Viniculture in the world's most famous region goes back to the Ancient Greeks, who began cultivating vines as early as 500 BC. The Romans then laid the first stone towards today's vineyards by growing vines on all the climatically optimal slopes in the great river valleys. The most famous regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne and Alsace were built up by the Romans. After the Romans, the monks of the Dark Ages supported and expanded viniculture in this region. They classified most of the now-famous Chateaux.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the wine industry reached a peak in the coastal regions. At the end of the 18th century the phylloxa vastatix caused a sever decline in production. The AOC laws were introduced in 1932. The increase in quantity and quality, which continues today, only began after World War II.
The many different soil- and climate conditions cause the variety of French wines. The most famous regions are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Rhône and Loire, where most of France's quality wines originate.
A quarter of the country's wine production comes from Languedoc-Roussillon.
60% of the vineyards are cultivated with red vines. The rest is made up of white wines, rosé wines and Mousseux. About one third are quality wines.
Among the red wines is a selection which reaches from the aristocratic Bordeaux to the light and sweet Beaujolais.
The white wines are either dry like the Chablis or sweet like the Sauternes. In the Champagne region they are often processed to sparkling wine.
There are four classes that explain origin and method of production:
<b>1. AC (AOC)</b> - Appellation d'origine Contrôllée; The borders of the region, the vines, the harvest per hectare, the production method, the chemical analysis and if necessary, the distillation are controlled by the State.
<b>2. VDQS</b> - Vin Delimité de Qualité Supérieur; The distinction between the 26 regions are similar to those of the AOC, but the demands aren't as high.
<b>3. Vin de Pays</b> (country wine) - Wines from the 140 regions of this class also have certain requirements to meet.
<b>4. Vin de Table</b> (table wine) - Wines from the lowest of these classes have the low alcohol content of 8.5% If France isn't specifically labeled as the country of origin, a wine of this classes can come from any EU country.