French wine is produced in several regions throughout the country and is the most exported wine in the world. Second only to Spain in terms of total vineyard area in the world, France often surpasses Spain as the world’s largest wine producer. French wine traces its history to the 5th century, with many of the country’s regions dating their winemaking to Roman times.
Two concepts central to French wines are the notion of "terroir," which links the style of the wines to the vineyard locations and where the wine is made, and the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system. Appellation rules closely define which grape varieties and winemaking practices are approved for classification in each of France’s several hundred geographically defined appellations. These appellations can cover entire regions, individual villages or even specific vineyards.
France is the source of many grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, which are now planted throughout the world. It is also the source of winemaking practices and styles of wine that have been adopted in other producing countries.
The upper central part of France is dominated by the Paris Basin with its fertile soil making it ideal for agriculture. The south central part of the country is dominated by the ancient Massif Central, separated from the Alps by the north-south trending Rhone River Basin. The three major mountain ranges provide a varied climate and terrain between the mountains, foothills, coastal plains and farmland.