Hot on the heels of our guide to French liqueurs comes our next major blog series about French wine. This 8-part guide looks at the 7 main wine-producing regions in France before taking a snapshot of some of the country’s lesser known tipples.

A wine guide to a country that produces over 12.2 million hectolitres of wine a year and boasts almost 3,000 different types of vin is something of a challenge. But over the next few months, we’ll be taking a guided tour round the principal regions to get to the bottom of what’s in their wine bottles. Their taste, the most famous brands, the best vintage years and how to pair the wine for a foodie experience made in heaven.

Like our hotel barge cruises, we’ll be crisscrossing the country to discover wine secrets in Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc, the Loire Valley and the Rhône Valley. Our last stop will take a whirlwind visit from Lorraine to Jura and on to Corsica as we reveal those French wines that should be on your must-try list.

Step by step guide to French wine:

French wine facts

French wine

  • Grapevines cover 750,000 hectares in France – that’s the equivalent of 1 million rugby pitches.
  • France is the world’s top exporter of wine.
  • Wine is the country’s second most important export after aeronautical engineering.
  • There are some 10,000 wine cellars in France, visited by over 10 million tourists.
  • Just 16% of French people drink wine every day.
  • In 1975, the French drank on average 100 litres of wine each a year. In 2016, consumption had dropped to less than 42 litres a year.
  • The most expensive bottle of French wine ever was a 1947 Cheval-Blanc from Bordeaux sold at auction for £192,000 in 2010.

(Facts from Vin et Société 2016).

Characteristics of French wine

French wine facts vineyardGrapes grow practically everywhere in France. In fact, there are wine-producing areas throughout the entire country apart from the north coast. Planted among the 750,000 hectares of vineyards are around 200 varieties of grapes. Some are household names such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir while others such as Melon de Bourgogne and Mourvèdre aren’t quite as familiar.

The all-important terroir

More than the variety of grape, French wine is about the terroir. This term describes the soil conditions, climate and altitude – all fundamental factors in the ultimate bouquet and taste of the wine. The terroir part of the label on the bottle tells you where the wine is from.

All about crus

Along with terroir, cru also tells you a lot about a French wine. Meaning ‘growth’ (from the French croître to grow), a cru tells you where and how a wine has been produced. The term refers to a particular vineyard and wine producer, and indicates quality wine.

Grand cru – wines don’t come better than grand cru. It designates the highest quality vineyard and wine production in a region, particularly in Burgundy and Alsace. Invented in 1855 for the Universal Exhibition in Paris as a way of distinguishing Burgundy wines, the term is now synonymous with a truly bon vin.

Premier cru – this term denotes a wine not quite as prestigious as a grand cru, but just a notch below. So, expect a good wine from a bottle with premier cru on the label.

Cru bourgeois – this label was introduced in 1920 used for wines not included in the other crus listings. While cru bourgeois wines aren’t quite in the same league, the label guarantees quality at usually a much lower price.

Types of French wine

French wine Under the umbrella of the Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) system, called Appellation d’Origine Protegée (AOP) in Europe, France classifies its many wines into three types. This division helps protect the best wines from unregulated competition and gives the consumer a helping hand by clearly denoting quality levels.

Unlike terroir, AOP doesn’t tell you anything about the region or the type of wine (red, white, rosé or sparkling); but it does reveal the quality of the wine. And to do this, it divides wine into three categories:

Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC)

The AOC label denotes the best possible classification for a wine. Originally invented in 1923 to safeguard the Chateauneuf du Pape label, AOC is now the most highly sought-after category. Some 364 French wines have AOC status and to maintain it, they must fulfil strictly regulated conditions on production method and volumes.

Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP)

Further down the classification table, IGP wines represent around 15% of French wines. The IGP label has replaced the vins du pays category for the best everyday wines. Unlike AOCs, the IGP label clearly denotes a specific geographical area.

Vin de table

Needing no introduction, this label says it all. Table wine aspires to little more than to provide a cheap glass of plonk or a touch of alcohol in your boeuf bourguignon.

More information about French wine

French wine

Visit French Wine offers comprehensive information on wine tourism from wine cellar visits to top tips from master sommeliers.

For a detailed map of French wine regions with information on terroirs and vineyards, get a copy of Vins de France. Regional maps with even more detail are also available.

But the proof lies in the drinking

French wineFrench Waterways hotel barge cruises always include French wines. Some devote whole weeks to its homage, to the delight of wine aficionados from all corners of the earth. Spending a whole week, learning from the domain owners themselves is a huge treat. Whether it’s cruising through a particular wine region to sample the best local labels or tasting top French wines as you dine in style on board, hotel barging takes the world of vin to the next level. Book your cruise now. Here’s to votre santé!

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wine cruises

We all have a favourite wine, or wines. But we never say never to discovering something new! So we delight in bringing you the best of wine cruises and wine tasting from our luxury hotel barges. You’ll be shipping cases home before you’ve even left the cellar.

A good wine tasting will help you discover new ways to match food and wine. And you’re bound to build friendships while savouring the very best a region has to offer.

Naturally, some of these wine cruises book up fast. Let me know if a particular one appeals and we’ll see if we can secure your booking quickly. Ask me for details.

Saint Louis’ Bordeaux wine cruise

saint louis wine cruisesTake a week to explore, taste and absorb St Emilion and Bordeaux wines on this spectacular cruise. Spend a day in St Emilion tasting the Grand Vins de Bordeaux. Meet resident wine expert, Patrick Marchal, your guide and font of Bordeaux wine knowledge. Discuss terroir, Bordeaux classification and the technique of wine tasting, before testing delicious younger ’boutique’ wines. A visit to Chateau Beau-Sejour Duffaut Lagarosse includes exclusive private access to 13th century cellars at one of only 18 chateaux classified as Premier Grand Cru Classé.

Excursions can also include visits to a third generation wine barrel maker and an Armagnac distillery. While dinners aboard Saint Louis are perfectly matched with the wines of the region.

Email me to book the Saint Louis wine experience

C’est la Vie’s wine cruises & Champagne tastings

c'est la vie wine cruises

The fascinating excursions from C’est la Vie take in Chablis, Sancerre and Champagne as well as dinner in a Michelin star restaurant. Her Burgundy wine cruises include a visit to Chablis and private tasting of the region’s famous white wine. Her Upper Loire cruise from Sancerre to Montargis soaks up the famous sauvignon blanc at an exclusive tasting. While her Champagne cruise takes in Dom Perignon’s Hautvillers, Moet & Chandon in Epernay and beautiful Reims, where you’ll be spoilt for choice of Champagne.

Choose from three itineraries or ask me for more details

Après Tout’s Burgundy wine wanderings

hospice beaune burgundy wine cruises

Choose Après Tout‘s Canal de Bourgogne cruise from St Jean de Losne to Pont d’Ouche cruise to submerse yourself in French wine. Lunch on the terrace overlooking the vines followed by a cellar tour and tasting with owner Madame Drouhin Larouze in the village of Gevrey Chambertin. Explore the ‘Route du Grand Crus’ via river while you sip on many of the local wines.

PLUS: while in Beaune, opt for an exclusive private tasting at the famous cellars of Joseph Drouhin.

Choose your Après Tout cruise.

Exclusive Minervois wine tasting with Clair de Lune

claire de lune wine cruises

Clair de Lune‘s Canal du Midi wine cruises go out of their way to incorporate wine. Cruising from Beziers to Homps they take in the very best of this iconic route including a last-day guided tour of Carcassonne. A visit to ancient Minerve includes a private Minervois tasting at Domaine Massamier La Mignarde – a producer of fine Minervois wines.

PLUS: this new 2018 cruise includes a visit to the extraordinary Oppidum d’Enserune.

Choose your Clair de Lune cruise

As one of the world’s top culinary destinations it’s no surprise that France lends itself magnificently to blogging about food. In the French Waterways latest round-up of French blogs we go foodie and pick six of the best about French cuisine. From simple to sophisticated, from entrées to pastries with a good dose of restaurant reviews in between, these French food blogs cover it all. And they’re guaranteed to set your taste buds watering. Bon appétit!

6 French food blogs

À Manger! 

As French food blogs go, the title of this one couldn’t get any simpler. Spend any time on the site and all you’ll want to do is manger. The virtual child of Mimi Thorisson, Manger showcases life in the rural Médoc and a long, long list of delicious French recipes.

Mimi, of Chinese and French origin, and raised in Hong Kong, took up her blog after she, her Islandic husband and several children and dogs moved from Paris to a rambling farmhouse in south-west France. The area suits foodies down to the ground – as well as one of the top wine-producing areas of France, Médoc has, as Mimi puts it, “all the best on a platter”.  

Inspired by her permanent love affair with food and passion for local produce, Mimi began sharing recipes on her blog in 2012. Five years, two cookbooks and over 270,000 followers on Instagram later, Mimi has built up something of a foodie empire. Manger certainly ranks among the best French food blogs and is, we think, one of the best presented.

Chocolate & Zucchini 

Something of a veteran of French food blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini (or C&Z as author Clotilde Dosoulier calls it) has been around since 2003. Like the rest of the bloggers in this article, Clotilde has passion with a capital ‘P’ for food. But unlike most of the others, she’s French and so has something of a head start in this particular blogosphere.

C&Z is so-called to reflect Clotilde’s take on food. Zucchini because she likes to use fresh, seasonal produce and chocolate to reflect her love of desserts and anything with chocolate in it. Her ultimate aim goes beyond providing a long list of recipes: Clotilde wants to teach and inspire each of her readers to the point that they go solo in the kitchen.

To help you on your way, C&Z offers plenty of inspiration with a jam-packed recipe section. Recipes are usefully divided into meal types by category, season and ingredient. It’ll come as no surprise to discover that chocolate takes up the largest section with no less than 69 recipes.

Critiques et Confidences  

No recipes on this one, but a creative and colourful tribute to la cuisine française in one of the best review French food blogs around. Blogger Clotilde’s feelings for food go beyond mere passion and actually form part of her raison d’être. Not for nothing does she adapt Descartes and declare that “je mange donc je suis”.

The blog is served entirely in French so as well as admiring some seriously stunning photos of French food, you get the chance to brush up on your language skills. Plus, take your food vocabulary to a whole new level.

The blog’s main focus lies in restaurant reviews, mostly in Paris but there’s a fair sprinkling in Lyon and elsewhere too. As you’d expect in a blog about French restaurants, many are high-end (and therefore pricey), but she also reviews less expensive venues and gives a clear idea of prices at the end of each entry. Every critique comes with lots of photos, so good you could almost eat the dishes off the screen.

French Revolution 

Kerry Saretsky definitely started something of a revolution when she created her blog nearly a decade ago. French Revolution aims to bring American and French cuisine together – easy when you’ve got a French mother and father from Brooklyn – but also to show that French cooking isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. The result is a fun blend of recipes, most of which are revolutionarily easy.

The blog includes standard blog entries, but the real focus lies in the recipes. We love how Kerry has categorised them. Not only are they divided into food types but also into how long they take to make. So, if you’re in a rush, click on the 15 minutes tab. Don’t expect a humble croque monsieur though; following Kerry’s recipes you can create a masterpiece – think cassoulet or macaron frappé – even if you just have a quarter of an hour. For more leisurely cooks, there’s plenty in the 60-minute dish tab too.

French Revolution also includes a selection of videos so you can see as well as read how it’s done. And then there’s a fun section, French in a Flash, showing you how to make authentic French dishes in, well, a flash.

Living the sweet life in Paris 

If you like French food to hit the sweet spot, American David Lebovitz’s blog is a must-read. David’s something of a pioneer in the food blogger world since his Living the sweet life in Paris has been around since 2004 when blogging was virtually unheard of.

A pastry chef by training, David offers an eclectic blend of contents on his blog. The homepage takes you right into the heart of Parisian foodie culture with reviews of eateries (bakeries, ice cream parlours, restaurants…). He also lists his favourite places to eat in Paris – insights that are always useful when you’re visiting a city. And his top picks take you on and off the beaten tourist trail.

Then there’s the recipe section. As you’d expect, sweets take centre stage – just the custard recipes run well into double figures. But David also includes savoury recipes so you could easily make a full meal to accompany your pastry or dessert.  And whatever you choose to make you’ll only find what David calls ‘basic, honest ingredients’. French foodie purists will be glad to read that pure butter is definitely one of them.

Thyme for cooking 

Katie Zeller’s blog declares its intentions straight away. “It’s all about the food” says the top banner, although “and life in France” comes as a small caveat. In her years in France, Katie, originally from Minnesota, has battled with both French paperwork and chickens, dual challenges that led her to write her very extensive blog.

But, as she says, it is all about the food. And there’s plenty of it. The blog is divided into handy sections such as Starters, Meat & Fish and Sides so you can easily find inspiration for a meal. All Katie’s recipes share two common denominators: they use healthy food and are simple to follow.

Like so many other expats in France, Katie too has been restoring a property, a process that (again, like so many others) has taken up more than its fair share of time. Unusually, the blog doesn’t share progress updates conventionally; you get a snippet of information or photo at the end of each recipe instead. That means you can’t stay fully up-to-date or get a good idea of where the reno is at, but as Katie says, “it’s all about the food”.

French food blogs as inspiration

Savour the best of what’s showcased on these French food blogs on one of our hotel barge cruises. Simply pick your favourite region, book your cruise and prepare to enjoy delicious food against some stunning river scenery. 

French food blogs pinterest