Which Countries Are Most Famous For Wine?
Wine is a beverage that is enjoyed by people of every walk of life. It does not matter if you are from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, or Australia, as one can easily find a wine to enjoy. But which countries are most famous for wine?
With today’s global economy, wine lovers around the world can easily enjoy their favorite wines from some of the most famous wine making regions around the globe.
This article will explore the many countries around the globe that are famous for wine. It will go into detail on the main wine regions in each country, give a brief history of each, and describe the types of wines that each area is particularly famous for.
Perhaps no country is more associated with the production of fine wines than France. Not only do some of the most popular and highest regarded wines originate in France, but France is also home to what appears to be an almost never ending selection of wines to try.
Numbers don’t lie. France is home to over 200 indigenous varieties of wine, and over 300 official wine label names. If you think that these numbers are staggering, you will be amazed to learn that France produces over 2,900 different wines.
That is right, you could sample a different French wine every day, and after eight years, you would finally have sampled them all. Before you book your next vacation to the “Land of Wine,” let’s explore the different wine producing regions of France.
Among the most popular and well-known wine making regions of France is the Bordeaux region, located in the west-central part of the country. Most of the wines produced in this region (over 90% of them) are red wines made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
These wines are medium to full bodied, and have aromas and tastes of minerals and fruits. This area of France first became popular for its sweet white wines from the region of Sauternes, and measures an amazing 278,754 acres. This is truly one of the most iconic wine making regions in the world.
While the Bordeaux region of France may stake claim to being the most famous region, the Languedoc-Roussillon region is hands-down the largest wine making region in France, measuring in at a staggering 523,852 acres. This region of France, much like the Bordeaux region, excels in the production of blended red wines, which include the Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan and Syrah wines. These wines each contain hints of red raspberry, licorice and plum.
The other distinct wine making regions of France include the Rhone Valley, Loire Valley, South West, Provence, Champagne, Bourgogne, Beaujolais, Alsace, Corsica, Bugey, Jura and Savoie. France is obviously home to perhaps the best wine making regions on Earth.
If one country was held in the same regard as France as far as its wine production is concerned, it would be Italy. Currently, there are over 300 official Italian wine varieties, and perhaps as many as 2,000 different Italian grape varieties. While Italy produces table wines, cooking wines and Vermouth, there are three regions in Italy that produce the highest quality drinking wines, which include the Veneto, Tuscany and Piedmont regions.
The Veneto Region, which accounts for almost one-fifth of the production of drinking wines in Italy, is best known for producing Amarone della Valpollicella. Several other distinctive red blends of the region are made with Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, and for white wines, Garganega is used to make Soave, a wine that has a similar richness to Chardonnay.
The Tuscany Region, accounts for just slightly less production than the Veneto Region, and is home to the vastly popular and historic Chianti region. The Chianti region is the birthplace of the Sangiovese grape, which offers a wide range of tastes from earthy and rustic to fruity.
The Piedmont Region accounts for just over 10% of drinking wine production in Italy. Among the most popular grape from this region is the Nebbiolo, which is very high in tannins and has a very pale color. The region is also home to Moscato d’Asti and Dolcetto.
Italy is unmistakably home to some of the finest wines around. It just may take you years to get to know the different wine varieties produced there. It definitely would be time well spent.
As we stay on the European continent, we now visit Spain, which is the third largest wine producer in the world. One may be surprised to learn that Spain actually has the most land dedicated to vineyards, at over one million acres.
These one million acres are spread over several diverse regions of the country, and these diverse regions produce numerous varieties of wines. At last count, there are at least 60 different wine producing regions in Spain, so with that many regions, it becomes easier to categorize them into seven distinct climate regions.
Northwest Spain, is perhaps the most unique region of Spain, and is comprised of lush green valleys. This area, where fresh fish is the most common cuisine, specializes in zesty white wines. The next region is the Mediterranean Coast, which in and of itself is a very diverse region, made up of the sub-regions of Valencia, Catalonia and Murcia. Among the well-known wines of these regions are Cava and Priorat. The Ebro River Valley is home to Tempranillo, oak aged white wines, and zesty white wines.
The Duero River Valley is known for Verdejo, a white wine with mineral tones, and the bold red wines of Toro, Ribera del Duero and Leon. Tempranillo is also grown in this region, and is known as Tinta deToro. The Central Plateau region, home to Madrid, has a different climate typified by dry and sunny conditions. This region produces some of the best value red wines of Spain. The Andalucia region of Spain is typically very hot and dry. This is the region that is famous for Sherry. Other wines from this area are known for their nutty flavors and characteristics. Finally, the Islands region of Spain offer a wide range of wines from reds to dessert wines. Wines from this region often have a taste of minerality due to the volcanic soils of the region.
While not as well known for wine production as France and Italy, it is clear that Spain deserves its standing among the countries most famous for wine production.
As Spain’s next door neighbor, Portugal can easily be forgotten among the world’s most famous countries for wine production. Portugal’s wine production developed in relative isolation, and what makes Portuguese wine so unique is that there are many grape varieties found in Portugal that are not found anywhere else on Earth.
In fact, there are over 250 indigenous varieties of grapes that can be found in Portugal. Many of the wines of this fine country have yet to be tasted and explored by the rest of the world. Let’s explore some of the famous, or not so famous wine producing regions of Portugal.
The Douro Valley is home to the most famous wine from Portugal, Port. There are distinctive varieties of Port, such as LBV Port, Tawny Port and Vintage Port which are made by blending port grapes. Also hailing from this region are Tinto Douro, which are full bodied red wines, which are very tannic and age worthy. Douro Branco wines are light bodied white wines which are crisp and minerally.
The Terra de Cister region of Portugal just south of the Douro Valley is a tiny region that was first planted by Cistercian monks. This area has a cooler climate which makes it harder to ripen grapes. This produces wines with much more elegance and acidity, making it ideal for sparkling wines.
The Transmontano region lies just north of Douro and is another small region known for its regional red blend, which is full bodied and is higher in alcohol than the other regions of Portugal. The Alentejo region of Portugal is extremely similar to California in the United States. This region is home to many modern wineries that specialize in red wines with fruit and mocha flavors, and refreshing white wines than bear a resemblance to Chardonnay.
United States of America
While California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma are the top producing wine regions in the United States, there are plenty of wine regions across the vast country that are rapidly growing in popularity and prominence. These regions have recently began producing world-class wines that can hold their own with wines from France, Italy and Spain. Let’s explore several of these up and coming regions in the United States.
Obviously, the state of California leads the United States, with almost 4,400 wineries actively producing wine. Within California, Napa Vallley and Sonoma are still the regions that all other regions attempt to copy. Napa is known for Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sonoma is known for its Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvingon and Chardonnay.
Also on the Pacific Coast of the United States is Washington State, which boasts over 700 wineries. Two of the most popular wine making regions in Washington State include Walla Walla and the Columbia Valley. Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah are the most popular wines from this state.
The State of Oregon, also on the Pacific coast, also boasts over 700 active wineries. Oregon is much cooler than California, which makes it the ideal location for producing Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Camay. The up and coming wine region, Willamette Valley, has gained a world class reputation for its Pinot Noir wines. Of interesting note, the Willamette Valley is located along the same latitude as the famous Burgundy region of France, which is also famous for its Pinot Noir.
Next on our tour of the United States is New York State, which is home to almost 400 wineries. One region of New York State, which has become the home of East Coast wine making is the Finger Lakes region. This region alone is home to more than 100 wineries, and is famous for Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
A few hours south of New York State lies Virginia, which has almost 300 wineries in active production. Within Virginia, the most famous wine region is located near the historic town of Charlottesville. Virginia has a growing season that spans for almost 200 days.
Along the southern border of the United States Is Texas, which now is home to over 300 wineries. The Texas Hill Country wine region, spans a staggering 9 million acres, is the largest region in the United States. Texas Hill Country has a very dry, sunny climate which is perfect for growing Tempranillo, Syrah, Albarino, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
Pennsylvania contains a premier wine growing region that is situated between Lake Erie to the north and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. This state has over 250 actively producing wineries.
Just to the west of Pennsylvania is Ohio, which has almost 200 wineries. Ohio has a rich wine making tradition which dates all the way back to the 1820’s. During the mid 1800’s, Ohio was home to perhaps the most popular wine making industry in the nation, made famous by the Catawba grape.
Just to the north of Ohio lies Michigan, which is home to a winegrowing region that has been called the “Napa Valley of the Midwest.” The climate of Michigan is moderated by Lake Michigan and helps the region produce very complex wines.
Finally, we touch on the State of Missouri, located in the heartland of the United States. Missouri is famous for its “Missouri Rhineland,” a winegrowing region first settled by German immigrants back in 1837.
South America’s largest wine growing county is Argentina, which is famous for its Malbec. Cabernet Sauvignon also is popular, and Torrontes is the class of the white wines in Argentina.
Many wine experts say that the Argentinian Cabernets compare well with the Napa Valley Cabernets of California in the United States. The notable wine making regions of Argentina include the Salta, Catamarica, La Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza and Patagonia.
Go back to the 1600’s, and you will find that Chile was the major wine producer for South America after a massive earthquake decimated Peru’s wine making industry. Chile boasts a cool climate which aids in the production of a Cabernet Sauvignon which is very similar to a Bordeaux. Major wine making regions of Chile include the Limari Valley, Casablanca Valley, Malpo Valley and the Malleco Valley.
Of the up and coming wine producing countries in the world, Australia has tripled wine production in the last 30 years. Shiraz has been the brand of wine that Australia is most famous for. Shiraz and Chardonnay make up almost half of the total wine production of Australia.
The largest wine production region is easily South Australia, which is home to the Australian Wine Research Institute. This Institute is responsible for most of the world’s research on farming techniques and commercial wine operation. Barossa Valley is South Australia’s best producing growing area, and is home to some of the oldest living vineyards in the world. Of the wines to sample from this region is Old Vine Shiraz. Also worth trying are the red blends known as GSM, which are blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
Another wine making region in Australia is the New South Wales region, which has historically been the hub of the commercial Shiraz production from Australia. The Victoria wine making region is well known for its Pinot Noir, which is easily produced due to the cooler climate of the area.
As we come to the last county included in our exploration of the most famous wine producing countries, New Zealand, it is interesting to note that New Zealand produces only one percent of the world’s wine. This country, though very small, is known as the Sauvignon Blanc capital of the world, and is home to almost 50,000 acres of vineyards dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc.
New Zealand is comprised on two main islands, North Island and South Island, and these two islands are separated by what amounts to a 3 and a half hour ferry ride across the Cook Strait. Each of these two islands have their own distinctive geographies and climates and produce their own signature wines.
The North Island is home to the Hawke’s Bay Region, which is the oldest region in the country. Hawke’s Bay is best known for its Merlot blends and makes a tropical fruit flavored Sauvignon Blanc. The Wairarapa Region of the North Island produces a Sauvignon Blanc with a stone fruit and jalapeno character, and the Gisborne Region is known for Blancs with a flavoring of pineapple and guava.
The South Island has a longer and colder growing season, which causes the Sauvignon Blancs produced there to be more acidic and pungent. Four regions are found on this South Island, including the Marlborough Region, which is the main growing area in the country. The Nelson Region, Canterbury Region and Central Otago Regions each produce their own variety of the Sauvignon Blanc.
This journey around the world, exploring the most famous wine making countries, shows the geographical differences and preferences in wine making. Hopefully this article has peaked your interest and will lead to broadening horizons regarding the wines you enjoy.