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Alsace Sandwiched between the Vosges mountains to the east and the Rhine in the west, Alsace produces a broad range of wines of very differing styles. In spite of its situation in the North Eastern corner of France, Alsace benefits from a very benign dry climate with long, warm autumns allowing for gradual ripening of grapes. The region's geological variations are also another of its strengths, permitting a wide variety of styles from the same grape. Predominantly white wines from Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc and Gris and Sylvaner, with some increasingly interesting offerings from the Pinot Noir grape.
Beaujolais In the very southern part of greater Burgundy, Beaujolais is renowned for its fruity reds made from the Gamay grape. The Cru villages, where the best wines are made, are located in the northern part of the region. Now numbering 10, the best known Cru are Fleurie, Moulin a Vent, Morgon, Julienas and Brouilly, with each of these villages having their own distinctive style. There are some delightful wines at the next level, Beaujolais Villages, where the wine is made from any of the 39 permitted villages (including 7 of the 10 Crus villages), all situated in the North of Beaujolais. Some whites are made from Chardonnay.
Bordeaux Probably the most recognised region for wines in the world, crowned by the Premier Cru Classe wines such as Chateaux Lafite, Margaux and Haut Brion; and Petrus. The area offers a wide range of different styles of red and white wine, more often than not consisting of a blend of grape varieties. The reds are generally either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon dominated with supporting roles from Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec; and the whites a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, in either a dry style or sweet, expressed superbly in wines such as Chateau d'Yquem and Rieussec from the Sauternes area.
Burgundy Cote Chalonnaise
Burgundy Cote Chalonnaise Moving southward from the Cote d'Or, the next distinctive wine making area is located to the West of the town of Chalon. The underlying soil structure remains broadly similar, the main difference being that the monoculture of the vine gives way to a more mixed landscape of vineyards, meadows and woodland. The wines from the best producers are worthy of attention and have fine balance and an appealing delicacy.
Burgundy Cote de Beaune
Burgundy Cote de Beaune Located in the southern half of the Cote d'Or, the Cote de Beaune produces some of the finest white wines in the world from vineyards in or around the villages of Meursault and Puligny Montrachet.
Burgundy Cote de Nuits
Burgundy Cote de Nuits The Cote d'Or (golden slope) lies at the heart of wine making Burgundy, and the Cote de Nuits is situated in the Northern half, producing some of the world's most sublime (and most expensive) wines. The area is relatively small, stretching 20km north to south and barely more than 800m wide. Marsannay lies at the Northern end and Nuits St Georges at the southern base, with such winemaking luminaries as Vosne Romanee, Gevrey Chanbertin and Morey St Denis lying in between. Red wines from Pinot Noir grape are dominant throughout.
Burgundy Macon
Burgundy Macon Occupying an area south of the Cote Chalonnaise and north of Beaujolais, the Maconnais vineyards are known principally for white wines, almost exclusively made from the Chardonnay grape. Supple, elegant and often minerally white wines are produced here, which appear at their best under the appelations of St Veran, Pouilly Fuisse and Pouilly Vinzelles. Historically this is the area lying on the border between the Langue d'Oil and the Langue d'Oc, and represents the transition from Northern France to the Midi.
Chablis The most northerly of the Burgundy districts, the vineyard area is centred upon the town of Chablis, lying in a hollow and surrounded by hills. Principally white wines, made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape, the style ranges from steely dryness at the 'basic' level to richer toned premier and grand cru wines. Generally, the wines see less oak than their Cote d'Or counterparts. As the wines at the top levels age, they retain their freshness and start to develop complex creamy aromas and flavours.
Languedoc Roussillon
Languedoc Roussillon Or Mediterranean SW FRance to help locate the area in your mind. Lots of fascinating wines from this region with reds dominated by Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and usually blended. Heady aromas combining black fruits, earthiness, minerality and, occasionally, incense. Rich, concentrated and balanced with the best capable of maturing into absolute beauties. The Whites are predominantly blends of Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Rolle; not forgetting Picpoul from Pinet and Mauzac in the Cremants of Limoux. Fortified wines also a speciality.
Provence The area east of the Southern Rhone renowned for rose wines ranging from the everyday to the sublime, there are also pockets of serious red wine production. Bandol, where the Mouvedre grape produces wines full of dark fruits, spices and leathery notes, is one of these pockets.
Rhone North
Rhone North Vienne in the North to Valence in the South, the Northern Rhone is home to some of the finest wines in the whole of the world, used as benchmarks by producers from well beyond the region's boundaries. Cote Rotie and Hermitage are the most renowned red wine appellations, made principally from the Syrah grape, although there is some production of whites from Hermitage, based on Roussanne. These are wines of great complexity and richness with a tangible terroir about them.
Rhone South
Rhone South Home to a diverse range of red and white grape varieties, grown on an equally diverse types of soil. Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras are the regions most synonomous with this part of the world; and it's also where all All Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Village wines are made. Reds are made in significantly larger quantities than whites.