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When starting your wine tasting journey, France can feel especially daunting with so many different regions and varieties. At tabl. we aim to make wine tasting accessible for everyone with the help of our wine tasting tours and experiences. Before you set out to explore the world of French winemaking, it is helpful to understand the basics.

What are the four main wine classifications in France?

French wines are split into four classifications which show how prestigious the wine is. The more specific the area where the grapes are sourced from, the higher the classification and therefore the more prestigious the wine.


AOC stands for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée and it is the most prestigious classification for french wines. It is the French version of DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata.) AOC means that the grapes used in the wine were sourced locally and has a focus on style and traditional methods of creating. AOC is also used for other artisan items like cheese in order to protect the integrity of the item.


VDQS means Vin Delimité de Qualité Supérieure, which translates to 'wine determined as of a superior quality.' VDQS wines are quite rare and are generally seen as a stepping stone from Vin de Pays to AOC.

Vin de Pays

Vin de Pays translates to "wine of the land" and has more of a focus on the geographical origin and less of a focus on the style and methods of making than AOC does.

Vin de France

Vin de France replaced Vin de Table in 2010 and is the more basic classification for wine. It is the least regulated tier, and the least used. These wines can be made from grapes grown anywhere in France and the labels won't mention a specific region of origin.

Beginners guide to wine tasting in France 1

Why are French wines named after the region instead of the grape?

French wines developed with their own style, and labelling is different to other wines across the world. Whilst wine is typically named after the grape used, the French method of naming comes from the idea of terroir - the combination of altitudes, climate, soil and slope which make the area unique and therefore produce unique flavours. Though naming after the region is considered an old method of naming it is still widely used today due to terroir being the foundation of French wine laws.

What are the main wine regions in France?

France's dominant wine-producing regions are Bordeaux, Alsace, Loire, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and Provence. These areas are known for their distinct grape varieties that come about due to the districts ingenious terroir.

France's dominant wine-producing regions are Bordeaux, Alsace, Loire, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and Provence. These areas are known for their distinct grape varieties that come about due to the districts ingenious terroir.


Alsace is on the border between Germany and France and the main varieties of grapes in the wine here are Riesling and Gewurztraminer. However, the wines that come from Alsace are drier than the German wines that utilise the same grapes. Many wines of Alsace have peachy, floral notes and pair well with fowl. One of Alsace's most popular wines is the dry Riesling. A German Riesling will usually be very sweet but the Alsace Riesling is made differently to produce a drier bottle.


Bordeaux is considered the wine capital of the world, and for good reason. It is one of the best wine tasting destinations in the world as it combines a number of other famous wine regions such as Medoc, Saint-Emilion, Sauternes and Pomerol. There are many guided tours where you can visit all these regions in a day and sample some of the best wines that France has to offer. The wines from this region tend to be medium to full-bodied and have aromas of plums and blackcurrant, alongside earthy notes.

Loire Valley

The Loire valley can be found along a 600 mile stretch of the Loire River. Loire Valley is split into four other regions, Lower Loire, Middle Loire, Central Loire and Upper Loire, all of which produce quality wines with their own unique flavour palettes. The most famous grape that is grown in the Loire is Sauvignon Blanc, and the Loire sets the benchmark worldwide for Sauvignon Blancs. Expect these wines to have tangy green apple flavours and plum with floral undertones. Other main grapes grown in the area are Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Melon de Bourgogne and Gamay.


Provence can be considered one of France's most underrated wine regions. Provence is the oldest wine region in France and has been producing wine for over 2,600 years. The excellent grapes found in Provence can be attributed to its favourable climate; it gets lots of sunshine, not a lot of rain and cooler evenings. Not only this, but the Mistral wind goes through Provence and this keeps vineyards pest free.

Provence is home to about 36 different grape varieties such as Vermentino, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache Blanc.

Rhone Valley

Rhone Valley is the second-largest wine region in France with only Bordoux having more vineyards. There are over 30 different AOC appellations to be found here, and the region produces more than 400 million bottles of wine a year and around 95% of these wines come from the south of the valley.

In northern Rhone, only the Syrah is used. Syrah grapes are one of the most widely planted and popular grape there is. Syrah grapes are a combination of two other grapes. Dureza, which is a dark-skinned berry was crossed with Mondeuse Blance, which is a white grape, to create the wine. Both of these grapes never really became popular until they were crossed to make Syrah. Syrah is thought to have first been made in Rhone.

Syrah produces deep and rich red wines that are able to ages and evolve for years or even decades in some cases.

Book Wine Tasting Holidays in France with tabl.

There truly is an abundance of wines to explore across France. Finding a wine tour with tabl. can help you find your new favourite wine and get a true taste for the rich culture and atmosphere of these regions.

Beginners guide to wine tasting in France 2
Beginners Guide to Wine Tasting in France

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