France vineyards cover 787 000 hectares. It has the third largest vineyard in the world after China, second now and still growing. The title of biggest vineyard is still for Spain. Each year France disputes the title of world biggest wine producer with Italy and Spain. According to OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine), France was the second biggest wine producer in 2017 after Italy.
The appellation system is based on AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protégée), IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) and Vins de France (generic wines). The main wine producing regions are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, Champagne, the Loire Valley, Alsace, Rhône, Provence and Corsica (cf. our wine region maps below).
600 BC : Wine growing appears in France with the creation of Massilia, Marseille, by the Greeks. From the close suburbs of the town where the first vineyards were cultivated by the greeks, the viticulture spreads in Gaul to Provence (Ile de Martigues, Lançon) and Languedoc (Port de Lattes) in the Vth century BC.
50 BC : The vineyards have moved north in the Rhône Valley and reached Lyon.
70 AD : Vines are cultivated in Bordeaux area.
92 AD : Domitian, 11th Emperor of the Roman Empire, bans the plantation of new vineyards in Italy and orders that half the existing vines be uprooted in the Roman provinces. It comes after the destruction of Pompeii area vineyards in the Vesuvius Eruption of 79 AD and the market unbalances resulting from vine plantations in Roma area in the following years leading to a shortage of cereals.
276 AD : Marcus Aurelius Probus, 47th Emperor of the Roman Empire, repeals Domitian's edict allowing vineyards to be planted removing any restrictions on the development of viticulture.
IIIrd AD : Vineyards reach the Loire Valley and Jura.
IVth AD : Vines are cultivated in Ile de France, Champagne and Moselle.
476 AD : The end of the Roman Empire is the dawn of a new era for french vineyards which will survive under the control and security of the clergy.
Middle Ages : With the Christian Church need of sacramental wine and the fear aroused by the monks during the barbarians invasions, monasteries and abbeys became the caretakers of the vineyards and the winemaking tradition in France.
1152 AD : The wine trade between Bordeaux and England increases dramatically following the marriage of the heir to the Duchy of Aquitaine, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Henry Plantagenet, who will become King Henry II of England.
Some Geography :
The main wine regions of France are Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Corsica, Jura, Languedoc, Loire, Provence, Rhône, Savoy and the South West of France.
There are currently 339 AOC / AOP (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée / Appellation d'Origine Protégée) and 74 IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) for french wines.