Vins de France: Home

Terroirs and Regions

French wines are indissociable from the land on which they grow; they are also a natural reflection of those who make them. From Nice to Bordeaux, from Arbois to Cognac, from Toulouse to Strasbourg, France’s regions are full of lively, joyful and mouth-watering stories in which wine plays a starring role. The following names have built a reputation on terroirs that are unbelievably varied, and each has found in its region of choice land that is conducive to expressing its uniqueness.

Enjoy exploring. Bon voyage!

List of AOPs and IGPs on the INAO website: http://www.inao.gouv.fr/public/home.php?pageFromIndex=produits/index.php~mnu=145
In "Type/Catégorie" select "4.1 Vins"
In "Signe" select "AOP" or "IGP

Alsace

Niedermorschwihr-© ZVARDONThis region is remarkable. Standing at the heart of Europe at the crossroads of cultures, it cultivates its ambivalence in its language, its traditions and even in its wines. It is also the only region in France to sell wines under the name of the grape variety – and has done so for a very long time. Another paradox: despite being big on business and very densely populated, Alsace is also a wonderful agricultural - and winegrowing - region.

Wine can definitely hold its own here: the region produces great, aromatic white wines such as the aristocratic Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

Find out more: http://www.vinsalsace.com

Climate

Alsace is perceived as a Nordic region. Yet in summer the mercury rises to over 30°C and the sun shines more than average. Rainfall levels are among the lowest in France. The Vosge Massif is to thank for this. It protects the hilly vineyards from atmospheric disturbance from the Atlantic in the west. Rain falls on west-facing slopes thanks to the altitude, and dry air is warmed as it descends upon east-facing slopes, home to Alsace’s vineyards, facing the morning and midday sun. These favourable weather conditions often continue well into autumn, enabling the grapes to mature slowly and retain all their flavour.

Terroir

 

The Alsace plain is a wide band of land on either side of the Rhine, rich in alluvial deposits. It was formed at least five million years ago when the Vosges-Black Forest Massif collapsed. Its vineyards are located on the edge of the plain, along the Vosges fault. Three main groups of terroirs live side by side. The first - the highest and the most sloping - has soil that is granitic and sandy, filtering and acidic. The second boasts well-drained hills that are calcareous or marly at altitudes of between 200 and 300m. This is where the Grands Crus are to be found, wines with amazing personality. The third group is formed by big alluvial terraces of pebbles, sand and gravel.

 

Art de vivre

 

The vineyards in Alsace seem to exist beyond the reach of time. They look down on the Alsace plain, aloof from the hustle of business life in a region that borders on three countries. The vines wind their way around a multitude of small villages, where red roof tiles snuggle around the pointed steeple of a church. Half-timbered houses with red and pink geraniums at every window reflect the peaceful pace of life in a picture-postcard setting. The well-ordered vineyards reflect the Alsatians’ love of precision, whereas the multitude of gourmet restaurants and "Winstubs" remind us that we are in France. It is precisely this duality, the fruit of a very long history, that is so pleasing in Alsace. Savoir-vivre. A warm welcome. And dedication to the best possible viticulture. The famous Route des Vins running through the vineyards along a north-south axis is a huge success with tourists.

Beaujolais

The Beaujolais winegrowing region could be described as the perfect picture postcard of the French countryside: a succession of well-defined hills hemmed in by a more abrupt ridge covered with forests; in the distance, to the east, a clear view across the plain of the River Saône all the way to the white line of the Alps on the horizon, with Mont Blanc the highest point. Precision meets sunshine in this dynamic region, so close to Lyon, France’s capital of gastronomy. People live well here, and they admit it. They have the sense of humour of Northerners and the serenity of Mediterraneans, with their wines always opting for the side of fun!

Find out more: http://www.beaujolais.com/

Climate

Moulin-à-Vent en été © D. Gillet - Inter BeaujolaisThe Beaujolais region belongs to the continental family of vineyards, with cold, dry winters and hot summers. Facing east and south, the vineyards hug hills that are protected from damp, wet winds and revel in sunny summers with some Mediterranean influences that travel up the nearby Rhône Valley. So the climate is temperate and rarely cold. Gamay enjoys these mild weather conditions and is harvested rather early, packed with flavour. The orientation of the vines, occasionally arranged in terraces, helps the grapes to ripen.

Terroir

Col de Truges à Chiroubles © D. Gillet - Inter BeaujolaisTwo very different types of terroir rub shoulders in the Beaujolais region. In the south, the calcareous clay soils of the Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages appellations produce mouth-wateringly fruity red wines. This is the biggest zone in the region. It offers a string of plump, luscious hills with vines oriented optimally for taking advantage of the sun. In the north of the Beaujolais region there are ten wines from ten different villages with very different soils. The base is schist and granite. It is either pink or blue in colour, depending on whether we’re talking Fleurie or Côte-de-Brouilly. The Gamay grape thrives here, with a wider aromatic palette and a more powerful tannic structure. The wines can age for longer. The ten Beaujolais wines drive the entire region.

Art de vivre

Ballade autour du Château de Montmelas © D. Gillet - Inter BeaujolaisLife in the Beaujolais region is as peaceful and welcoming as its countless small rural villages. The people of Beaujolais have a mischievous twinkle in their eye and are full of mirth. There is always something to celebrate, and a good meal always has an important role to play. Lyon’s city dwellers often come to slum it in the vines on a quest for simple and tasty gastronomy. This is the cradle of Beaujolais Nouveau. It is released for sale on the third Thursday of November, as if waiting any longer to celebrate the arrival of the latest vintage would simply be out of the question! The whole planet has gradually climbed on the bandwagon. The more patient will wait until the month of April, when the 10 wines celebrate Easter, to discover the complexity of the grands vins du Beaujolais. 

Bordeaux

Bordeaux occupies a highly-envied position in France between the continent and access to the ocean with the Gironde. The city and its region reconcile the north and the south. It is a big city with the air of a capital and has always been open to the rest of the world, bringing to mind Antwerp or Versailles. Although the architecture of the city’s main perspectives is more evocative of Paris than a Mediterranean village, Bordeaux is in the south – in terms of its climate and the high quality of life enjoyed by its inhabitants. Surfers have their spot nearby; hot summers and huge beaches of white sand beckon to the pleasures of nature; and gourmet cuisine is infused with Basque and Spanish flavours.

Find out more: www.bordeaux.com/fr

Climate

Without the influence of the Gulf Stream - a benevolent current that warms the North Atlantic all the way to Norway - Bordeaux would be as cold as New York, due to its latitude. But this is far from the case. Summer heat and, above all, good autumns, ripen the grapes beautifully. The nearby presence of the ocean, whose salty mists are blocked by Europe’s biggest pine forest, tempers the warm climate. The huge Gironde Estuary that reaches more than 100 km inland, helps moderate the climate. And this is reflected in the wines: they are brimming with sunshine, without erring on the side either of exuberance or heaviness. It’s called balance.

Terroir

The mosaic of Bordeaux terroirs can be divided into two groups. On the left bank of the Gironde and for over 150 km all along the estuary, the vineyards are mainly alluvial in nature. Not any old type of alluvial deposit, but mainly smooth pebbles and gravel from the Pyrenees, where the river has its source some 600 km away. These stones on sand offer well-drained terraces that are warm and perfect for vines - Cabernet Sauvignon in particular. On the other bank of the river the universe is rounder, fleshier, with calcareous clay slopes, hills, and deeper soil – perfect for Merlot, for example. These terroirs are sedimentary and alluvial, always with high limestone content.

Art de vivre

Still in the north, yet already in the south, Bordeaux is a city of transition, and this is reflected in its climate. It cultivates a certain composure inherited from the English domination of the Middle Ages, and retains great elegance. From commercial relations with Hansa states and Holland, it has held on to professionalism and openness to the world. From the period of Louis XIV, it has kept the straight, aligned and classic architecture that is to be found in countless châteaux in honey-coloured stone. But Bordeaux also sways to a Latino beat. Because its population comes from all over Aquitaine, a wonderful province that borders on Spain, it has a delicious and playful side. Without any shadow of a doubt, we are closer to Bilbao and Toulouse here than to Paris.

Bourgogne

Village de la Côte de Beaune : porte d’entrée de la parcelle

Bourgogne has retained a tradition of excellence from its very long history. The grandeur of the Bourbons, who reigned all the way to the North Sea, shaped the towns and also the winegrowing countryside, with the help of Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages in particular. All of Bourgogne’s winegrowing zones were founded on well-oriented slopes in order to capture the best of the sun. Over the centuries, the monks and then the winegrowers patiently selected and identified the best plots of land in terms of geographical orientation, soil, subsoil, and the grape varieties that thrive on them. The plots or "parcelles" are so big in Bourgogne that they are referred to here as Climats *(for the Premiers and Grands Crus appellations) or *Lieux-dits (for Village and Régionale appellations).

Find out more: www.vins-bourgogne.fr

Climate

Vignoble de la Côte de Beaune : Montagne des Cortons, parcelle

Bourgogne encompasses very different territories. Morvan to the east is a cold and rainy zone because it blocks weather fronts coming in from the Atlantic. The winegrowing strip further to the west enjoys a sunny climate. The vines have been planted on slopes facing the right direction to capture the best of the sun and the wind. Bourgogne therefore benefits from a continental climate. It yields reputed wines that get the best out of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Man has worked the best terroirs from Chablis all the way to Mâcon. In the south, the best oriented land was selected. The Bourgogne slopes are protected from the cold dry breeze that blows in from the north, basking in the golden summer and autumn sun much to the delight of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines, along with Aligoté and Gamay.

Terroir

Given how stretched out Bourgogne is, and above all given its geological diversity, it harbours a multitude of very different terroirs, called climats. A request has been submitted to add them to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. There are three winegrowing zones in Bourgogne. The northernmost zone is the Chablis/Auxerrois zone on hills often sedimentary in nature. In the centre, further west, we find Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise, a narrow strip of sloping calcareous soil with a unique hydrological system. Finally, further south, we come to Mâcon, open to distant Mediterranean influences and where the soil is calcareous clay. The different Cru and Village wines are all united by the big Régionale vineyards along a south-north axis.

Art de vivre

Dégustation en cave © BIVB / IBANEZ A

Winegrowing Bourgogne perfectly captures the image anyone anywhere has of the French winegrower: a passionate craftsman who listens to the land and to nature. This is because the average wine estate is very small. Bourgogne’s vineyards form a patchwork of tiny plots, some hemmed in by low walls. There is an impressive number of small producers who master winemaking as an art. And cooperative cellars in some zones also play a role in creating quality wines. There is also a flourishing trade around Bourgogne wine, which promotes the quality of its wines all over the world. Deeply rooted rural culture also gives rise to wonderful winegrowing festivities, such as the feast of Saint Vincent when, for a day, all of the cellars open their doors and wine secrets are shared and evaporate.

 
 

Champagne

Le vignoble champenois en hiver - Photo Philippe Maille ©Comité Champagne Champagne is a cold region. Growing vines here is quite a challenge that history and the countless battles that took place here have not aided. But over the centuries, winegrowers have tamed the austere calcareous soil, turning it into a universal symbol of celebration, love and major occasions.

Find out more: www.champagne.fr/

Climate

Le vignoble champenois en été - Photo Michel Guillard ©Comité ChampagneWith an annual average temperature of 11°C, Champagne has the harshest climate of all winegrowing regions in France. But that does not stop it from producing world-renowned wines. Champagne benefits from two climatic influences: continental and oceanic. It thus enjoys favourable sunshine in summer, regular amounts of water, and no sharp contrast in temperature during the year. Spring frosts are frequent. Summer is hot but short. And the harvests are not always in a heat wave.

Terroir

Sol de craie en Champagne - Photo Michel Guillard ©Comité ChampagneChampagne is made from grapes that grow on vines located on plots of land within the appellation zone called Champagne. Its borders were precisely defined in a law in 1927. It covers approximately 34,000 hectares and totals 320 vineyards. They are located on slopes that mainly face south or south-east and straddle five départements: Marne and Aube mainly, but also Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne. Champagne chalk is composed of granules of calcite. It is extreme porous, constituting a veritable water tank that ensures the plants receive sufficient water even during drier summers. This type of substratum helps the ground to drain. From a gustatory point of view, it fosters the unique mineral aspect of certain Champagne wines.

Art de vivre

Photo Zucchi ©Comité ChampagneThe paradox of Champagne resides in the image of the wine on the one hand – celebrations, seduction, the easy life where troubles are forgotten – and in the austerity of the region on the other. Vines are cultivated here with rigour and tenacity, one eye constantly on the weather forecast, in order to produce a festive product for the entire planet. But behind the harshness of the landscape and the climate are thousands of women and men who love their work. They pop a Champagne cork at the drop of a hat and are the first to spread the party spirit.

 
 

Charentes

© BNIC / Stéphane CHARBEAUHalf way between the Loire and the Garonne, Les Charentes cover two départements that are renowned around the world for the production of Cognac. Enjoying the same oceanic climate as Bordeaux, but perhaps less hot, the region also produces Pineau des Charentes and Vins de Pays. La Rochelle, a beautiful town overlooking the sea and the islands off its coast, has always inspired sailors and lovers of fine buildings. Thanks to a very sunny microclimate, the weather in the region is mild all year round, offering countless occasions to explore great swathes of vineyards. This is where the south starts, with passionate winegrowers and myriad snail eaters. An authentic corner of France.

Find out more:

www.pineau.fr/

www.cognac.fr

Climate

© BNIC / Stéphane CHARBEAULes Charentes is a big region on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, north of Bordeaux. It is blessed with plenty of sunshine and, like Bordeaux, benefits from the positive effects of the Gulf Stream. Flowing from the Caribbean Sea, its influence is strongest in summer, helping the vines to grow and, more especially, the grapes to ripen. Winters are mild, shielded from harsh frosts, and the Ugni Blanc grape, the most common variety in the region, thrives thanks to good conditions for growth and ripening.

Terroir

© BNIC / Stéphane CHARBEAUThe soil bears the imprint of the Mesozoic. Marine sediments that settled throughout the millennia have formed a calcareous base with varying degrees of purity and homogeneity. At the heart of the region, Grande and Petite Champagne offer the purest limestone and this is where the best Cognacs are slowly nurtured. The Borderies terroir, mainly siliceous clay, produces milder brandies that age faster. Vines on the edges of the winegrowing region produce both Cognac and Vin de Pays des Charentes on terroirs that are calcareous or calcareous clay.

Art de vivre

© BNIC / Stéphane CHARBEAUWith its International Detective Movie Festival, the town of Cognac likes unravelling mysteries - such as the production of the brandy that bears its name. The magic of distillation precedes lengthy ageing in the barrel. The town of Cognac is peaceful yet open to the world. Buyers flood in from the four corners of the planet. Les Charentes also harbours a wealth of fine works of art, including a large number of Romanesque churches with their unusual style, constructed in the Middle Ages whilst the region was being claimed back from the Arabs. It also features vestiges from days of The Way of Saint James.

Corsica

© CIV Corse

Corsica has been referred to as the "l’Ile de Beauté" for a long time – since the Ancient Greeks, to be precise. Breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, craggy mountain peaks - some snow-capped until May -, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, myriad tiny villages huddled on sheer, unassailable promontories... Corsica offers a new, magical spectacle with every turn in the road. With the same rain levels as Paris - but in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea - the island boasts ideal conditions for vines, which it rediscovered only recently. Corsica became French as late as in 1769, after a deal with the Genoans, and the Corsican soul has a keen sense of this strong identity. Wine is part of it, with grapes now only rarely to be found on the continent, such as Niellucio and Sciacarello - one more reason to rediscover the wines of the "Island of Beauty".

Find out more: www.vinsdecorse.com/

 

Climate

© CIV Corse

Corsica stands in an outstanding spot in terms of climate, at the heart of the Mediterranean between France and Italy. It has sunshine more than 300 days a year - at least along its coastline - and the winters are mild. Grapes ripen easily here. Although the Mediterranean laps at its shores, nights in Corsica can be cool and the night breeze blowing in from the sea tempers the ardour of the sun. The result is plain to see in the wines, which boast a good acidity-unctuousness balance. The winegrowing regions are all located on the sea front.

Terroir

© Claude Cruells

Corsican terroirs cover a total surface area of less than 10,000 ha. They are scattered all around the edges of the island, where man has managed to tame the maquis and plant vines in its stead. Vines were imported by the Genoans in the 16th century, but the quality of the wine really only picked up after 1957, when the best soil types were identified. There is now a regional appellation and two communes with an AOP, reflecting the improvement in the quality of the wines. The most common ground types are granite and shale, with soil that is dark and poor. Limestone is to be found in the north, towards Patrimonio, and in the far south.

Art de vivre

© CIV Corse

You can really tell you’re on an island in Corsica. The pace of life reflects peaceful villages and narrow roads with millions of bends. Nature is beautiful but difficult, obliging the Corsicans to respect a pace that is less frenetic than in a big metropolis. Another consequence of insularity is the distinctive cuisine. Chestnut flour, donkey or wild boar sausage, Brocciu (fresh ewe’s cheese) and delicious honeys are just some typical ingredients that are not to be missed. Wine is naturally part and parcel of this love of fine fare, taking full advantage of winegrowing’s new lease of life since the ’50s.

 
 

Jura

Vines have been grown in the Jura since Antiquity. La Séquanie, before it became Franche-Comté, and its wines were mentioned by Pliny the Younger in his natural history book in 80BC. Subsequently, from the French Revolution until the end of the 19th century, winegrowing developed continually. Nobles and ecclesiastics owned most of the winegrowing sites that are reputed today, and made sure they flourished.

Today, 1,900 hectares of vineyards produce wines that continue to nurture a long tradition of excellence, making the most of quite a complex soil that combines marl, clay and calcareous scree.

Find out more: http://www.jura-vins.com/

 

Climate

Travail de taille en hiver - Château d’Arlay © CIVJThe Jura’s vineyards are among France’s northern vineyards, along with those of Champagne, Alsace and Burgundy. The climate is semi-continental and climatic variations can be brutal. The average annual temperature ranges between 11° and 13°C. There are between 1,700 and 1,900 hours of sunshine per year. Summers in the Jura are generally hot and dry. Vineyards face south or south-west to benefit from maximum sunshine and protection from winds blowing from the south-east and the north. The spring is often rainy, contributing to rainfall averages in the order of 1,150 mm per year in Le Revermont. Although the winegrowing region is small in size, it features quite contrasted microclimates due to the morphology of the land - exposure to the sun, altitude and slope. So grape varieties are selected accordingly – early, such as the Poulsard and the Pinot, or later such as the Savagnin and the Trousseau.

Terroir

Coucher de soleil sur les vignes de Pupillin © CIVJ - Xavier ServolleIn their search for quality, winegrowers in the Jura very soon recognised the relationship between the quality of a wine and the characteristics of the land. Above and beyond the aspects of a terroir that can be quantified and analysed (geology, pedology, climate), the role man can play at the heart of the terroir is of obvious importance to them, which explains their premonitory initiatives in favour of AOCs. Vines grow on very old land here, coloured by the formation of the Jura mountains. Limestone dominates. This permeable and soluble rock is very favourable to vines, in particular to the varieties that grow in the Jura. Furthermore, slopes that back onto the calcareous plateau have quite complex soil - a blend of different marls (blue, grey, red, black from the Middle and Upper Lias), clays from the Trias, and calcareous scree. These marls, combined with cliff scree from the Bajocien and clay from the Lias, provide the best land for vines in the Jura. 

Art de vivre

Moment convivial autour d’un crémant © CIVJ – Henrick MONNIERFrom winter holidays to the grape harvest and the rich colours of autumn, the winegrowing part of the Jura is always keen to welcome visitors. Landscapes of rare beauty change their finery as the seasons advance, and palettes of red, white and rosé wines - not forgetting the famous yellow Jura wines – add to the gourmet delights and the attractions of Jura and Savoy. For there is always a door that opens into a warm and welcoming home, where the kitchen is the centre of gravity.

 

Languedoc

Among the nineteen Languedoc appellations that unfurl across 40,000 hectares of vineyards, no two wines are alike. The only common denominator since Antiquity is the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean is to thank for the mild, bright winters, the russet of hot, dry summers, the fragrance of scrubland and the winds carrying the sea air. In 30 years, man has totally transformed winegrowing in Languedoc. Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah now top the bill when new vines are planted. Fermenting different grape varieties separately - plus the art of then assembling them – and growing methods, shape Languedoc AOCs, producing structured, full-bodied wines.

Find out more: http://www.languedoc-wines.com 

Climate

In Languedoc, the southernmost region in the land, the climate is mainly Mediterranean. Summers are very hot and dry. Autumns and springs are mild, although morning frosts are sometime seen into the month of April. Winters are mild and sunny with temperatures barely dipping below 0°C. Rainfall levels are low (among the lowest in France in some communes) and the Tramontane wind is omnipresent, drying the vines and warding off disease. It is an ideal climate for growing vines. But the Mediterranean’s grasp loosens in contact with the oceanic climate in the far west of the region, in the appellations of Cabardès and Malepère in particular. The climate here is transitional: Atlantic mildness meets the intensity of the Mediterranean.

Terroir

In Nîmes, Béziers, Narbonne, Perpignan and Carcassonne the terroirs are very different: vast terraces of smooth pebbles, sandstone and marl, limestone and shale, clay soil, pudding stone, sandy soil, molasse, etc. These are plus points that give each appellation in the Languedoc its unique specificities. This diversity of soil gives rise to a whole range of very different wines, with countless aromatic variations – sometimes even within the same appellation. In general, sand and calcareous soils of sedimentary origin are predominant along the coast whereas shale comes from the mountains.







Art de vivre

Languedoc: an intercultural and gastronomic adventure through centuries of history... A journey from north to south takes us from the Roman town of Nîmes, with hints of the Camargue and the Cévennes, to Montpellier, offering an admirable historical heritage and an outstanding environment. Then comes Béziers, a town that has endured 27 centuries of history peppered with periods of prosperity, revolt and massacre. Next: Narbonne, described as a little Rome. And finally Carcassonne, boasting the biggest medieval fortress-town in Europe. This historical cultural melting pot stands close to Spain and is enveloped by the Mediterranean, ensuring that the Languedoc region embraces the world and cultivates its long tradition of hospitality.

 
 

Provence

From Arles to Nice, Provence consists in a series of idyllic sites uniting the sea and the mountains, surrounded by vineyards that wallow in sunshine. Art, history, geography and culture are everywhere you turn – and not only during the major festivals organised all summer long. Famous for its fields of lavender and its rosé wines, of which it is the world’s biggest producer, Provence also has a plentiful but more secret supply of reds and whites that delight knowledgeable enthusiasts. 

Find out more: http://www.vinsdeprovence.com/ 

Climate

Provence is famous for the intense blue of its sky. It was no fluke that Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso loved to spend time there! The violent Mistral wind that blows 150 days a year is not only conducive to good painting conditions: it also dries the air, keeping the atmosphere healthy for the vines and keeping disease at bay. It also destroys the clouds and allows the sun to shine for over 3,000 hours a year, a record in France. There are, however, geographical variations in this Mediterranean climate: a colder influence can be felt inland, where the nights are cooler, particularly as altitude increases. At the other end of the scale, by the sea, the sun’s rays are stronger, which is ideal for some grapes, such as Mourvèdre.

Terroir

The winegrowing zone stretches from the Southern Alps to the sea shore, from Marseille to Italy, and thus offers a wide variety of terroirs. Whether terraces high above the Mediterranean Sea along an inland valley, or in the Haut Var, crumbling rock gives the wines finesse and character. Limestone is more marked in the west of the region towards Aix, Cassis and Bandol. To the east, on the other hand, shale and sandstone predominate due to closer proximity to the Alps. Grape varieties adapt to the geological conditions and microclimate on each terroir and are assembled into a very wide range of white, rosé and red wines.

Art de vivre

Life in Provence is as open and colourful as its cuisine. All year long the sun shines down on magnificent landscapes so life mainly takes place outdoors, in the shade of chestnut trees. Inland from the towns on the Mediterranean coast, the hinterland is packed with surprises - walks through untamed nature and countless perfectly preserved villages. Provençale cuisine gives pride of place to vegetables and herbs, fish and olive oil. It is also enthusiastic about lamb from the Southern Alps and even has North African influences. Wines from Provence are the perfect partners for such flavoursome and spicy gastronomy - and have been for more than 2,600 years.    

Roussillon

Roussillon, a province that joined France in 1659, became the Pyrénées Orientales (Eastern Pyrenees) département in 1790. Vines have grown here for over a thousand years. The land is blessed by the gods. Between the sea and the mountains, this amphitheatre opens eastwards onto the Mediterranean and is edged by three massifs: the Corbières to the north, the Pyrenees with Mont Canigou to the west, and Albères to the south. Three rivers (the Agly, the Têt and the Tech) flow through and split up the terroirs, which offer surprising variety, reflecting a constant quest for quality. Indeed, after the phylloxera crisis, Roussillon’s winegrowers planted noble grape varieties, a policy crowned with AOPs for Rivesaltes, Banyuls, Collioure and Côtes du Roussillon.

Find out more: http://www.vins-du-roussillon.com

Climate

The climate in Roussillon is marked by a dry summer season and a rainy period in autumn and at the start of spring. In this Mediterranean climate, rainfall averages at 500 to 600 mm/yr, particularly in autumn. Thanks to mild winters, hot summers, and the highest annual averages in France for sunshine (2,531 hours) and temperature (15°C), vines are happy in Roussillon. Seven winds sweep the region (Tramontane, Canigounenc, Spanish, Levant, Narbonnais and North) speeding up evaporation from the ground and the vines. The very dry summer period is conducive to ripening the grapes.

Terroir

Roussillon is unique in possessing very varied geological structures and microclimates that enable each grape variety to find the spot that suits it best and to express its personality.

All along the Agly Valley in the north, the vineyards are steeply sloping, which suits vines down to the ground! Maury AOPs (dry and Vin Doux Naturels) are to be found all around the village of Maury on black shale and shale marl.

The plain is mainly made up of stony ground, smooth pebbles, sandy clay soils and red clay. In the south of Roussillon, where the Pyrenees fall into the Mediterranean, the Banyuls-Collioure terroir is composed of shale terraces all the way down to the sea.

Art de vivre

They say in Roussillon that there are not only four seasons, but also a succession of unexpected summers and springs right in the middle of autumn and winter! Mediterranean produce (wines, fruit, vegetables, fish) rub shoulders with Pyrenean specialities (cattle, farm produce, charcuterie) and unite harmoniously in delicate – or more rustic – dishes in Catalonian gastronomy.

Catalonian cuisine typically embraces a wide range of produce; as a cooking style it suffices in itself. It favours savoury/sweet and sweet/sour contrasts and specific culinary techniques such as "sofregit" and "picada". A Catalonian is "llaminer", i.e. fond of tasty sweet recipes.

Savoy

© CIVSAt the crossroads of French, Swiss and Italian influences, Savoy has been devoted to winegrowing for a very long time. Its vineyards receive regular sunshine and offer a wide diversity of growing conditions. They happily lend themselves to the production of wine, the first traces of which date back to Roman colonisation. After the phylloxera crisis which, here as elsewhere, almost destroyed all of the vines, producers managed to breathe life back into their vineyards in a spirit that corresponds to that of the region: mildness and finesse at the service of shared pleasure.  

Find out more: http://www.vindesavoie.net

Climate

© CIVSVines fear neither snow nor frost as long as the sun is shining to ripen the clusters of grapes. This is the case in Savoy, where the climate is harsh in winter but generous in summer, with beautifully sunny autumns. Vines planted on the best soil can soak up the sun in wonderful conditions. We are a far cry here from the vast stretches of vines to be found in the South of France. Here vines are only planted where the climate guarantees them maximum sunshine and warmth. Vineyards are therefore usually on south- and south-west-facing slopes, with a sufficient incline to maximise the effectiveness of the sun’s rays. Man has learned over the ages to recognise and exploit the subtleties of the region’s microclimates.

Terroir

© CIVSVineyards in Savoy make up a delicate mosaic of micro terroirs. Not always close together, they are nevertheless all located in the best spots for growing vines. The terroirs occupy land in the valleys, or cling to the foothills of the Alps. And the vines prefer calcareous clay soil here, facing south-east or south-west, all the better to capture the sun’s energy.

Art de vivre

© CIVSThe quality of life in Savoy is outstanding: exquisite landscapes featuring countryside and mountains, combined with a serenity that is light years from the stress of city life. Savoy offers immediate escape. The excellence of its farm produce, including wines and cheeses, such as Beaufort d’Alpages, has shaped a mouth-watering tradition that still thrives. And its palette of red, white and rosé wines is one of the main gourmet experiences and attractions of Savoy. 

South-West

Paysage Vignes & Pyrénées - le vignoble de l’Armagnac © Michel Carossio / Collection BNIArmagnacBetween the Aveyron and the Basque Country, edged to the south by the Pyrenees and to the north by the Massif Central, the winegrowing region in the South-West of France covers 500 km² shared out among 12 départements. It was born of a political decision by several small independent winegrowers motivated by their common ambition of quality and recognition. Long in the shadow of their powerful neighbour, Bordeaux, these producers joined forces to raise their profile, with a taste for hard work as their common denominator, nature in their hearts, and the ambition to reach the highest level. On the strength of this passionate heritage, wines from the South-West form a family of very different wines, with very sweet wines, fruity whites and heady reds.

This region at the heart of Gascony is also home to Armagnac vineyards - 15,000 hectares unfurl mainly across the gentle, sun-drenched slopes of the Gers, but also the Landes and the Lot-et-Garonne.

Find out more:

www.france-sudouest.com/fr

www.armagnac.fr

 

Climate

Wines from the South-West benefit from an oceanic climate with continental tendencies: very hot summers, a mild, sunny autumn, almost like an Indian summer, and cool and rainy winters and springs. All in all, the perfect climate for vines! Rainfall is limited, apart from near the Basque Country, where the westernmost vineyards have to choose well-drained ground. Autumns are so fine that sweet wines can be made from overripe or botrytised grapes. This is the case in Jurançon, for example. Although the climate is the same for all of the vineyards, the huge diversity of soil plays a determining role in this region, giving wines with very different personalities.

Terroir

In the South-West, the jigsaw puzzle of vineyards covers a triangle with sides measuring 300 km. But mixed farming and cattle breeding separate the terroirs, giving them very distinct personalities. The many terroirs put their specific growing conditions to use to show off their specificities. Calcareous soil on plateaux and silica and limestone in valleys, along with gravel, enable wines from the South-West to express very distinct styles and to vary considerably from one spot to the next. This land of contrasts suits the region’s many AOPs: Bergerac, Côtes de Duras, Côtes du Marmandais, Buzet, Cahors, Gaillac and Brulhois.

Such diversity is also characteristic of the Armagnac vineyards and the three regions where it is produced: Bas-Armagnac to the west, composed of acidic sandy-silty soil ("sables fauves" or tawny sands) giving delicate and fruity brandies; Armagnac-Tenarèze, in the centre, where the calcareous-clay soil produces more rustic eaux-de-vie to be savoured after prolonged ageing; and Haut-Armagnac, to the south and the east, where few vines remain.

Art de vivre

The South-West is an agricultural region that produces a host of produce used in tasty, homely cooking. From tuna from St Jean de Luz to duck from Les Landes via fruit from the Garonne Valley, the region is envied. And this is where you’ll find the best rugby teams, Toulouse in particular. Spain behind the Pyrenees has exported its strong bullfighting culture, with the famous bullfights in Dax. In short, the South-West likes to party. All of these activities appeal to the many new arrivals to the region, drawn from the UK to live a quiet life, or from the north of France to work in high-tech sectors in and around Toulouse. Let’s not forget that snow in the Pyrenees, a sea and an ocean, constitute quite a unique range of leisure activities in France.

 
 

Loire Valley

The Loire River is the longest river in France, running for 1,000 km. Vines enjoy its company. The landscapes and the climatic zones in the vast Loire Valley vary a lot between Nantes and Roanne, with a very oceanic regime on the sea front and a marked continental influence inland. As a result, the landscapes are very different, as are the incredibly diverse wines from the region, despite all the vineyards having one important facet in common: their latitude gives the wines a refreshing, northern tone. This is the third region in France for quality wines, with dry, sweet and sparkling varieties.

Find out more: 

http://www.vinsvaldeloire.fr

www.vins-centre-loire.com

Climate

The Loire Valley is known for the mildness of its climate. During mild winters successive Atlantic depressions bring rain and humidity. In the summer, temperatures remain reasonably, but not excessively, hot. The Loire marks the northern limit of winegrowing, due to its modest level of sunshine and generally high level of humidity. Of course, the 500 kilometres along which the River Loire flows towards the east, sketch out a less homogenous ensemble than it might seem, with major microclimatic differences in terms of sunshine, orientation and rainfall. Northern grape varieties are comfortable on the banks of the Loire, where they enjoy the benefits of unique luminosity and have been chosen because they have adapted to the climate.

Terroir

© BIVCThe River Loire flows across France, so there is no hope of the soil being the same in all of the winegrowing regions along its banks. In the far west of this winegrowing region, the wines of Nantes are produced from granite, shale and gneiss because close to the Armorican Massif, the oldest massif of all. In Anjou, soils are either shale or, more to the east, calcareous, because located on the fringe of the Parisian basin. Around Tours, the soil can vary greatly with alluvial, clay, calcareous clay and sandy components. Finally, towards Sancerre, the soil is mainly calcareous clay. Because of the diversity of the soil types in the Loire Valley, grape varieties form a very big family. Each time, they adapt to the soil and to the terroir on which they are planted, and are usually vinified separately.

Art de vivre

The inhabitants of the Loire – "Ligériens" as they are called in French – love wine. Their cuisine is delicate and distinguished, based on a very wide range of ingredients. Just imagine for an instant that fish and seafood are a must, that there are many goat’s cheeses, that the climate is just as conducive to growing fruit as to breeding quality cattle, that the vegetables are tender and ready early in the season. And don’t forget that the kings of France with their countless châteaux put their hearts into cultivating a fine tradition of sophistication and stylish living in the Loire... The history of France owes a lot to the Loire, and an outstanding quality of life is its heritage. So if you enjoy the finer things in life, villages with slate roofs and formal gardens, let this long, gently-flowing river be your guide.

 

Rhône Valley

© Christophe Grilhé As the Alps peter out, the Rhône abruptly heads full south in the direction of the Mediterranean. At this strategic point, occupied by Lyon and its outskirts, we leave behind the northern mists, the cold and the dull skies, and turn towards the sunshine, the warm scents of the countryside and a succession of vineyards brimming with sunshine. This symbolic southward trail appears to have been mapped out by the geography: the river follows a narrow valley between the Alps and the Massif Central that the tracks of the TGV fast train and the motorway also follow. They carry a stream of travellers yearning for holidays and sunshine. With a few vestiges of the continental climate lingering in the northern part, the winegrowing area of the Rhône Valley bares itself to the Mediterranean sun and the Mistral wind - much to the pleasure of all those who love good wine.

Find out more: http://www.vins-rhone.com/ 

Climate

From Lyon to Arles, along more than 250 kilometres, the Rhône guides the French from work to holiday, and the change in climate along the way is brutal. The Mediterranean climate is strictly limited to the southern part. The summers are hot and sunny and the legendary Mistral wind blows every cloud from the sky. It also cleans the vines and enhances the health of the grapes. As a result, the wines are round and full-bodied with high alcohol content. In the north, towards Côte Rôtie and Condrieu, the climate is more continental with Mediterranean influences. Winters are cold and summers hot. The wines have greater acidity and cellaring potential, and their tannins are more virile.

Terroir

There are all types of winegrowing terroirs along the length of the Rhône Valley. The most famous is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, consisting in big smooth pebbles that originated in the Alps; they store heat all day and release it at night. But way up in the north, there are steep terraces containing shale and granite that originated in the Massif Central. And elsewhere, the terroirs are mainly calcareous clay. In fact, the Rhône Valley ties together three massive geological ensembles; the Alps, the Massif Central and calcareous plains. Alluvium swept along by the river settled along the way - the finest in the north and the bulkiest right at the far end of the valley. The result is complex soil that gives the wines their unique personalities – even within one and the same appellation.

Art de vivre

The art de vivre in the Rhône Valley is marked by tourist attractions and outstandingly beautiful natural sites. We won’t mention Avignon or Orange or their history or their festivals or the animated atmosphere on their lively streets. But we will savour the smell of the countryside around Mont Ventoux, scrubland in Grignan and the magnificent villages of Vaison-la-Romaine and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. And what about the well-kept secret of the Luberon, the ochre earth of Roussillon and the untamed, enchanting gorges of the Ardèche? The Mistral wind blows through this region, bending the trees, but cypress give the countryside that sought-after style, heralding good weather and holidays.

© Christophe Grilhé

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