French wine is produced all throughout France, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year, or 7–8 billion bottles. France is one of the largest wine producers in the world, along with Italian, Spanish, and American wine-producing regions. French wine traces its history to the 6th century BC, with many of France's regions dating their wine-making history to Roman times. The wines produced range from expensive wines sold internationally to modest wines usually only seen within France such as the Margnat wines were during the post war period.
Two concepts central to the better French wines are the notion of terroir, which links the style of the wines to the locations where the grapes are grown and the wine is made and the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) system, replaced by the Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP) system in 2012. Appellation rules closely define which grape varieties and winemaking practices are approved for classification in each of France's several hundred geographically defined appellations, which can cover regions, villages or vineyards.
France is the source of many grape varieties (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah) that are now planted throughout the world, as well as wine-making practices and styles of wine that have been adopted in other producing countries.
French wine originated in the 6th century BC, with the colonization of Southern Gaul by Greek settlers. Viticulture soon flourished with the founding of the Greek colony of Marseille. Wine has been around for thousands of years in the countries on the Mediterranean but France has made it a part of their civilization and has considered wine-making as an art for over two thousand years. The Gauls knew how to cultivate the vine and how to prune it. Pruning creates an important distinction in the difference between wild vines and wine producing grapes. Before long, the wines produced in Gaul were popular all around the world.
The Roman Empire licensed regions in the south to produce wines. St. Martin of Tours (316–397) spread Christianity and planting vineyards. During the Middle Ages, monks maintained vineyards and, more importantly, conserved wine-making knowledge and skills during that often turbulent period. Monasteries had the resources, security and inventiveness to produce a steady supply of wine for Mass and profit. The best vineyards were owned by the monasteries and their wine was considered to be superior. The nobility developed extensive vineyards but the French Revolution led to the confiscation of many vineyards.
The advance of the French wine industry stopped abruptly as first Mildew and then Phylloxera spread throughout the country and the rest of Europe, leaving vineyards desolate. Then came an economic downturn in Europe followed by two world wars and the French wine industry was depressed for decades. Competition threatened French brands such as Champagne and Bordeaux. This resulted in the establishment in 1935 of the Appellation d'origine contrôlée to protect French interests. Large investments, the economic revival after World War II and a new generation of Vignerons yielded results in the 1970s and the following decades, creating the modern French wine industry.
All common styles of wine – red, rosé, white (dry, semi-sweet and sweet), sparkling and fortified – are produced in France. In most of these styles, the French production ranges from simple versions to some of the world's most famous and expensive examples.
In many respects, French wines have more of a regional than a national identity, as evidenced by different grape varieties, production methods and different classification systems in the various regions.
If there is one thing that most French wines have in common, it is that most styles have developed as wines meant to accompany food, be it a quick baguette, a simple bistro meal, or a full-fledged multi-course menu. However, they can also be very good "bar wines" for drinking on their own.