French Fine wines a rich wine cultureFrench fine wines - France is arguably the world's most important wine-producing country. For centuries, it has produced wine in greater quantity – and greater quality, many would suggest – than any other nation. Wine is ingrained in French culture at almost every level of society; it is the drink of both the elite and the common people, and a key symbol in Roman Catholicism, France's majority religion.
The enduring attraction of French wine is not necessarily its volume or prestige, however, but rather the variety of styles available. Consumer preferences have changed over the centuries, encouraging the development of new styles of wine from the terrain and grape varieties available to France's vignerons (vineyard owners). Red, white, rose, sweet, dry, sparkling, opulent, austere, fruity or mineral-scented – French vineyards have produced wines to match each of these descriptors.
France's appellation system was created in the early 20th century and has since been imitated in many other countries. This complex system of laws ultimately defines each wine region and its boundaries and imposes strict rules around winemaking practices. Protecting the names of French wines and guaranteeing the quality and provenance of the products themselves are its key objectives. No other country has developed its appellation system to such an extent; as of 2010, there were more than 450 controlled appellations under the AOC and VDQS titles and a further 150 Vin de Pays styles.
A key factor in the development of the complex, comprehensive categorization of France's wine styles and quality levels is their sheer volume and diversity, as discussed above. Every year, the country produces more than 50 million hL of wine (6500 million standard bottles) from around 1.9m acres (775,000ha) of vineyards.