• the most important wine-producing country in the world. France leads the field both in wine production and in consumption of wine per capita. Consumption is, however, falling, although the French are drinking better-quality wines. France introduced the admittedly controversial method of classifying wines as crus classés in the classification of 1855 and developed a strictly controlled national Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system to help define and regulate wine production in different areas of the country. The country makes a very diverse range of wine: very light rosé wines in Provence in the south, an area which also produces full-bodied reds; predominantly white wines in the Loire and Alsace; and strong, classic red wines in the Bordeaux region that can age for tens of years. The classic wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône and Champagne have exerted influence on every winemaker and producer in the world and have set the standards to which all aspire. However, in return, the success of the wines of New World producers in Australia and the US has encouraged the more basic levels of the French wine industry to greatly improve vineyard and winemaking practices and the results can be seen in the vastly improved wines emerging from regions such as the Languedoc.