France produces around 8 billion bottles of wine yearly. Behind Spain, France comes in second in having the largest total vineyard area dedicated to making wine. France has a long history of producing wine that dates back to the 6th century.
France categorizes their wines by "terroir" which means the wine styles are defined by the locations or "appellations" where the wine is made. France has one of the oldest systems and have strict laws governed by an oversight board called the “INAO" (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine).
These strict laws protect the quality of French wines and many European countries modelled their laws after the French. France categorizes their wines into four categories: Vin de Table, Vin de Pays, Vin Delimite de Qualite Superieure and Appellation d'Origine Controlee. In 2012 this system will be revised to only three categories which will be: Vin de France, Indication Geographique Protegee and Appellation d'Origine Protegee.
There are too many appellations in France to list but the more popular areas that fall under INAO regulations are:
Burgundy- Burgundy is divided into a large number of appellations which include: Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais, Beaujolais, and Chablis.
Bordeaux- Bordeaux is primarily a red wine region famous for many popular wines such as: Chateau Lafite- Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Haut-Brion. Regions include: Medoc, Saint Emilion, Pomerol, St-Estephe, Pauillac, St. Julien, Graves, Margaux, Bourg and Blaye.
Champagne- Champagne is located close to Belgium in Eastern France. One of the coldest regions in France popular for their sparkling wines called Champagne. Champagne can come in white or rose.
Rhone- Rhone is primarily a red wine region located along the Rhone river in South-Eastern France. Separated into North and South, both regions produce primarily red wines.
Loire- Loire is primarily a white wine region in Central and Western France. Loire is popular for wines like: Sancerre, Vouvray, and Chenin Blanc.
SouthWest France- Producers of both Bordeaux style red wine as well as sweet white wines, Southwest France is known for producing: Armagnac, Cotes de Gascogne, and Cotes de Saint-Mont.
Languedoc- Roussillon- One of the largest regions in France, Languedoc- Roussillon's more popular appellations include: Faugeres, Languedoc, Corbieres, Saint- Chinian.
Provence- Located in the Southeast, Provence is a popular producer of rose and red wines. Appellations include: Bandol, Les Baux-de Provence, Coteaux Varois, and Cassis.
Further reading: Green Spain Galicia