It probably doesn't come as a surprise if we mention that France is the most important and significant wine-growing region in the world. Despite producing less wine volume than Italy and the vineyard area being smaller than in Spain, France is nevertheless known as THE wine country par excellence. The country has a prominent position in both the top wines and the everyday house wines.
Did you know that France has approximate 850.000 hectares vineyards (2014), of which almost 70% are vines cultivated for red wines? Every year, France produces about 50 million hectolitres of wine and their annual wine consumption is of around 40 litres per head (2016).
French wine law is strictly hierarchical: Note that. in general, the larger the area of origin, the lower its position in the quality pyramid. The wineries extend from north to south and from west to east of France, small wine farmers, several wine routes… you can find it all on these 643.801 km ².
In recent years, this is also the country that has experienced the major competition from abroad.
It is most probable that the Greeks brought over the first vines to France. These were first located in the Spanish Mediterranean border to Marseille, around 600 years BC. Later on, the Romans were the real precursors for the distribution of vines all over their “Gallic province”. From the Rhône Valley, the viticulture spread out to Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Bordeaux (at that time called Burdigala). The Mediterranean area or “Mare Nostrum” became one of the most prosperous regions of the time (300-400AD), due to the overseas trade.
The Medieval Period began with the fall of the Roman Empire and the simultaneous emerging of a new wine geography. The monasteries provided hospitality in the various production areas, and the bishops managed to maintain the quality vineyards.
Unfortunately, in the late 1850s, vineyards all over the country (and Europe) were destroyed due to the Phylloxera, presumably transferred from Northern America. It took about 20 years before grafting techniques resulted in the “reconstitution” of the vineyards in France.
In the meanwhile, Bordeaux introduced his official classification in 1855. Wines were rated in accordance with the reputation of the château. From that year on, only two modifications were done, the most famous one in 1973 after lots of lobby work from Philippe Baron de Rothschild. Château Mouton Rothschild became a first growth vineyard.
The French government created the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) in 1935 and, about a year later, one of the first appellations was granted to Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe.
ONIVINS was established in 1983 as the responsible organism for controlling production, managing plantation authorisations and rights, regulating and promoting the different outlets of the wine sector. 22 years later it was renamed as VINIFHLOR, when on December 30, 2005 ONIVINS and ONIFHLOR merged.
Former Minister of Health Claude Évin gave his name to the law that was voted on 10 January 1991, governing the advertising of alcoholic beverages in France, limiting the rights to advertise alcoholic beverages and this way protecting (young) people.
Times evolve and…
…when the Evin Law was drafted, the Internet did not exist. As social networks and the web became more important over the last 25 years, the French lawmaker added internet to the list of media (2009): "Propaganda or advertising, direct or indirect, in favour of alcoholic beverages of which the manufacture and sale are not prohibited are exclusively authorized [...] on e-communication services excluding those which, by their nature, presentation or purpose, appear to be mainly intended for young people, as well as those published by sports associations, societies and federations or professional leagues following the code of sport, provided that propaganda or advertising is neither intrusive nor interstitial ".
In 2015, France consumed just over 27 million hectolitres (Mhl) of wine, and lost their pole-position of the world's leading wine-consuming country to the USA (31 Mhl), but still being ahead of Italy and Germany (both 20.5 Mhl). 55 years before (1960), this figure was up to 46 Mhl and France was leading the statistics by far.