French Wine History

France and wine have been intertwined for thousands of years. Through the good and bad times throughout France’s history, wine has almost always been involved some way or another. And in turn France has had an enormous impact on the world’s wine industry. 

France’s wine industry began with the Ancient Greeks. They were the first people to spread the grapevine and begin making wine in France. Later, the Ancient Romans continued the Greek custom of winemaking and went on to spread the vine to even more regions of modern-day France. They also introduced new technologies and techniques to improve both winemaking and grape growing. 

The Catholic Church’s Role in French Wine

Once wine was introduced an industry quickly began flourishing. But after the decline of the Romans, it was actually the Catholic Church that became the main group involved in winemaking. The Church needed wine for their services and customs. The Catholic Church dominated the wine industry throughout the Middle Ages, and owned a large portion of France’s vineyards. Many monasteries of different orders were in charge of growing grapes and making wine for both the monastery and the church. The knowledge of winemaking and grape growing were preserved by many monks throughout the Church. These same monks also contributed new techniques, inventions, and ideas to the world of wine, some of which are still in use today. 

The majority of the French wine industry was in the hands of the Church for centuries. However, this came to an abrupt end with the rise of the French Revolution. One of the goals of the French Revolution was to limit the massive amount of power and influence the Catholic Church had acquired. This was done in part by taking away many lands the Church owned, including many vineyards. These vineyards were passed out among the general population, ending the Church’s control over France’s wine industry. 

France’s Wine Faces Hardships

By the 19th century, grapes were growing in almost every region over France, even Northern France, which today is known for cider production rather than wine. Wine had become a staple in the French diet, and plenty of wine needed to be produced to meet the demands. This continued until France experienced several historical events that would harm both the wine industry and country. The first was the grapevine disease, phylloxera from the United States. This disease nearly wiped out all of France’s vineyards before a feasible solution was found to stop the disease. The second and third were World War 1 and World War 2. Both wars created major hardships for both the French people and their wine. 

Despite these major setbacks the French wine industry has remained strong in modern times. France is currently the second largest wine producing country in the world, behind only Italy. They produced a staggering 46.6 million hectolitres of wine in 2020, which accounted for about 18% of the world’s total wine production. Some of the most famous wine regions in the world are located in France, including Burgundy and Bordeaux. Both of which are responsible for producing some of the most expensive bottles of wine in the world. 

Below is a timeline of some of the most important moments in France’s wine history. Together they show how France has achieved their successful modern-day wine industry, and how they became one of the world leaders in wine today. 


  • 6th century BC

    The first wine was produced in France

    French wine dates back to the Greek colonization of Southern...
  • 125 BC

    Planting of the “Narbonnaise,” a vast wine region through by the Via Domitia begun

    Narbonne, the provincial capital of the Gaule narbonnaise, was established...
  • 7 BC
  • 43 AD

    First vines in Bordeaux

    Bordeaux wine production appears to have started sometime after 43...
  • 92 AD

    Roman Emperor Domitian prohibited the planation of grapes in Rome

    In addition to forbidding the planting of new grapes in...
  • 496 AD

    Champagne’s place in history was secured

    Before the Middle Ages, wine was blessed and used to...
  • 800-888 AD

    Influence of the Carolingian era

    With the rise of vineyards in medieval France, a new...
  • 1098

    Citeaux monastery was founded

    A group of monks from Molesme Abbey established Cîteaux Abbey...
  • 1110

    In Burgundy, Clos de Vougeot vineyard was established

    The majority of the vineyard land belonging to the municipality...
  • 1152

    The marriage of Henry Plantagenet and Aliénor d’Aquitaine impacted wine production

    Despite being widely consumed locally, French wine was rarely exported...
  • 1295

    The effect of the Auld Alliance

    The Scots had easy access to French wines thanks to...
  • 13th Century
  • 1305

    The move of the papacy to Avignon from Rome

    Following Pope Clement V’s election in 1305, the pope was...
  • 1453
  • 1531

    The process of turning still wine into sparkling wine was discovered

    The method of converting still wine into sparkling wine was...
  • 1600-1650

    Wine and Brandy Trade between France and the Dutch Republic increased

    The Dutch (especially those from Holland and Zeeland) had a...
  • 1668

    The abbey of Hautvillers selected Brother Pierre Perignon as its treasurer

    Located north of Épernay, the abbey of Hautvillers appointed Brother...
  • 1756

    The Academy of Bordeaux requested papers from students on the subject of wine clarification

    With university-sponsored studies and treatises on wine-related themes, the study...
  • 1814

    love of Champagne that united the European powers at the Congress of Vienna

    The four major European nations that opposed the French Empire...
  • 1855

    The 1855 classification of Bordeaux in 1855 Paris Exposition

    Emperor Napoleon III asked the Bordeaux merchants to compile a...
  • 1863

    First case of Phylloxera was recorded in France

    Europeans had been experimenting with American vines and plants in...
  • 1907

    Languedoc growers’ uprising occurred

    The French government of Georges Clemenceau suppressed the Revolt of...
  • 1919

    the law Protection of Appellations of Origin introduced

    Geographical indications of the origins of products, particularly wine and...
  • 1935

    Burgundy wine region created

    Burgundy wine is produced in the valleys and slopes west...
  • 1935
  • 1936

    Loire Valley wine region established

    Despite being the third-largest producer in France, Loire Valley is...
  • 1948

    Creation of Law to establish the ‘Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux’

    The Bordeaux Wine Council, or “CIVB,” is an organizing body...
  • 1949

    VDQS wine areas were created

    In order to bridge the gap between the most renowned...
  • 1951

    Provence VDQS first established

    The major appellation of the Provence wine area in southeast...
  • 1953

    Alsace Wine Route established

    The Alsace Wine Route is France’s first wine route. Its...
  • 1969



Karlsson, Per and Britt. n.d. “Wine Production in the World in 2020, a Detailed Look.” Forbes.

Categories: Wine History TimelinesTags: , , , By Published On: July 25, 2022Last Updated: January 2, 2023

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