France remains the greatest wine nation in the world.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Shiraz and Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc … Other countries have planted them, but the role models are all French. And France offers numerous other treasures, including Pacherenc de Vic Bilh, Bouzy Rouge and Vin de Pays des Côtes de Brian …
Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne may make the headlines, but France has so much more to offer. While the astonishing diversity of French wines can be confusing, it's definitely worth the effort to stray off the beaten track.
OK, so fortified wines aren't a strongpoint, but otherwise, where wine is concerned, France has it all. For elegant, ageworthy reds, head to Bordeaux. For fuller, spicier reds, there's the Rhône Valley, home to Châteauneuf du Pape and Hermitage. For ethereal, unbelievably fragrant reds and complex nut-and-buttery whites, try Burgundy. If it's full-bodied spicy whites you're after, look to Alsace, while for something crisper and fresher, the Sauvignon-based wines of the Loire (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are the big two) are ideal.
Where value is concerned, the best wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon along the Mediterranean coast offer character and quality at bargain-basement prices. For sheer weirdness, look at the whites of Jura in the east, and the wild reds of the southwest. And of course there's the world's greatest sparkling wine, Champagne. Complex? Confusing? Yes, but this is a country every wine lover should get to know better.
Another of France's major contributions to the wine world is oak - French oak barrels are considered the best storage vessels for wine.
What are France's most widely planted red and white grapes?
Carignan and Ugni Blanc