time. Left bank wines are predominately Cabernet Sauvignon with some amount of Merlot and Cabernet Franc blended into them and the best ones come from the Medoc and Graves region. Famous ones include Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafite and Chateau Haut-Brion. Right bank Bordeaux wines are made from Merlot grapes with the best of them from the St. Emilion and Pomerol communes. Famous Merlot wines include Chateau Petrus, Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Le Pin.