The different types of grape varieties in France

July 3, 2024

France is often considered the cradle of world viticulture. With an impressive diversity of grape varieties...

The country offers an infinite palette of wine flavors and styles. This article, offered by the oeni app, available on iOS and Android, explores the main types of grape variety in France, their history, characteristics and importance in the French wine world.

What is a grape variety?

A grape variety is a vine variety grown primarily for wine production. Each grape variety has its own characteristics, influencing the taste, aroma and color of the wine produced. In France, grape varieties are often associated with specific regions, benefiting from the ideal climatic and geographical conditions for their cultivation.

1. Red grape varieties

1.1 Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best-known and most widespread grape varieties in the world. In France, it is mainly grown in the Bordeaux region, where it makes up an essential part of the region's famous blends.

Caractéristiques : Cabernet Sauvignon produces powerful, tannic wines with aromas of blackcurrant, green bell pepper, cedar and menthol. Wines made from this grape have excellent aging potential.

1.2 Merlot

Also widely grown in the Bordeaux region, Merlot is appreciated for its suppleness and roundness. It is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften its tannins.

Caractéristiques : Merlot produces rich, velvety wines with notes of ripe red fruit, plum, chocolate and truffle. It is often ready to drink earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon.

1.3 Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the emblematic grape of Burgundy, where it produces some of the world's most prestigious red wines. It is also used in Champagne for sparkling wines.

Characteristics: Pinot Noir wines are generally lighter and more delicate, with aromas of cherry, raspberry, undergrowth and mushroom. This grape variety is renowned for its ability to reflect the terroirs in which it is grown.

1.4 Syrah

Native to the Rhône Valley, Syrah is known for its intense, spicy wines. It is grown mainly in the northern Rhône Valley appellations, such as Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage.

Caractéristiques : Syrah produces dense, colorful wines, with aromas of black fruits, violets, black pepper and sometimes smoke or bacon. It also has good aging potential.

2. White grape varieties

2.1 Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the most widely planted white grape variety in France and around the world. It is particularly famous in Burgundy, where it produces world-renowned white wines such as those from Chablis and Côte de Beaune.

Characteristics: Chardonnay can produce a wide variety of wine styles, from the dry, mineral wines of Chablis to the rich, oaky wines of Côte de Beaune. Typical aromas include apple, pear and lemon, as well as buttery and nutty notes.

2.2 Sauvignon Blanc

Mainly grown in the Loire and Bordeaux regions, Sauvignon Blanc is appreciated for its freshness and aromatic character.

Characteristics: Sauvignon Blanc wines are generally lively and acidic, with aromas of lemon, grapefruit, boxwood and sometimes tropical fruit. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are emblematic examples.

2.3 Chenin Blanc

Also native to the Loire region, Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape variety capable of producing a wide range of wine styles, from dry to sweet.

Caractéristiques : Chenin Blanc produces wines with lively acidity and aromas of apple, quince, honey and white flowers. The sweet wines of Vouvray and Coteaux du Layon are particularly prized.

2.4 Riesling

Although best known in Germany, Riesling is also grown in Alsace, where it produces dry, aromatic wines.

Caractéristiques : Riesling wines are generally very fragrant, with aromas of lime, peach, white flowers and marked minerality. They can age beautifully, developing petroleum notes.

3. Regional grape varieties

3.1 Grenache

Grown mainly in southern France, notably in the southern Rhône Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon, Grenache is often used in blends.

Caractéristiques : Grenache produces generous, fruity wines, with aromas of strawberry, cherry and pepper. It contributes to the structure and richness of wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

3.2 Viognier

Native to the northern Rhône Valley, Viognier is used to produce rich, aromatic white wines.

Caractéristiques : Viognier wines are often opulent, with aromas of peach, apricot, orange blossom and honey. They can have an oily texture and moderate acidity.

3.4 Mourvèdre

Mourvèdre is a late-ripening grape variety grown mainly in Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. It is often used in blends to bring structure and complexity.

Caractéristiques : Mourvèdre produces tannic, spicy wines with aromas of black fruit, leather, game and sweet spices. It is essential in Bandol wines.


The wealth of French grape varieties reflects the diversity of the country's terroirs and ancestral winemaking know-how. Each grape variety brings its own identity to the wines, offering wine-lovers an infinite range of gustatory discoveries. By understanding the characteristics of the main grape varieties, we can better appreciate the complexity and beauty of French wines.

For wine enthusiasts, exploring France's diverse grape varieties is a never-ending adventure, with each bottle a new opportunity to discover and savor the country's extraordinary wine heritage. Whether you're a novice or an expert, there's always something new to learn and enjoy in the world of French wines.

As a wine lover or viticultural professional, exploring French grape varieties never ends. The richness and diversity of the wines produced in this country are unrivalled, and each tasting is an invitation to a sensory journey through the vineyards of France. Enjoy every sip and celebrate the art of French viticulture.