Wine Regions Around the World
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Although France and Italy are perhaps the best known, there are numerous quality wine regions around the world. Wine grapes are grown all over the world and each region produces a wine that exhibits the characteristics of its foundation.
Although Europe has been longest known for the best wines, regions in California, Washington, Australia, and New Zealand have been producing quality wines in recent decades.
Knowing which region a wine is from helps wine lovers determine quality, grape variety, and flavor. Learning all you can about wine, including where it comes from, greatly enhances every connoisseur’s enjoyment of this tasty treat.
Alsac of France is known for its German inspired red wines and flute bottles. Sitting on the border between Germany and France, Alsac wines such as the Tokay-Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer seem foreign to wine lovers.
However, the wines produced here are distinctively French in style, leaning towards dry, full-bodied flavors. The white wines of the area are few in number but charismatic enough to be worth a try. The Alsac labels are unique to other French wine labels in that they include the grape variety. After a period of decline, this marketing ploy helped bring prestige back to the region.
The best Alsac wines are produced from the Riesling grape although varieties like the muscat, pinot-blanc, sylvaner, the pinot-gris, and the gewurztraminer are also grown. Rieslings wines from this region are simultaneously extremely dry and buttery in texture . Alsac also produces Sélection des Grains Nobles, some of the worlds finest dessert wines.
Argentina is one of the worlds largest four wine producers. However, the industry is suffering because most of this production was for local consumption and as trends lead young drinkers towards more popular drinks such as beer and cola, wine consumption has dropped to less than half of what it used to be.
The Andes mountain range supplies most of the water that the otherwise dry region uses for production. Although mass varieties of Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon have been planted, Argentina also grows Spanish and Italian varieties like Tempranillo, Bonarda and Barbera.
Two superstar varieties appearing in the wine scene include the Torrontes and the Malbec. The Torrontes makes white wine with a rich bouquet and structured body while the Malbec makes a deep black-red wine that is peppery and smooth.
Argentinean wine regions include Mendoza, the center of all production, Salta, Rio Negro, San Juan and La Rioja.
Known for cheap, easy to drink wines with delectable tastes and full textures, Australian wines are highly popular especially in Britain. Hot, arid climates have led Australian winemakers to employ irrigation methods to almost all their vineyards, so bring a whine chiller if you’re going to be sampling white wines. Grape production is best in the cooler, moderate southeast, the far southwest, and Tasmania regions of the country.
The Australian method of wine production involves strict techniques that include the use of stainless-steel tanks for temperature control, experimentation with specific yeasts, and an extreme avoidance of oxidisation. Many grape varieties flourish within the Australian continent but the best known are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Riesling, Semillon, Grenache, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.
Many growers also plant dozens of varieties while other regions concentrate on a few. This has led to a good variety of Australian wines that are steadily gaining popularity and demand throughout the world.
Good Australian wines include the Margaret River valley’s Vasse Felix, Evans Tate, and Cullens estate wines. Other noteworthy bottles surprisingly include the Tasmanian Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling.
If one thing the Bordeaux region of France is known for it is dependable, good red wine. However, sweet, dry and white sparkling wines are also made. The region is so diverse that wines can vary greatly depending on the vineyard. Subregions include Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Medoc, and Graves.
The best Bordeaux wines offer the palate a sensuous experience of refined quality and aromatic, flavorful tastes. Bordeaux wines are usually blended grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. White wines are also made from varieties such as Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. The quality factors in Bordeaux wines follow regulations set by the “Appellation Controllee” or “AC.” Different AC’s govern different districts of wine production within France in order to ensure excellence.
Bordeaux ACs that include everyday, generic wines are the AC Bordeaux and AC Bordeaux Superieur among others. Exceptional wines go by specific titles such as AC Fronsac or AC Pomerol. These wines are often restricted to harsher regulations.
The classic claret wines of this region are famous around the world for their superior quality.
Unlike the Bordeaux region, Burgundy is a unique conglomeration of thousands of small growers and individual wine makers. Producing both red and white wines, the main grape varieties in the region are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Aside from Chateau wine makers, individuals who buy grapes and finished wines for blending and bottling under their own label, known as négociants, are a vital contribution to the prestige of the region.
A few hundred miles northeast to Bordeaux, the area’s climate is hot and humid during the summer and cold in the winter. The Burgundy region is divided into the more distinct regions of Chablis, The Côte de Nuits, The Côte de Beaune, The Côte Chalonnaise, The Mâconnais, and sometimes Beaujolais.
AC regulations rank Burgundy wines from the best in quality, the Grand Crux, to the general label that appears on all Burgundy wines not suitable for other rankings, the AC Bourgogne.
Larger house négociants are usually reliable and include wines such as Jadot, Drouhin, Bouchard, Louis Latour and Faiveley.
Famous for its Napa Valley wines, California is also home to the wine producing regions of Mendocino, near San Francisco, and Temecula, near Los Angeles and San Diego, although most wine production is at the Northern and Central Coast areas. A variety of localized climate conditions, called microclimates, allow a range of cool, hazy air and temperate conditions.
Aside from growing many varieties of grapes, California is the producer of its own grape variety known as the Zinfandel. Although best known for their light, fruity wines, the Zinfandel can also produce deep tannic red wines with bold blueberry and spicy flavors.
You can see our list of the best wine decanters here.
Good quality wines from California of the Pinot Noir variety are the Au Bon Climat, Swan and Sanford. The Zinfandel variety produces good Marietta, Swan, Ridge and Raveswood, while the best Cabernet Sauvignons include Mondavi, Ridge, Laurel Glen, and Caymus to name a few.
Chardonnays worth investing some money into involve the Au Bon Climat, Sonoma-Cutrer, Chalone, Landmark, and Peter Michael. Recently, old world greats have established wineries in California. Champagne houses such as Moet, Krug, and Mumm were the first with big names of Bordeaux and Burgundy following suit.
The northernmost AC of France, Champagne is famous for its sparkling wines. The Champagne process ensures the fizz in every bottle by allowing added yeast to dissolve added sugar and produce carbon dioxide gas. The region’s chalky, poor soil produces acidic, thin wines that would not be suitable for drinking without this additional spark.
The region of Champagne includes around 300 wine producing villages with 17 being producers of the best quality sparkling wines. Known as the Grand Crux vineyards, these top producers include the Bouzy, Aÿ, Sillery and Le Mesnil.
Most Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot meaunier grapes while some pure bottles do exits. Champagne comes in styles ranging from the highly exceptional brut, which is extremely dry and full, to the sweet, desert doux , with extra dry and sec styles in between. Champagne also comes in a range of production styles.
These include the blended non-vintage Champagnes which are meant for immediate consumption and the vintage Champagnes that are made from a single vintage of the best grapes.
Other styles include the Blanc de Blancs, made only from Chardonnay, the Blanc de Noirs, made from the two Pinots, the Rose, and the expensive and high quality De-luxe Cuvees.
Chile offers wines such as fruity, oaky Chardonnays, delicious Cabernet Sauvignons and tempting Merlots. Chile is most famous for ungrafted vinestock. Through some remarkable fate, the plague of phyllorexia has never embarked upon the region and hence grafted vinestock is not needed. Interesting Chilean grape varieties include the Pais and the and the Carmenere.
A recent influx of modern techniques and technology has given the region new fervor for the industry.
Chilean winemaking regions include Aconcagua, Casablanca, Maipo, Rapel, Curico and Maule, and Bio Bio. Superstar Chile wines include the Caballo Loco, Cousino Macul’s Finis Terrae, Montes “M”, Erazuriz’s Sena and Almaviva.
Chile’s dry climate depends on the Pacific ocean and Andes mountain range for the ability to produce grapes. Most of the wine growing regions are at the south end of Santiago.
Chile has grown into the fourth largest exporter of wines to the United States.
Germany has accumulated a bad reputation for overly sweet, mass produced and mediocre wines over the last 20 years. However, Germany is the worlds number one producer of exceptional Riesling wines. Germanys chief grape is the Riesling but other varieties include the Scheurebe, the Ruländer, the Silvaner, the Gewürztraminer and the Weissburgunder for white wines as well as the red wine grapes of Spätburgunder, Dornfelder, Portugieser and Trollinger. Most grape production is near and around rivers such as the Rhine and Mosel in order to take advantage of soil rich in minerals and slate. The German classification system involves Tafelwein, a general label for many table wines, Landwein, a slightly better but still not high quality label, Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA), the first level of quality wines, and the Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP), the most superb wines available. This highest level has 6 more levels of distinction that involve the increasing levels of sugar content. These range from the Kabinett, a dry a low alcohol content wine, the Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and the Eiswein, the sweetest of them all.
Italy has had a rough time gaining prestige for their wine industry. Years of harsh regulations that did more to hurt rather than help the industry and a history of cheap, mass produced wines has made getting back on track extremely difficult.
However, a new set of regulations issued in 1992, deemed the Indicazione Geografica Tipica, or IGT, hopes to provide the possibility of more flexible movement within the old, rigid Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) classification system. Although winemakers are slow to adopt this new, pyramid set of regulations, it is more a question of time.
The regulations are as follows: a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) rating is at the top of the pyramid and awarded only to the highest quality wines, a DOC rating ensures a dependable high standard wine, and the VdT ratings are for everyday, good wines. Great Italian wine growing regions include Piedmont, Tuscany, Sicily, Sardinia and Veneto.
Rather than quantity, the inability to plant more than a quarter of one percent of the world’s total grapes ensures that New Zealand has a concentrated eye on quality. Much of New Zealands climate is prime for grape growing. Moderate temperatures, warm and sunny days and cool and breezy nights allow for long seasons.
The star grape of all of New Zealand is the Sauvignon Blanc which encompasses goosberry, passionfruit, citrus and asparagus flavors. Other varieties include the Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muller-Thurgau. Also, the rich loamy New Zealand soil is proving to be a great breeding ground for the difficult to grow Pinot Noir grape.
Other varieties enjoying successful production include the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the Cabernet Franc in the North Island regions. New Zealand wine producing regions include Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Martinborough, Marlborough, and Central Otago. The country is best known for its extremely fruitful and dry Sauvignon Blanc, which rivals its French counterparts and is known as the worlds greatest of its kind.
Famous for its Port and Madeira wines, Portugal is the scene of an ever changing industry that brings new and interesting wines to the consumer marketplace. The best grape varieties in Portugal are grown in the warm, sunny region of the Northeastern quarter of the country. These grapes include the Touriga Nacional, the Periquita and the Baga for red wines and the Alvarinho, the Fernao Pires, Bual, Malvasia, Sercial and Verdelho for whites. Cheaper wines will be blends of other grape varieties. Portugal also makes 6 styles of Port wine that range from the superb Vintage Ports to the popular aperitif White Ports. The Single-Quinta Vintage Port, Late Bottled Vintage, Ruby Port, and Tawny Port range between the two extremes and popular mostly in France. Portugal also is the producer of some note worthy table wines such as the Alentejo, the Ribetejo, the Bairrada, the Dao and the Duoro to name a few.
The Rhône Valley of France is known for producing a contrasting variety of wines both rare and for everyday. Divided into North and South, the region produces robust red wines with the red grape varieties of Syrah and Viognier in the North and Grenache, Syrah,Mourvèdre and Cinsaut in the South.
Northern white wines are made from Marsanne and Roussanne varieties while Southern whites involve the Grenache Blanc, and Picpoul as well.
Covered in extremely steep, granite hillsides, the Northern region of the Rhône Valley is home to the hefty Hermitage and Cote-Rotie,two of the greatest red wines in the world. These wines involve deep, rich flavors and heavy bodies which have led them to be considered the manliest of French wines.
Expensive, superb and unusually powerful white wines produced in the north include the Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet.
TheSouthern region of the area is best known for the cheaper yet wonderful wines of the Côtes du Rhône. The best of these wines will be labeled with the actual village name.
Virtually isolated from other producers, South African winemakers have evolved a distinct style and developed good quality to their wines. The countrys southernmost tip is the only region suitable for production. Although hot and dry, breezes off the Indian and Atlantic oceans cool it down and supply pockets of good potential.
Producing more white than red wines, South Africas grape varieties include the Chanin Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle and Muscat d’Alexandrie, Pinotage, Pinot Noir, and the Cabernet Sauvignon.
South African wines exhibit a fusion of new world lively fruit flavors with old world structure and body.
The main growing regions include Stellenboch, Paarl, Constantia, Walker Bay, Robertson and Franschhoek. Although no superstar wines command the attention of the world at large as of yet, various winemakers are toughing out the political restrictions the country places on production and offering examples of truly superb wine.
Among these palatable wines are the Vin de Constance, the Pinots Noir and the Chardonnays of Bouchard-Finlayson and Hamilton-Russell, and wines from La Motte, Von Ortloff, Bellingham and Boschendal.
Famous for Spanish sherry, Spain is the third largest producer of wine after France and Italy. Aside from the success of the fortified wines, the history of Spanish winemaking iss bruised by mass productions of cheap red wines.
Only the Rioja region, which was embraced by French winemakers after phylloxera had infested their fields, has managed to build a strong reputation for full wines with vanilla bouquets and velvety finishes.
Tempranillo is the star grape in the Rioja region, which is divided into 3 subregions. Of the three subregions, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa have the cooler climates and therefore the more superior wines. In the last 10 years or so, the region of Ribera del Duero has taken over the wine scene with its Vega Sicilia wines. These are both a rare and expensive blend of grapes, such as the Cabernet Sauvinon and the Merlot, which have been aged in oak for sometimes over a decade.
Spanish white wines, such as the White Rioja and wines from Galicia, have also been making a steady comeback. The future of Spanish wine looks bright and tasty.
The Loire Valley
The Loire Valley of France is known for its vast variety of white wines and the sharp, acidic qualities in all its wines. Comprised of western Loire, middle Loire and upper Loire, the region can vary in climate. Western Loire is prone to cool and cloudy temperatures that are perfect for the Muscadet grape.
This grape is used mainly for making dry, white wines.
Muscadet wines often carry the lable of Sur Lie, which means that there will be an added nutty or fruity flavoring to the wine. Middle Loire is slightly warmer and wetter than western Loire and usually a good climate for noble rot. This leads to the area’s sweet wine production.
The Chenin Blanc grape is the star of the white wines of middle Loire with Cabernet Franc being used for reds.
Upper Loire is the hottest of all the sections and good for growing Suavignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
So these are the most common places where wine grapes are grown. Not an exhaustive list, but pretty thorough. If you have some information you’d like to add let us know. At Upscale Drinks we are always looking for great content to help inform our readers.