Many countries, especially in the northern hemisphere produce wine of great quality and at affordable prices.
In the northern hemisphere, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal dominate, although there are many more that compete for their rightful place, inducing the USA, Canada, and Hungary. Some will even include the UK for sparkling wines for which the country is slowly becoming famous, even favourably competing with world famous Champagne, in France. In the southern hemisphere, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and Chile stand out, and there the choice stops.
Argentina produces huge amounts of wines, mainly red, but now also white well balanced whites, especially chardonnay at reasonable prices.
Although the vast majority of this 40 million nation drinks Fernet Branca mixed with Coca Cola as a cocktail, the per capita wine consumption is well over 40 litres.
Some vineyards are located as high as 2500 metres above sea level.
Malbec, although originally from France, has become the most successful and popular red grape variety of Argentina.
Beside malbec, bonarda, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir syrah, merlot, and tempranillo are planted for red wines, and chardonnay, pedro ximenez, torrontes, viognier and sauvignon blanc for white wines.
Argentina is the fifth largest wine producing country in the world, but 80 per cent of the wine is consumed in the country.
In all there are 1300 wineries, and more boutique establishments are coming on stream almost daily.
Catena Zapata, Bodegas del Fin del Mundo, Bodegas Norton,
Decero, F. Lurton, Bodegas de Los Siete, Famiglia Schroder, La Puerta, Kaiken, and Pasqual Toso are only some that export.
Australia is best known for its shiraz, but it also produces outstanding pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, and blends of Grenache, mourvedre, and shiraz aka GSM, flavourful full-bodied chardonnay, riesling, mataro, semillon, sauvignon blanc including a range of blends, fortified, sweet, and sparkling wines.
South Australia’s Barossa-, McLaren-, Eden, Clare- Valleys, and Adelaide Hills are well known quality wine producing regions as are Victoria, Tasmania, and Western Australia.
Peter Lehmann, Pefold’s, Grosset, Wynn’s, Chateau Tahbilk, Tyrell, Jacob’s Creek, Henschke, Yangarra, Shingleback, St. Hallett, Wakefield, Yalumba, and Glatzer are a few that stand out.
New Zealand is one of the smallest wine producing countries among the ten listed, but is world famous for its fragrant sauvignon blanc wines. Beside delicious sauvignon blanc, New Zealand produces fine chardonnay, Riesling, syrah, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and blends of cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford, Dog Point, Erades, Seresin, Spy Valley, Pegasus Bay, Two Rivers, Babich, and Lawson are only some of the hundreds that well known.
South Africa has been producing wine ever since Dutch explorers started the colony in Cape Town. Viticulture had its ups and downs over centuries, but now seems to be on solid ground with well established vineyards and quality-oriented wineries.
Chenin blanc aka steen in South Africa is the main white grape variety, but chardonnay, Riesling, sauvignon blanc and many others yield fine wines. For reds, growers like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and pinotage (cross between pinot noir and cinsault).
The largest winery, KWV, produces several brands including the Cathedral Sellar line, which is the best and offers outstanding value.
Delheim, nederburg, Durbanville, Graham beck, De Toren, Muldebosch, Thelema, Hartenberg, Spice Route and Bon Courage Estaes are only a few that are recommended.
Chile was considered up to recently, the best wine producing country in South Amermica, but Argentina started to compete favourably in the last decade.
This narrow and long country separated from Argentina by the Andean Mountain chain has never experienced the dreaded phylloxera.
Carmenere is the star red grape variety, although fine cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and even pinot noir yield fine wines. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier represent the staple white grape varieties of Chile.
The country is now exporting considerable quantities to other South American countries, the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, China and to many EU countries.
Errazuriz, Montes, Santa Rita, Casa Lapostolle, Torres, Emiliana, De Martino, Vina Leyda, are some of the wineries that stand out.
France used to be the biggest wine producer in the world, but now Italy surpassed it.
France still enjoys an excellent reputation for its wines in all
categories. It is one country that has adopted the appellation controlle concept of classification and instituted a remarkable control system.
France is home to many grape varieties that have spread all over the world – cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot, pinot noir, gamay, syrah, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, Semillon, pinot blanc, chenin blanc, and aliogte are only some. On
the other hand, France imported and successfully planted Spanish grape varieties like garnacha (Grenache), carinena (carignan), monastrell (mourvedre) just to name a few, and German varieties by political coincidence, in Alsace.
France exports, in value, more wine than any other country in the world to well over 100 countries.
The most famous regions are: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire Valley, Alsace, Champagne, Cotes du Rhone, Languedoc, Russillon, and Provence.
The up and coming region Languedoc alone has more vineyards than all of Australia.
Domaine Perrin, G. Dubeouf, Bouchrd Pere et Fils, Bouchard Aine et Fils, Calvet, Baron de Rothschild Group, H. Bourgeois, Hugel, L. Jadot, Denis Mortet, Toupenot-Merme, L. Latour, Bollinger, Ayala, Drappier, Alfred Gratien, Moet et Chandon, de Venoge, Veuve Cliquot, Jacquesson, Laurent-Perrier, J et F Lurton, Guy Saget, N. Joly, J. M. Monmousseau are just a few of the thousands of outstanding wineries or shippers.
Germany is a relatively small producer with only 100 000 hectares under vines in the last 30 years, the larger wineries have become bigger, while many small ones ceased to operate.
Quality has improved, as even large enterprises realized that lowering standards to maintain low prices does not pay in the long run.
While Germany has been predominantly producing white wines, there is now a noticeable shift to red wines, mainly pinot noir (aka Spatburgunder), Rhineriesling is the predominant grape variety occupying 22 per cent of the vineyard surface
High quality wines generally remain in the country since Germans willingly pay the high prices demanded.
Weissburgunder (pinot blanc), and Grauburgunder (pinot gris) plantings are increasing, while the ubiquitous Muller-Thurgau is decreasing.
Mosel, Rheingau, Baden, Pfalz (Palatinate), Rheinhessen (Hessia) are the famous regions.
The following wineries are reliable – Dr. Loosen, Selbach-Oster, J.J. Prum, Deinhard, Lingenfelder, Schloss Schonborn, Schloss Reinhartshausen, Molitor, Burklin-Wolf, and Langenbach are only some of the thousands.
Italy produces more wine than any other country (approximately five billion litres) and excels in red wine.
Practically every province produces wine. Some specialize in sweet muscats others in reds and yet others (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia) in whites.
Close to 400 indigenous grape varieties are authorized, and many French and others in northern provinces.
Sicily, once known for bulk wine, is now producing some otusanding reds and a few white wines. Excellent sweet white wiens are also produced on the island of Pantelleria.
Sangiovese, the main red grape variety of Tuscany and elsewhere in Italy, nebbiolo in Piedmont, Barbarossa in Emilia Romagna, nero d’Avola in Sicily, and primitivo in Puglia are only some of the most famous grape varieties.
Antinori, masi, Maculan, Donnafugata, Ceretto, Rocca delle Macie, Planeta, Isole e Elena, Fattoria dei Barbi, and Merchesi di Frescobaldi are only some of the thousands of privately held and co-operative wineries.
Portugal is a relatively small country in western Iberia, but produces proportionately, a lot of wine.
The Douro Valley in the north is now producing credible red table wines, as port wine consumption has flat lined.
Vinho verde is now being promoted as a refreshing white wine.
Portuguese wineries prefer indigenous grape varieties i.e touriga nacional, touriga francese, baiga, alvarinho and many more.
Besides Douro, Dao, Bairrada, Lisboa, Madeira, Alentejo, Tras os Montes are famous wine producing regions.
J. M. Fonseca, Taylor Fladgate, Alainca, Sogrape, Quinta de Aveleda, Messias, and J.P.Vinhos are only some of the many wineries of Portugal.
Spain cultivates more vineyards than any other country in the world, but yields being low, is now world’s third largest wine producer.
Quality improvements since 1980’s have been impressive and wines are being exported to many countries.
Spanish winemakers prefer working with indigenous grape varieties as they express the terroir better than those imported. Garnacha, tempranillo, monastrell, albarino, pedro ximenez, bobadillo, viura, and paraleda, are the most popular grape varieties, but more and more wineries are planting species close to extinction in an attempt to gain market share.
Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro, Rias Baixas, Priorat, Jerez de la Frontera, La Mancha, Jumilla, Tarragona, are only some of the more famous regions of Spain.
Freixenet, Segura Viudas, Gonzalez Byas, Bodegas Egurien, Pedro Domecq, Lustau, Martinez, Piquera, Torres, Vicente gadi, felix Soli, Bodegas Campo Viejo, Vina Mayor, Marques de Caceres, Barbier, and Vega Sicilia are only some of the more reliable wineries of Spain.