France is, without question, the most important wine producing country in the world. Home of origin to most internationally-recognized grape varietals, it remains for many the yardstick by which all others are measured: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah are just some examples of now international wine grapes that were first made famous in France.
Part of France’s global notoriety can be attributed to its long history on the global stage. Major growing areas were already well-established and exporting throughout Europe by the Middle Ages. The influence of the church through monasteries can not be overstated. They had cellars and store rooms to mature the wine as well as a self contained labor force. They kept detailed records of procedures which led to the systematic improvement of methods and, therefore, the wines.
Early on, French wine regions developed guidelines on grape varieties and winemaking to produce the best product possible and create distinct identities for their regions’ wines. These traditions and regional distinctions provided the basis for the country’s strict regional wine laws and AOC wine regulations.