France is the world’s largest wine-producing country, and its rich winemaking history dates back at least to the 6th century BC, when Greek immigrants founded the colony of Massalia (present-day Marseille) and introduced viticulture to the area. That trade was later taken over by the Roman Empire, which planted vineyards throughout France. During the Middle Ages, monks were largely responsible for preserving the country’s winemaking tradition, and by the 1800s France was one of the world’s most prestigious producers. But the industry was ravaged by the phylloxera plague of the mid-19th century, an economic downturn and two World Wars. It was not until the 1970s that wines sales started to boom again and France once again became the international wine powerhouse we know today.
Many of the grapes used in winemaking throughout the world originated in France, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Sparkling wine was invented in Champagne, one of the country’s iconic wine regions along with Bordeaux (home to Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc), Burgundy (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), Alsace (Gewürztraminer and Riesling), the Loire Valley (Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc) and the Rhône (Syrah and Grenache).