Wine from France - French Champagne
Wine from France is grown in ten main regions, comprising Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Languedoc-Rousillon, Loire, Rhône and Southwest France. Every year, France produces over 70 million hectolitres of wine and so it is necessary to categorise the wines in order to maintain standards of quality, and to help buyers know what to expect from a wine.
The general classifications for wine from France are as follows, although Bordeaux and Burgundy have slightly different standards:
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) is the classification used to denominate the best wines, in other words, those wines that are produced according to rigid guidelines, such as some wines from Bordeaux.
Appellation d'Origine Vin De Qualité Supérieure (AOVDQS) is used to indicate wines that are not quite as good quality as AOC wines, but that have still been produced in strictly controlled conditions.
Vin de Pays (literally translated as "country wine") are made from a single grape variety, such as one hundred per cent Syrah, and those grapes must be grown in certain limited geographical areas and approved by a professional body to earn the VdP title. This category was introduced in 1979 and has helped Languedoc-Rousillon wines compete with similarly- Labeled wines from the New World.
Vin de Table must have an alcohol content of between eight and fifteen per cent. This kind of wine makes up 70% of France's annual wine production.
In Alsace and with Vin de Pays, wine bottles are Labeled with the grape variety and not the region of origin. In other regions, such as Bordeaux, bottles are Labeled with the place of origin, right down to the very château where the wine was produced. The smaller the denomination, the better quality the wine, thus a Châteaux Margaux AOC complies to stricter guidelines of quality than a Bordeaux AOC.
As a rule of thumb, when you are trying to decide which wine to choose with a certain meal, think about where the dish originates. In France, wines are often developed over many years to complement the regional cuisine; thus Alsace whites are the perfect accompaniment to the heavy Alsatian cuisine, and the light reds produced there complement the many pork dishes.