South of France wines

France is home to the world’s second-largest vineyard area, only behind Spain’s. It is also the world’s largest wine producer. Its wines are known from being expensive high-end wines sold internationally to more modest ones that can only be bought in France.

The country’s recognized wine-producing areas are regulated by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO). This institution checks the wine’s “character” according to a strict set of standards. Those that pass are classified as either VDQS or Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Those that fail the rigid criteria, meanwhile, are declassified into a lower appellation, either Vin de pays or Vin de table. Vin de pays, meaning “country wine”, is used as a step in the French wine classification, just above the table wine (Vin de table), but below the VDQS and AOC classifications.

This strict classification system was standardized about four decades earlier through legislation created in 1973 and passed in 1979. These laws allow producers to distinguish wines made up of grape varieties or procedures other than those from the AOC rules without using the simple and commercially non-viable table wine classification. Vin de pays carries a geographic designation of origin. Aside from that, producers submit the wine for analysis and tasting and that they should be made from certain varieties or blends, unlike table wines which only indicates themselves as French. It was replaced by the new Protected Geographical Region (PGI, or Indication Géographique Protégée) designation in 2009.

One of the biggest advantages that the classification has given to the French wine industry is that it was able to establish a more defined characteristic for all kinds of vintages, leading to better branding—a sure plus for marketing the spirits. One of the beneficiaries of this development is the South of France, whose premier-quality wines are one of the world’s most famous vintages.

Among the South of France wines known internationally is the Corsica wine. This came from the Mediterranean and has its roots in Italy, including traditions or production and the grape varieties used in making it. It was in the 18th century when most of the island’s vineyards were planted. The vineyard areas increased four times from around 1960 to 1976. Patrimonio became Corsica’s first AOC in 1968. Over the years that number that grew to nine AOC regions. The majority of the wine from the island falls under the Vin de pays classification, “Vin de Pays de l’Île de Beauté” (Country wine from the Island of Beauty). Nielluccio, known as the spice wine of France, along with Sciacarello and Vermentino are the three leading grape varieties of Corsica.

The Languedoc-Roussillon is another of the South of France wines. This variety of wine includes the Vin de pays labeled “Vin de Pays d’Oc.” The Languedoc wine got its label from a historic region in France bearing the same name. Located in northern Catalonia, the Languedoc region had been one of the most prominent producers of wine in France. It has 700,000 acres of land dedicated to vineyard and the single best wine-producing region in the whole world. It produces more than a third of France’s total wine production, and it had been churning out more wine than the whole United States since 2001.

Provence wine is also one of South of France wines. It comes from the southeastern part of France. Romans used to call this region “nostra provincial” or our province, hence its name.

The Rhône wine region in Southern France, which sits by the Rhône river valley, produces numerous wines under various AOC designations. The Côtes du Rhône AOC is the region’s major name when it comes to the volume of wines produced.

Lastly, South West France, or Sud-Ouest, is a wine region covering several wine producing areas situated respectively inland from, and south of, the wine region of Bordeaux. It has a total area of 16,000 hectares for vineyards, including some discontinuous wine “islands” throughout the Aquitaine region, and more or less to the west of the Midi-Pyrénées region.

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