Wine Shopping: How Many Wines are There in France?
When exploring the French cuisine many people will come across dishes that require wine to pair with your meal, or even to be used as an ingredient. If you plan to visit a vineyard for a tasting event you should also prepare for it by dressing correctly. Visiting them can also sometimes be time-consuming and expensive. Before you start becoming overwhelmed with trying to find the best bottle, you can learn more about the different wines so you can find the one that will be the best for you.
France takes this drink very seriously, in fact, it produces more than 8 billion bottles every year, representing 20% of the world's production! Because of this, it has created a special classification system to help buyers determine which type they would like to enjoy. There are two main sections of this system: AOC and Non-AOC.
AOC/AOP wines are known for being grown with very traditional methods and using old and recognized cépages. The winemakers who adhere to these guidelines are under strict rules as to how they can grow and process the grapes. Nevertheless, all wines from an AOC/AOP do not guarantee the same quality. It ensures a certain style, but the conditions of the vintage, the experience and the individual talent of the winemaker, its terroirs, and its technical equipment make the difference.
AOC stands for Appellation d'Origine Controlée (Controlled Designation of Origin) and protects the wines from a certain area throughout the country. This selection showcases some of the best wines you can try. The winemakers who create this type need to have a certain yield, vine age, and harvesting technique. There are about 360 AOC wines and about 4,5 billion bottles were sold in 2016.
- AOP stands for Appelation d'origine protégée (Protected Designation of Origin) and protects all products coming from a certain area throughout the European Union. AOC is the stepping stone to getting the AOP.
A non-AOC selection is basically one that doesn't match the criteria for the AOC. They are more modern and creative with their harvesting and growing techniques. Some of them may be more expensive and better tasting than the AOC wines, because winemakers tempt to produce the best possible wine from their terroir, even with grape varieties that are not recognized as AOP.
IGP: 74 are registered in 2013, these stand for Indication géographique protégée (Protected Geographic Indication), and they can be obtained if all processes, from harvesting to elaboration of the wine are carried out in the designed geographical area. This certification is based on the reputation of the product, combined with the quality of the terroir (geographical origin).
VSIG: these stand for Vins Sans Indication Géographique (Wines with No Geographical Indication), and they are all the products that do not have a geographical designed origin or quality requirements to meet. Before 2009, they were called vin de table, and vin de pays. They may mark the cépage on their labels, or not.
Richest wine regions
The most productive lands you should visit on if you want to go on a tasting tour to and buy from the vineyards are Bordeaux, Sud-Ouest, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Rhône, Alsace, Savoie, Bourgogne (home of Burgundy), Beaujolais, Loire, Champagne, etc. However, many cavistes around Paris offer these wines you can purchase without traveling so far.
French wine is known to be delicious, but it can also be very confusing to buy sometimes due to the high selection available. You should be able now to narrow down your choices and find the perfect bottle for you.
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