French wine tourism

French wine tourism has a very straightforward purpose: to attract tourists to taste, consume, or purchase wine, often near their source vineyards and wineries. It consists of visits to wineries, vineyards, and restaurants known to offer unique vintages, wine tours, and wine festivals. In these tours, visitors are encouraged to experience food-wine pairings, to stay in wine states and experience the rhythm of life in vineyards, or to attend wine tasting activities where rare wines are offered.

In the last few decades, countries from the European Old World that have a long history of successful wine production such as France found it financially beneficial to promote wine tourism. In the 20th century, the aftermath of the two world wars brought renewed focus on the reorganization of the French wine industry. The French government developed the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) and the Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) system, which emphasize the identity of French wines and the concept of “terroir.” Part of French wine tourism is the government enacting efforts, together with the European Union, to fight the problem of surplus wine by uprooting less desirable grape varieties and ensuring that vignerons receive technical training in viticulture and wine making.

The government has stepped up its French wine tourism drive in recent years as traditional tourism industry becomes steeper with more and more countries becoming known internationally as vacation destinations. This phenomena also coincided with the decline of domestic wine consumption and slumping sales in the close of the 20th century. The government also realized that while some of France’s wine regions have thrived while others face a crisis of confidence, and decided that boosting the French wine industry is the most effective way to counteract the effects of the downfall of some of the country’s wine regions.

France, the most popular tourist destination in the world, now puts its vineyards on the front line of its tourism industry. Wine is produced in several regions of the country, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectoliters (or seven to eight billion bottles) per year. It has the world’s second largest total vineyard area and is considered the world’s largest producer of a wide variety of wines, from expensive high-end ones sold globally to the more modest kinds usually exclusive to France.

The high-end French wines present two concepts: terroir and the AOC system. Terroir (can be loosely translated as “a sense of place”), originally a French term in wine, coffee, and tea, that is used to denote the special characteristics that the geography, geology, and climate of a certain area bestows upon particular varieties of wine. Agricultural sites in the same region share similar soil, weather conditions, and farming techniques contributing to the unique qualities of the crop that is then turned into a specific vintage. This concept is also the base of the French wine AOC system. Its amount of influence and the scope that falls under the terroir has been a controversial topic in the wine industry. Meanwhile, based on the concept of terroir, AOC, which translates as “controlled designation of origin,” is the certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau INAO.

With these two concepts, France has strengthened its reputation as the leading producer of top-quality wines from the country’s many grape varieties. Some of these are the Cabernet Sauvignon, grown in nearly every major wine producing country and internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines; Chardonnay, a green-skinned grape variety that originated from the Burgundy wine region but is now grown wherever wine is produced, seen as a “rite of passage” and an easy way to enter the international wine market; Pinot Noir, a black wine grape variety; Sauvignon Blanc, another green-skinned variety of grape, which originated from Bordeaux and produces a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine and a component of some famous dessert wines; and Syrah, a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world and enjoys great popularity.

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