Your Guide to French Grapes
France is the oldest and one of the biggest wine-growing nations globally, and the demand for French grapes is increasing every day. Millions of people acquired the exquisite taste of French wine over the years, and now entire generations turn to this delicacy to enjoy their meals.
The popularity of French wine comes as no surprise as winemakers in different regions of the country have been mastering the art for thousands of years. Reportedly, about 800,000 hectares of vines are regularly planted in the various areas of France to grow grapes that can be turned into wine.
As winemaking is an age-old art, there have been many reforms in practice, and many new types of French grapes have come into the scene. Depending on the area and climate, you’ll find a variety of French grapes on display at a local vendor shop. For the scope of this article, we will talk about White grapes, red grapes, and various French wine regions that play a significant role in making the nation’s wine industry an immaculate success.
Read on to find out more.
French White Grapes:
Contrary to as the name may suggest, French white grapes are not white. Instead, they have a greenish shade that differentiates them from the rest.
The many types of white grapes are:
- Chardonnay: Inarguably the most famous white grape in France as well as all over the globe. It is cultivated in most regions across the country and makes delicious wine.
- Pinot Gris: Incredibly popular in Alsace, this white wine is also known as Pinot Grigio.
- Pinot Blanc: Responsible for a fan-favourite sparkling wine, this grape type has an early ripe lifecycle.
- Sauvignon Blanc: This grape has an acidic nature that plays notes of harmony with gooseberry is native to France. You’ll find many people using it to make wine in the Loire Valley.
- Pinot Meunier: Pinot Meunier holds a special place among French grapes as it is one of the three varieties allowed in the manufacture of Champagne. It used to be the most widespread grape type for Champagne, but Pinot Noir has overtaken it now.
- Marsanne: Marsanne made itself known in the northern region of Rhone Valley, where its popularity seeped into Southern Rhone and then to France. It shows good ageing potential, and many winemakers prefer it over other varieties.
- Melon de Bourgogne: The primary ingredient in the ever-so-popular Muscadet, this grape is often used to make dry white wines. It also holds a stand-out place as the most popular type of grape used in the Loire.
- Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains: This grape has travelled from Italy or Greece to the French land. Many people argue that it is possibly the first French-grown grape.
- Chenin Blanc: An essential piece of arsenal in the books of many winemakers, Chenin Blanc is famous and native to the Loire Valley.
- Semillon: A unique grape with golden colour, often found in southwest regions of France.
- Roussanne: Roussanne is famous for its herbal nuances and is native to Rhone.
- Viognier: It exhibits a peachy/apricot aroma and can often be found in warm climate regions.
- Muscadelle: This grape is the main constituent of many sweet wines due to its fruity texture and fresh aroma.
French Red Grapes:
Similar to white grapes, red grapes also have a misleading name. They are not red but instead have a black tone, often known as French black wine grape.
The many types of red grapes are:
- Pinot Noir: Dating back to the 14th century, Pinot Noir has a rich history. It provides a perfect combination of taste, versatility, aroma, and freshness, which is the primary reason it is one of the most popular grapes used to make Champagne.
- Cabernet Franc: Originating from Spain, Cabernet Franc is widely popular in France too.
- Malbec: Often used to make Bordeaux wine, this dark grape was incredibly famous in southwest regions of France.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: The most well-known wine globally is made using Cabernet Sauvignon due to its firm tannins.
- Gamay Noir: A type of grape that ripens early and exhibits an acidic, fruity taste.
- Merlot: Often used to make blending wine, Merlot is a full-bodied grape
- Mourvedre: This grape grows in warmer climates and has a late-ripe lifecycle
Overview of French Wine Regions:
To give you a more transparent overview of all the French regions famous for wine and grapes, we will discuss each one separately. Take a look:
Alsace is one of the very well-known regions in France and worldwide for its exquisite white wine. However, this region also produces other variants such as rose and red wine, the first choice of many wine enthusiasts. Being at the corner of Eastern France, bordering Germany, Alsace has brought in some foreign traditions and grapes to their culture that helped refine their winemaking practice over several thousand years. The most common grapes in Alsace are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Gewurztraminer.
Beaujolais is famous for its red wine that comes primarily from the Gamay grapes. Located in central-eastern France, this region produces many appellations of wine that have unique pairing and compatibility with various types of meals.
Bordeaux is perhaps the most history-rich region for globally known wines, exports, and popularity. Being a red-wine region, they have created many legendary bottles that are incredibly famous in the UK, such as Chateau Margaux and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. The infamous wines come from the highest quality grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabaret Franc.
Apart from red wines, Bordeaux also produces an excellent variety of sweet and white wines that have made a name for themselves all over the globe. A fun fact for all readers; Emperor Napoleon ordered a wine classification in 1885, and Chateau was the standard against which all other wines got ranked.
Although not a wine region anymore, Brittany has seen its fair share of wines and has a rich winemaker history. Currently, we are witnessing their resurrection as many people have started small wineries to produce and sell their wine.
Burgundy is one of the largest wine regions in France and offers a wide variety of wine and winemaking techniques. Due to its diversity, you can find both white and red wines from Vineyards with the most significant number of appellations. From insanely expensive wines to budget-friendly delicacies, Burgundy has got it all.
The red wine is typically made from Pinot Noir, and the white wine comes from Chardonnay. Many people also use Aligote and other types of grapes to make white wine.
Champagne holds a special place in the heart of the French wine industry with its forever iconic sparkling wine. This region is in eastern France and has the coldest temperature out of all wine regions. You’ll find varieties of white and rose wines at every store if you happen to take a walk around Champagne.
The island-based wine region of Corsica produces wine for its consumption. As the area is still growing its roots in the wine business, there is much to do for them to learn the best practices and make the highest-quality wine.
Jura is a small region that takes most of its inspiration and grape supply from Burgundy. You’ll find many Chardonnay and Pinot Noir-based wines that make an excellent add-on to your meals. Being close to Switzerland, Jura’s climate is very similar to Burgundy too.
Another huge wine region in France is Languedoc-Roussillon. Famous for its cheap wines made in bulk for mainstream usage, this region has the most significant number of vineyards and wineries for mass production.
The Loire is a town located between mountains and stretches along the Loire River over a long distance. Mainly divided into four sub-regions, Loire offers cold-climate wines such as dry, sweet, and sparkling wine while also producing many white and red wine varieties. The grape varieties differ as you move along the river; hence you’ll find different types of wines within this town.
Provence is one of the hottest wine regions in France, which primarily produces rose and red wines. Located in the southeast of France near the Mediterranean, this region offers eight major wine appellations that are well-known all over the country. Like Bordeaux, Provence also has a classification of wines based on their quality.
Another region that has made a significant contribution to the French wine industry is Rhone Valley. Primarily a red-wine producing region, it is located in south-eastern France on the banks of the Rhone River. The area is divided into two sub-regions known as Southern and Northern Rhone that differ in wine variety and composition. However, both sub-regions give tough competition to the Bordeaux red wines to become the community favourite.
Savoy mainly produces a white wine with unique grapes that are native to the region. It is situated in the Alps near the Switzerland border.
South West France
South West France, aka Sud-Quest, is known among wine buyers for its heterogeneous collection of wine products. You’ll find many varieties of red wine that stand side by side with Bordeaux wines in terms of quality. You can also get your hands on some dry or sweet white wine through reliable sources.
French grapes are considered a delicacy worldwide, and the wine sourced from them has a strong reputation among wine enthusiasts and culinary experts. We hope this article helped you understand all there is to know about the types of French grapes, so your next purchase brings the most taste and pleasure to your meals.
Make sure you source your grapes or wine from a reputable vendor and be wary of duplicates/fakes that have plagued the wine market for many years now. Dine well, Adios!
Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.
This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!