France: Geography and climate

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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France does not have the monopoly on fine wine production, but its geographical position is such that it can produce wine from an exceptionally wide range of grape varieties with a good balance of sugar and acidity, although climate change is evident throughout the country. With wine regions lying between latitudes 42 degrees and 49.5 degrees, France can provide the two most suitable environments identified in climate and wine quality for growing grapes. In the south, the mediterranean climate can be depended upon to ripen grapes fully, but not so fast that they do not have time to develop an interesting array of flavour compounds and phenolics. In the west, relatively high latitudes are tempered by the influence of the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream. In the east, centuries of viticultural tradition have established what seem to be potentially perfect marriages between grape variety and particularly favoured terroir in the more continental climate of Burgundy, Alsace, and Champagne, France’s most northerly wine region where, over the centuries, the ideal wine style has evolved to take advantage of the area’s climate and special geology.