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France

When it comes to wine, there are many imitators, but only one France. Have your doubts? Then you'd better find out for yourself by tasting your way through these famous regions.

Alsace: Provocative and unique, Alsatian whites can be revelatory. Start with Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Bordeaux: Bordeaux is justifiably famous for its dry reds, but sample the dry whites, too. For dessert, sumptuously sweet Sauternes could be the ultimate.

Burgundy (Bourgogne): Red Burgundies, made from Pinot Noir, are among the world's most cherished wines, but Chardonnay fans will thank themselves for giving white Burgundy and Chablis a go, as well. If you like fruity reds, you probably already admire Beaujolais and its constituent grape, Gamay.

Champagne: French Champagnes are among the most refined and luxurious sparkling wines in the world. They're made exclusively from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Meunier grapes.

Languedoc-Roussillon: In addition to the Corbières and Minervois regions, explore the huge range of both reds and whites generally labeled Vin de Pays d'Oc. These wines are often identified by grape variety (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay are the ones to look for here), and many are underpriced.

Loire: Standard-bearers for this important region are Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, both elegant dry whites made from Sauvignon Blanc. Vouvray is a popular Chenin Blanc-based wine.

Rhône: The northern Rhône is admired for powerful reds—Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, and Crozes-Hermitage, all showcasing Syrah. The south offers highly regarded, pricey Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a famous blend, as well as the easygoing red Côtes du Rhône, also a blend. Rosés from Tavel are considered some of France's finest.

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