The “hexagon” is a country which has every style of wine in its portfolio, classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, Rhône, Loire, Champagne and many other sparkling wines, recently the huge area of Languedoc in the South has been producing fantastic quality wines at good value for money, the country’s output is about 7 to 8 billion bottles per year! A major player.
French wine regions
Situated in the northeast corner of France sharing a border with Germany this area produces quite distinctive red and white French wines. Alsace is renowned for its white wines from grape varieties such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat. There are 3 Appellations in Alsace, one for sparkling, Crémant d’Alsace AOC another for white, rosé and red still wines, Alsace AOC, and a third for the top quality wines which must be produced from the four grape varieties listed above, Alsace Grand Cru AOC.
Cave de Turckheim make a fantastic Pinot Gris, Alsace Grand Cru, called Brand which we sell!
Primarily a red wine region using the Gamay grape variety although some white and Sparkling wines are produced.
Beaujolais has 12 AOC , Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages cover the entire area south of Burgundy and just north of Lyon in central eastern France. There are 10 Crus also, Reigné, Moulin-a-Vent, Cotes de Brouilly, Fleurie, Morgon, Chiroubles, Saint Amour, Julienas, Chenas, and Brouilly.
This historically was the most important wine producing area in France, bordering the Atlantic coast and huge pine forests, having a safe port with easy access to the Atlantic meant Bordeaux wines could be exported to all parts of the world, in fact in the 1700’s Bordeaux was the second largest port in the world after London.
Planting of grapes reflects the prominence of red wines, 88% of plantings are for red grapes, 12% for white. The result is dry red wines account for 84% of output, Rosé 4%, dry White wines 9%, Sweet white wines 2% and Crémant only 1%.
Bordeaux can be crudely broken down to 3 distinct areas, Left Bank, Right Bank and Between the 2 main rivers, Entre-deux-Mers, left and right bank referring to the Gironde river and Entre-deux-Mers where the river Gironde splits into the Garonne and Dordogne rivers.
Left Bank, north
There are 7 distinct appellations in this region, Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac, St-Estephe, Moulis and Listrac, Haut-Medoc and Medoc.
Left Bank, South
There are 3 areas of interest here, Pessac-Léognan, Graves, Sauternes and Barsac.
This area produces high quality white wine, Sauvignon Blanc at 79% of plantings leads the way with Sémillon 21% next, tiny amounts of Muscadelle and Sauvignon Gris also.
Red wines are from mainly Merlot, 52%, Cabernet Sauvignon 42%, and about 3% of Cabernet Franc, the remaining 3% is made up from Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère.
An area that used to produce more White wine than red it has steadily moved since the 1970’s to 66% red wines.
Sauternes and Barsac
An area famous for sweet white wines, 6 million bottles of Sauternes and Barsac in 2018 spread between 132 winemakers.
This covers such famous area as St-Emilion, Pomerol, Lalande-de-Pomerol, Castillon, Bourg and Blaye, Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac.
We have many examples of wines from the right bank in particular St-Emilion and Lalande-de-Pomerol.
Between Garonne and Dordogne rivers.
The vast majority of AOC Bordeaux wines are produced in this area, with red production exceeding white wines. There are 5 regions which produce a huge proportion of Bordeaux wines. The areas are Entre-deux-Mers, AOC Bordeaux, AOC Bordeaux Supérieur, Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux , Sté-Foy Cotes de Bordeaux.
An area in Eastern France starting in Auxerre in the north extending to nearly Lyon in the south if you include the Beaujolais region. Known as Bourgogne in France and on many wine labels, this area has 100 AOC’s.
The most well known wines from here are reds made from Pinot Noir, and white wine from Chardonnay, Burgundies. As mentioned above there are more AOC’s in this region than any other French wine region, and these are classified into four levels, Bourgogne, Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru.
The Côte d’Or is where the most famous and expensive wines come from and where all the Grand Cru wines are found except for Chablis Grand Cru. The Côte d’Or itself is split into 2 areas, Côte de Nuits in the north where all the Grand Cru red wines are found and Côte de Beaune in the south where all the white Grand Cru wines originate, other than Musigny Blanc. This is explained by the different soil types found that favour Pinot Noir in the north and Chardonnay in the south.
Further south is the Côte Châlonnaise which produces a mixture of red and white wines which are generally less expensive than their northern neighbours but not as well known.These wines can offer good value in regions such as Rully, Mercurey, and Givry.
Next as you travel south towards Lyon is the Mâconnais area which produces large quantities of both red and white wines at very reasonable prices, finally you get to the Beaujolais region.
Burgundy does produce sparkling wine, Crémant de Bourgogne, made from Chardonnay and Aligoté grapes in the same way as Champagne is produced but at a lower price. Oedoria Crémant de Bourgogne is an excellent example of a 100% Chardonnay Sparkler.
A region in the sparsely populated north east of France, one of the coolest wine producing areas. Famous for its high quality sparkling wines which are called Champagne and can only come from strictly controlled areas and be made from only 3 grape varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Wines made from100% Chardonnay are called Blanc de Blancs, whereas wines from 100% Pinot Noir are Blanc de Noir. The two towns best known are Reims and Epernay which are at the commercial heart of Champagne region. There are five wine producing districts, Aube, Côte de Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne.
A hilly area in Eastern France near the border with Switzerland and very close to the Burgundy region. A cool climate which produces unique wines similar in style to Swiss and Burgundy.
They produce a wine vin jaune which is made like sherry with a flor on top of the fermented wine. A Crémant is also made.
The most Southerly mainland French region is the largest wine producing region in the world covering about 3000 sq km, 3 times the size of all combined Bordeaux vineyards. The five most well known AOC’s are Languedoc, Corbières, St Chinian, Faugeres, and Minervois. This region has undergone many changes in the last 15 years, now quality is taken much more seriously than the bulk production in the past.
Wines are made from all the common grape varieties and also the Rhône varieties such as Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Viognier. From vin de pays d’oc at the entry level through to AOC wines this area produces fantastic wines at all price points and a level of quality which is very high.
A major supplier to Cheers is Paul Mas and his portfolio of 10 and growing, wineries across the region.
This region in Southern France is situated in the Rhône valley and is divided into 2 distinct areas, northern and southern Rhône.
Wines from the northern area are both red and white but the red wines are only allowed to use Syrah as the red grapes. They are allowed in some appellations to add a percentage of specific white grapes to the blend but no other red grapes. The most common variety used is Viognier, others permitted are Marsanne, and Roussanne.
Wines from the southern area are permitted to blend many varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault.
The northern Rhône has a continental climate with warm summers and colder winters, the cold Mistral wind blowing through the region from north to south. There are 8 separate appellations here but the area only produces 5% of the total Rhône volumes.
The southern Rhône has a more Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. The rugged terrain protects a lot of the vineyards from the cold Mistral wind.
Chateauneuf -du-Pape is the most famous red wine of the region being made from up to 19 varieties of grape! Predominantly the wines use GSM blends, Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre for the red wines.
There are 14 appellations in the Southern Rhône, the most common is Côtés du Rhône AOC which is widely distributed and covers both north and south areas. Certain villages are allowed to label their wines as Côtés du Rhône Villages, signifying better quality and more expensive.
Tavel, is an appellation that produces the best Rosé wines from Rhône, fortified wines are made in AOC Rasteau and Muscat de Beaumes -de -Venise AOC. White wines from the Rhône are made from varieties such as Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Picpoul.
The wine Condrieu is the best example of a wine made from Viognier.