Wine production in the world is concentrated between the parallels 30 and 50 of the latitudes north and south, in temperate zones, where days are not too hot and nights not too cold.
The main producers are: France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain and the United States, in the northern hemisphere, and Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, in the southern one.
Designation of Origin
The main wine producing countries adopt classification systems for their wines, attesting their origin and quality. In order to qualify for this classification, any wine must comply with the requirements of the class to which it belongs. This will guarantee its origin, the production criteria, as well as a minimum quality. The most important designation systems are the following:
- AOC – Appelacion d’Origine Contrôlée.
- Vin de Pays
- DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata.
- DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.
- IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica.
- DOC – Denominación de Origen Calificada.
- DOC – Denominação de Origem Controlada.
- Although not making any reference to the region of origin, Germany classifies its wines according to their quality. In an order of increasing quality, we have the following wines:
- Deutcher Tafelwein
- Qualitätswein mit Prädikat
EU – European Union
- VQPRD – Vin de Qualité Produit dans une Région Determinée
Argentina is the fourth largest wine producer in the world, but most of it is domestically consumed. Its vineyards correspond to nearly one half of South America’s vineyards, with 70% of the plantations located in the Mendoza Region, at the skirts of the Andes. The climate there is barren and the vineyards of the plains are irrigated by water coming through channels from the Andes.
Argentina, like its neighbors, is undergoing a renovation in its vineyards, substantially improving the quality of its production. Among the fine wines, there is a great number of varieties, particularly of French and Italian origins.
Criolla is the most widely grown variety in Argentina, but its production has been dwindling. Next comes Malbec, which is one of the least important of the Bordeaux varieties, but has adapted very well to the Argentinean soil and produces its best red wines. The utilization of Cabernet Sauvignon has grown, replacing older varieties and resulting in wines of great quality.
The main varieties used to produce red wines are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and, mainly, Malbec.
Among the white grapes, stand out Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Torrontez, which produce wines with characteristics found only in Argentina.
The main Italian varieties found in Argentina are Bonarda, Sangiovese and Barbera.
Its red wines are usually quite better than its white ones.
Australia is one of the wine producing regions that has most vigorously developed in the world. The excessive use of wood, a widely spread practice in the beginning, has now been moderated. Australia produces good wines using Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlotgrapes, but its principal variety is Shiraz (the same Syrah from the French Côte du Rhône), that has adapted itself wonderfully well there, both in wines in which it is exclusively used, as in cuts together with the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Its main producing areas are Maclarem (in the Southern Valleys), Barrosa and Coonawarra, all in the South Australia region. The New South Wales and Victoria regions also count with good wine producing areas.
Brazilian wines have been improving with the adoption of better types of grapes and the implementation of modern techniques in their cultivation and vinification
The main problem for obtaining good harvests lies in the fact that summer is usually a rainy season. This delays the maturation of the grapes and makes the concentration of sugars and other solid components difficult.
Brazil’s best wines are produced in Serra Gaúcha (Bento Gonçalves and Caxias do Sul) and in the Santana do Livramento region, bordering Uruguay.
A few good red wines are produced, particularly, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignongrapes, and the best white ones, with Chardonnay. Brazilian wine stars are the excellent sparkling wines.
Chile started to modernize its production of wine by the end of last century, when local important landowners of the Santiago region, most of them of Basque origin, brought to their country several French producers. The latter brought with them grape varieties of the Bordeaux region, particularly the Cabernet Sauvignon, the most important of all grapes grown in Chile until today, and, in smaller numbers, theMalbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir and the whites Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc andRiesling. Chardonnay has been grown only recently in Chile.
It was only during the decade of the eighties that Chile started the modernization of its wine producing methods by using stainless steel vats and barrels made of new French oak. After that, the fame of Chilean wines was projected throughout the world.
Among the good Chilean wines stand out the reds prepared with the Merlot andCabernet Sauvignon varieties, and the whites produced from the Chardonnay and theSauvignon Blanc ones. Chile’s best regions are those of Casablanca (for the whites, particularly Chardonnay), Curicó (further south) and Maipo (near Santiago).
A piece of news came from the variety carmenère, which was one of the main Bordeaux varieties until the middle of the XIX century, when it was virtually extinct by the phylloxera. It was being cultivated in Chile where it was mistaken with theMerlot until a New Zealander enologist having properly identified it. With the separation of those two varieties, the Chilean winemakers not only will have a new variety with which to work, as will change completely the wines made with the Merlotgrapes. That will happen because, according to the Chilean enologists, the pronounced herbal aromas that characterized the Chilean Merlot were due to the fact that when the Merlot was ripe, the Carmenère, intermixed with the former one and harvested at the same time, had not yet matured completely. After separating the two varieties, we will have wines produced with the Merlot much more fruity and soft than the ones up to now. Some wineries are already producing wines exclusively with carmenère or making cuts of it with cabernet sauvignon.
Chile’s vineyards are separated from Argentina’s by the Andes.
The climate is very arid in Chile; there also, the grapevines are grown with the help of artificial irrigation. The oceanic climate benefits the Chilean vineyards. A peculiarity of that country is that its grapevines were not infested by the phylloxera, since Chile counts with impressive natural barriers which protect its plants from all sides. The Atacama desert at north, the Pacific Ocean at west, the Andes range at east, and Patagonia glaciers at south, serve as excellent phytosanitary barriers. It is thanks to it that Chile possesses the only pre-phylloxera grapevines originating directly from the old sprouts existing nowadays in the world.
France is the main wine-producing country. In 1935, it established the “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” – AOC, through the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine – INAO. In order to qualify for this classification, any wine must comply with the requirements of its Designation of Origin. This will guarantee its origin, the production criteria, as well as a minimum quality. In addition to the AOCs, France also classifies the Vin de Pays, typical of a specific region.
Several other countries also adopt their Designations of Origin (DO), classifications similar to the French AOCs.
Alsace, a border region between Germany and France along the Rhine River is the only AOC that is allowed to mention in the labels the grape variety from which the wine is made.
The main varieties used to produce white wines are Riesling, Gewürztraminer,Sylvaner, Muscat d´Alsace, Pinot Gris (also known as Tokai), and the Pinot Noir for the reds.
The Alsace wines are always elaborated exclusively from a designated variety (varietal wines).
The best wines whether dry or sweet, use Riesling, Gewürztraminer or Pinot Gris.
Sweet wines may also use the Muscat d´Alsace.
Alsace counts with the AOCs Alsace Grand Cru, which is awarded every year to certain wines after passing through a tasting examination by the controlling organ, and Alsace Edelzwicker, made from a mix of several varieties.
One of the main wine producing regions of France, Bordeaux is the world’s largest vineyard. That region is crossed by the rivers Dordogne and Garonne, which merge and form the Gironde.
Bordeaux’ red wines are produced by means of a grape cut in which the varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc predominate.
At the left bank of the Gironde and Garonne rivers are the AOCs belonging to the Médoc and Graves regions, where the predominant variety is the Cabernet Sauvignon, a quite resistant and easy to adapt variety with a preference for poor, hot, dry stony quartz soils or thick sand with a good drainage system, like in Médoc and in Graves, that produce wines of excellent quality. The Cabernet Sauvignon finds it difficult to ripen in clayey and heavy soils, like those of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. That variety undergoes a long period of maturation and needs to endure a hot autumn in order to ripen properly and develop the quality of its tannins.
For wines classified as Grand Cru in Bordeaux, the output of the vineyards should not exceed 25 l/ha. Young plantations with 100 l/ha will produce average quality wines.
At the right banks of the Dordogne and the Gironde, in the Libournais region and in the vineyards of Côtes de Blaye, Bourg and Castillon prevails the Merlot, a variety that prefers clayey and deep soils well supplied with water, and that produces dark, full-bodied and alcohol rich wines.
Its participation in the Saint-Emilion and Pomerol wines amounts to two thirds, leaving the remainder one third to Cabernet Franc (those amounts can vary or have the participation ofMalbec or Cabernet Sauvignon).
The white wines of Bordeaux use as main varieties the Sauvignon Blanc and the Semillon, in the dry whites and in Bordeaux’s famous sweet wines, like the Sauternes.
The main AOCs in the left bank of the Gironde and Garonne, are: Médoc, Haut-Médoc,Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Listrac, Moulis and Margaux, that are part of the Médoc region; at the south of Bordeaux are the Pessac-Léognan and Graves (which in addition to good red wines, produce the best Bordeaux whites), Cérons, Barsac,Sauternes (a famous region for its sweet wines), Bordeaux and Bordeaux-Supérieur.
The main AOCs situated at the right bank of the Dordogne are: Côte-de-Blaye,Premières-Côtes-de-Blaye, Côtes-de-Bourg, Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Lalande-de-Pomerol, Pomerol, Lussac-Saint-Émilion, Montagne-Saint-Émilon, Saint-Georges-Saint-Émilion, Puissegain-Saint-Émilion, Côtes-de-Castillon and Saint-Émilion.
Between the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers are the AOCs: Entre-Deux-Mers(producer of white wines), Cadillac, Loupiac and Saint-croix-du-mont (producers of natural sweet wines). The latter faces Sauternes, on the opposite side of the Garonne.
There are two AOCs that use the same terroir (geographic location that is the basis of the French AOCs): Bordeaux and Bordeaux-Supérieur. The only difference between the two lies in the minimum alcohol content: the strength of the Bordeaux-Supérieur must be one grade above that of the Bordeaux.
See the 1855 classification of the Médoc wines.
Bordeaux – 1855 Classification of Médoc
In 1855, on occasion of the Universal Exhibition, two brokers who used to work for Bordeaux businessmen, made, at the request of Napoleon III, the famous classification of Médoc Crus.
That classification was modified only once, when in 1973 the Mouton Rothschild wine was raised from Deuxième Cru to Premier Cru.
In 1987, a survey among specialists, businessmen and proprietors includes Petrus (Pomerol) and Chateau D’Yquem (Sauternes), maintains Chateau Haut-Brion (Graves), but still keeps ignoring some excellent wines from other Bordeaux areas.
Original 1855 classification:
|Ch. Cos d´Estournel
|Ch. Léoville-Las Cases
|Ch. La Lagune
|Ch. Marquis d´Alesme-Becker
|Ch. La Tour-Carnet
|Ch. d´ Armailhac (ex-Mouton-Barone)
|Ch. Cos Labory
|Ch. du Tertre
Bordeaux – Sauternes
Situated in Bordeaux’ southern region, Sauternes produces the world’s most famous sweet wines. The main characteristic of Sauterne’ vineyards is that they are attacked by botrytis cinerea. Such fungal infestation is enhanced by the microclimate of that region, that in early autumn counts with humid and foggy mornings and hot and sunny afternoons.
Grape grains are virtually picked one by one. The concentration of must makes the production to be scarce, not reaching, in some instances, a bottle per each grapevine, what makes Sauternes’ sweet wines very expensive.
The whole production process of those wines is slow and takes a long time. Some of the most famous ones, like Chateau d’Yquem, may take longer than three years to be produced. Since they can evolve for many years, their consumption can wait for nearly 30 years.
Sauternes and Barsac, its neighbor AOC, were also classified in 1855, bestowing to Chateau d’Yquem an unique award, being classified as ‘Premier Cru Supérieur’ instead of ‘Premier Cru’.
The main varieties of those wines are the Sauvignon Blanc and the Semillon.
1855 Classification of the Sauternes/Barsac wines:
Premier Cru Supérieur:
Premiers Crus Classés:
- Ch. Climens – Barsac
- Clos Haut-Peyraguey – Sauternes
- Ch. Lafaurie-Peyraguey – Sauternes
- Ch. Coutet – Barsac
- Ch. Guiraud – Sauternes
- Ch. Rayne-Vigneau – Sauternes
- Ch. Rieussec – Sauternes
- Ch. Sigalas-Rabaud – Sauternes
- Ch. Rabaud-Promis – Sauternes
- Ch. Suduiraut – Sauternes
- Ch. La Tour Blanche – Sauternes
Deuxièmes Crus Classés:
- Ch. Suau – Barsac
- Ch. Broustet – Barsac
- Ch. Doisy-Daëne – Barsac
- Ch. Doisy-Dubroca – Barsac
- Ch. Doisy-Védrines – Barsac
- Ch. Caillou – Barsac
- Ch. Filhot – Sauternes
- Ch. Lamothe – Sauternes
- Ch. Lamothe-Guignard – Sauternes
- Ch. de Malle – Sauternes
- Ch. de Myrat – Barsac
- Ch. d´Arche – Sauternes
- Ch. Nairac – Barsac
- Ch. Romer-du-Hayot – Sauternes
Despite not producing as much as Bordeaux, Bourgogne competes with that region in importance in addition to comprising some of France’s best wine producing regions. Famous for its reds, Bourgogne is even more famous for its white wines, which are regarded as the best in the world.
In addition to the generic AOCs, like Bourgogne and Bourgogne Aligoté, for the whites, and Bourgogne and Bourgogne Passtoutgrain, for the reds, that amount to 65% of the total production, Bourgogne counts also with three more AOCs levels: as Village, as Village/Premier Cru (in the labels the word Village is replaced by the name of the locality), and the Grand Cru.
In the generic AOCs, it is not allowed to mention the locality or the sub-region, except in the case of some denominations acknowledged by INAO: Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits etc.
In the AOC Village, which represents 30% of the production, the indication of the name of the locality is authorized under the condition that the grapes come exclusively from the locality and that the locality’s name appears in the label in a print size smaller than that of the AOC.
The Premier Cru, which amounts to 5% of the total production, is not an AOC, but simply an inferior variety of AOC Village (except in Chablis, where the Premier Cru is a division apart). Within each Village/Premier Cru, the list of localities is established and approved by INAO National Committee, and the name of the locality can be written in the label in the same print size as the name of the AOC. That is a good information, since the mention of Premier Cru is not mandatory. That allows the producer to choose among four ways to write the labels. For instance, Beaune Premier Cru, Beaune les Grèves Premier Cru, Beaune Premier Cru Les Grèves or just Beaune Grèves.
At the top of the pyramid are the Grand Crus, which total just 1% of all wines produced in Bourgogne. Each wine has its AOC, in which it is mentioned just the name of the locality, not appearing in the label the name of the city.
Wine classified as Cru in Bourgogne is that originating from a group of vineyards grown in a specific soil, taking also into consideration their localization and their amount of exposure to the sun.
Pinot Noir for the red wines, and Chardonnay for the whites are the absolute queens of Bourgogne, with the exception of Gamay for the Mâcon and Beaujolais reds and of the Aligoté, which produces the Bourgogne Aligoté. The latter is used in the production of the famous Kir, a drink which it is served accompanied by a cream of blackcurrants.
Bourgogne – Beaujolais
The subregion of Bourgogne produces one of the most popular French wines in the world, the Beaujolais Nouveau, made with Gamay grapes through the carbonic maceration method.
The Beaujolais region counts with 12 AOCs:
- Beaujolais-Nouveau, the most generic one
- Beaujolais-Village and the Crus de Beaujolais, which amount to 10 in total
- Côtes de Brouilly
- Moulin-à-Vent, the most famous one and considered the best of all.
The Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine to be consumed very young. It must be taken at a temperature close to 54ºF (12ºC), and not later than six months after its production. The called crus are better structured and can be consumed until within four or five years.
Bourgogne – Chablis
The vineyards of Chablis are in Côte de Yonne, in the northernmost area of Bourgogne.
Their wines are all from the Chardonnay grape variety, like most of Bourgogne’s white wines.
Nowadays, Chablis’ production in 6,800 hectares reaches close to 96 million liters a year, divided in four AOCs: Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru, Chablisand Petit Chablis.
The soil over which Chablis’ vineyards are planted possesses an unparalleled mineral richness, a characteristic which is transmitted to its wines.
Out of the 6,800 hectares planted, only 100 are classified by the AOC as Grand Cru. Other 750 are classified as Premier Cru, 4,400 hectares are classified as Chablisand the remainder 1,550 hectares, as Petit Chablis.
The 100 hectares of the AOC Chablis Grand Cru are situated by the banks of the Serein river, in the heart of the vineyards of Chablis. The wine from that AOC must show in the label the name of one of the seven vineyards in which it is produced:Les Clos, Vaudésir, Valmur, Blanchot, Bougros, Preuses or Grenouilles.
Chablis wines are produced by nearly 500 wine producers. The trading of those wines is carried out in two ways: One third is bottled directly by the producers and two thirds are handled through a grouping of Bourgogne businessmen in association with the Chablisienne, the cooperative of wine cellars.
Despite being its most important, Chablis is not the only vineyard within the Yonne region. There are also the AOCs Côte-d’Auxerre, with a production of red wines based on Pinot Noir and of whites from Chardonnay, and Bourgogne-Irancy, which produces some interesting red wines based on Pinot Noir and Cesar.
Bourgogne – Côte Chalonnaise
Côte Chalonnaise, a subregion of Bourgogne, covers an area extending from the south of Chagny to Montagny.
Its main AOCs are Rully, which produces a slightly larger amount of white wines than reds; Mercurey, the star of the region, where almost 90% of its production consists of red wines; Givry, producing more red than white wines; and finally,Montagny, producing exclusively white wines under the designation of Montagny Premier Cru.
Côte Chalonnaise’s highlight is the Crémant de Bourgogne, a sparkling wine of excellent quality produced using the varieties Pinot Noir or Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Aligoté.
Bourgogne – Côte d’Or
Côte d’Or is the heart of Bourgogne, where its most prestigious wines are made. It is a large vineyard area extending from Dijon to Chagny. The Chardonnay variety renders dry white wines of a fantastic quality, being considered the best and most expensive ones in the whole world, while the Pinot Noir produces structured wines of exceptional quality in some of the best French vineyards.
Côte d’Or is divided into Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, and counts with 33Grand Crus altogether.
In addition to the grands crus, exist also in Côte d’Or the famous AOCs Village andPremier Crus.
Bourgogne – Côte de Beaune
Côte de Beaune is a subregion of Côte d’Or, in Bourgogne, in which there is a predominance of white wines.
White Grand Crus:
- Corton Blanc
Red Grand Cru:
Bourgogne – Côte de Nuits
Côte de Nuits is a subregion of Côte d’Or, in Bourgogne, in which there is a predominance of red wines.
Nowadays, there are 24 Grands Crus.
White Grand Crus:
Red Grand Crus:
- Bonnes Mares
- Chambertin Clos de Bèze
- Clos de la Roche
- Clos St-Denis
- Clos de Lambrays
- Clos de Tart
- Clos de Vougeot
- Musigny Rouge
- Grands Echézeaux
- La Tâche
- La Romanée
- Romanée-Saint-VivantCôte de Nuits is a subregion of Côte d’Or, in Bourgogne, in which there is a predominance of red wines.Nowadays, there are 24 Grands Crus.
White Grand Crus:
Red Grand Crus:
- Bonnes Mares
- Chambertin Clos de Bèze
- Clos de la Roche
- Clos St-Denis
- Clos de Lambrays
- Clos de Tart
- Clos de Vougeot
- Musigny Rouge
- Grands Echézeaux
- La Tâche
- La Romanée
Bourgogne – Mâconnais
Mâconnais, a subregion of Bourgogne, produces more white than red wines.
Around 70% of its wines are made from Chardonnay. As to reds, most of them are made from Gamay grapes, including those made through the carbonic maceration method, like the Beaujolais.
Its principal AOC is Pouilly-Fuissé, with rich and sumptuous white wines that age well.
Other Mâconnais Crus are Pouilly-Vinzelles, Pouilly-Loché and Saint-Véran.
The region of Champagne is located east of Paris, in the vicinity of Reims, and lends its name to the world’s most famous sparkling wine.
Only the sparkling wines produced in that region are authorized to use the name Champagne.
Three varieties are used in its production: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Usually, champagne is not a wine in which a precise vintage is declared, since it is made with cuts of wines from different harvest in a proportion appropriate to keep the characteristics of each brand along the years.
However, in years in which the grapes are exceptionally good, many producers launch their champagne indicating their vintage, using only wines from that precise vintage.
Despite champagne is usually made with a mix of the three types of grapes above mentioned, some producers use only one, normally the Chardonnay, in the case of aBlanc de Blanc (white wine made with white grapes), or the Pinot Noir (red grapes used to produce white wine).
It is necessary to point out that there is also the champagne rosé, that after having been left in oblivion for some time is now becoming fashionable again.
Champagne is born like an ordinary quiet wine, being normally processed like any other wine. At a later stage, it is transformed into sparkling wine through the champenoise method.
Côtes du Rhône
Côtes du Rhône is another great wine producing region in France. Its vineyards extend from Vienne, its northernmost limit, up to Avignon, in the south.
The largest generic regional AOC is Côtes-du-Rhône. One step up comes Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages and another AOC Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages, where the producer can put the name of his/her location in the label; for example: Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages-Cairanne, with 16 AOCs altogether.
A third group includes the Crus, with a total of 13: eight of them are in the northern region – Cornas, Saint-Joseph, Saint-Péray, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage,Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie and Château-Grillet; and five in the southern region –Gigondas, Châteuaneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras, Tavel and Lirac.
The northern part of that area, considered to produce the wines regarded as the best ones, is located between Vienne and Valence. In that region, the Syrha grape is the favorite one to produce the greatest part of the red, full-bodied and tannic wines. For the white ones, Marsanne and Roussane, in the AOCs Croze-Hermitage,Hermitage and Saint-Péray are the ones used.
The AOC Condrieu only acknowledges white wines under its denomination, if they are made out of Viognier grapes.
In the southern part, that extends from Montélimar to the vicinity of Avignon, Syrhais also used, but in that case, together with Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan,Cinsault, or with several other less well known varieties, like in the case of Châteauneuf du Pape, an AOC in which 13 different varieties, among whites and reds, are used.
Jura wines are mostly white. Among them stands out the Arbois.
This region’s specialty is the “vin jaune”, a yellowish wine that resembles the Spanish sherry and is produced in nearly all of the area.
The AOC Château-Chalon is the main one of that type of wine, that contains an alcohol content of up to 16% and presents aromas of nuts and plums, the perception of which remains a long time in the mouth. Its grape variety, the Savagnin, is typical of the Jura region. It is a very resistant wine and it is possible to keep a bottle opened during several months without its contents decaying.
Its volume is considerable reduced by evaporation during its long ageing process – six years in semi-full barrels, factor that raises its price and explains the size of Jura’s typical bottles, the 620 ml “Clavelin”.
Languedoc (areas situated north of Narbonne) is the region of light reds and a few sweet white wines.
Main red wine AOCs: Faugères, Minervois, Fitou, St. Chinian and Corbières.
Main sweet white wine AOCs: Muscat de Mireval and Muscat de Frontignan.
AOC Blanquette de Limoux sparkling wines are produced by the champenoise method with theMausac variety, which can be complemented with up to 30% of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.
In Roussillon, the best wines are the sweet ones, both whites and reds. Stand out among the sweet reds, Maury and Banyuls, made mainly from Grenache grapes and Muscat de Rivesaltes, among the whites.
The valley of the river Loire encompasses the vineyards along that river extending from the central part of France to the Atlantic coast, forming en extensive region where one can find not only good white wines but also very interesting red ones.
In its central section, which includes Pouilly and Sancerre, the first AOC is Pouilly-Sur-Loire, that grows the Chasselas variety, from which is produced a light and fruity white wine. In that same region appear also the better well known AOCs: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Menetou-Salon, which produce from the Sauvignon Blanc good quality white wines, very fruity and scented. Sancerre also produces, with Pinot Noir, a fairly light red wine that must be consumed fairly cold.
Moving down along the river, Touraine produces good white wines with Chenin Blancgrapes, and reds with Cabernet Franc ones. Its principal AOCs are: Bourgueil, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Chinon. The three use mainly the Cabernet Franc and produce the best red wines of the region. Vouvray and Montlouis produce mainly white wines including the quiet dry, medium dry or sweet ones, and also the sparkling kind.Jasnières, a small AOC, produces dry and sweet white wines. Touraine is also the name of a vast regional AOC which produces red, white and rosé wines.
Further west, in the Anjou region, is the Saumur AOC, where white, red and, particularly, sparkling wines are produced. Saumur-Champigny are good red wines based onCabernet Franc. Anjou, the region’s largest AOC, produces red, white and rosé wines. Stand out in that region the wines made with Chenin Blanc in the AOCs Coteaux-du-Layon and Coteaux-de-l’Aubance.
Finally, close to the ocean, we have Muscadet, an extensive vineyard that produces exclusively white wine with the Muscadet variety, also known as melon
This region produces red, white and rosé wines, among which stand out the AOCs Côtes de Provence, Coteaux-de-Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, and particularly, the Bandolreds.
Provence produces predominantly rosé wines, very much appreciated in France during the summer.
This region produces light and fruity white wines, usually enjoyed with raclettes and fondues.
Its principal AOC is Vin de Savoie. Most of its wines is produced with Jacquèregrapes and the name of the cru may also be mentioned next to the AOC. Its main names are: Apremont, Abymes, Chautagne, Chignin, Marignan, Ripaille and Cruet.
However, the best Savoie grape is the Roussette or Altesse used in the AOCRoussette de Savoie. In the Crus Frangy, Marestel, Monthoux and Monterminod it is the only one used. Other wines from that AOC may contain up to 50% ofChardonnay.
The region known as Southwest encompasses several areas that spread from the Spanish border, in the south, to Bergerac in the north, and Rodez in the east. The northern part of that region partially involves the Bordeaux area.
Bergerac, an interesting red wine made from the same grapes as Bordeaux’.
Cahors, that presents a quite full-bodied red wine made mainly from Malbec grapes.
Madiran, a wine exceedingly full-bodied made from Tanat grapes; a very dark, often almost black wine.
Gaillac, a pleasant and soft red wine; must be consumed young.
Montravel, quite alcoholic, dry and sweet white wines.
Monbazillac, an area 5 km south of Bergerac, that produces sweet white wines, often attacked by botrytis; very good as dessert wines.
German wines are basically classified according to their types:
Tafelwein: Corresponds to the lowest category. It is the table wine, and can be elaborated with imported grapes.
Deutcher Tafelwein: One of Tafelweins categories. Indicates that the wine is wholly German, and cannot be produced from imported grapes.
Landwein: Indicates a slightly better Tafelwein.
Qualitätswein: Indicates a good quality wine. Most German wines belong to that category. They are the most popular wines and are easily found in our supermarkets.
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat: (good quality wine with special attributes). Are wines of a superior category. In ascending order, such attributes are the following:
Kabinett: Not a very sweet wine, often dry, with a low alcohol content.
Spätlese: Wine made with late harvested grapes. It can be dry, but it is usually sweeter than the Kabinett.
Auslese: Wine made from bunches of selected and usually late harvested grapes; although being normally sweeter, they can also be found in a dry version.
Beerenauslese: A very sweet and intense wine made from grapes infected with botrytis and picked one by one.
Trockenbeerenauslese: A wine presenting a low alcohol content and elaborated from grapes totally infected by botrytis, that causes them to dry completely, concentrating thus their sugar and providing them a peculiar aroma. Those are rare, special and expensive wines.
Eiswein: Made from very late harvested grapes, with the grapes already frozen and an even more concentrated must. They are extremely sweet wines with a very low alcohol content and very costly to produce.
World’s largest wine producer, Italy elaborates wine in its entire territory, counting with close to 340 DOCs created in 1963.
In 1982, 5 DOCGs – Protected and Guaranteed Designation of Origin – were created. These intend to represent a guarantee superior in quality compared to the DOCs. At present, 18 DOCGs already exist.
Contrary to other countries that adopted DOCs, where the table wine is considered of inferior quality, Italy classifies some of its best wines as Vino da Tavola, since some of its producers make high quality wines not necessarily observing the rules of their DOCs. By any means, these cases are not the general rule.
Italy is geographically divided into 20 regions, all producing wine. Among them stand out, particularly, the regions of Piemonte, Toscana, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Sicily.
Albana di Romagna, a white wine presented secco, amabile and passito, and theSangiovese di Romagna, a red wine.
Like Toscana, Piemonte is one of Italy’s main wine producing regions, counting at present with 6 DOCGs out of the 18 existing in the whole country.
The most outstanding ones are Barolo, Barbaresco and Gattinara, all three with strong and long lasting red wines produced from Nebiolo grapes.
The Barbera and Dolceto varieties produce wines not so full-bodied as the Nebioloones, but are also of great importance in Piemonte.
Veneto produces several types of wines: red, dry white, sweet white, and sparkling ones. Its principal area is in Verona, and its most well known wines are Valpolicella, Bardolino and Amarone.
Valpolicella, is a light red wine made from Corvina, Veronese, Rondinellaand Molinara grape varieties.
Bardolino, from a DOC near Valpolicella, has similar characteristics, using the same grape varieties plus the Negrara one.
Recioto Della Valpolicella Amarone, better known as Amarone, is a dry red wine, exceedingly full-bodied, with a high alcohol content – some reach more than 15%. It is made from grapes that are put to dry during a few months on mats or in wire boxes before being processed.
Sicily produces one of Italy’s best known wines, the Corvo, which is a Vino da Tavola.
Both, the red and the white ones, are made from local grapes. The Duca di Salaparuta house, producer of the Corvo, elaborates also an excellent red wine – the Duca Enrico – which is made from Nero d’Avola grapes.
One of Sicily’s well known DOC is the Marsala, which produces Spanish Jereztype wines.
Stand out as well some sweet dessert wines, like the Malvasia Delle Lipari, elaborated with raisinized malvasia grapes, and the Passito di Pantelleria, made with zibibo grapes.
Like Piemonte, Tuscany is one of Italy’s main wine producing regions, counting also at present with 6 DOCGs, out of the 18 existing in the whole country.
Two of them, Chianti and Chianti-Classico are related to its most famous wine. Its principal grape is the Sangiovese, that must participate in the composition of the wine in a proportion above 75%.
Another famous DOCG of this region is the Brunello di Montalcino, that produces wines using Sangiovese-Grosso grapes. It is a strong, long lasting red wine.
Tuscany, famous for its red wines, also produces one of Italy’s most famous sweet white wines, the Vin Santo. It is made from the Malvasia and Trebbianograpes. The production method employed comprises drying the grapes for several weeks. After that, the dried grapes are pressed in order to extract the must, which will be then fermented in small oak barrels.
Its wine production has developed very rapidly. New Zealand’s vineyards are grown both, in the Northern as well as in the Southern Island.
The most outstanding ones are the white wines, particularly those made withSauvignon Blanc, which are certainly the best wines of that region.
Its sparkling whites made with Chardonnay and Riesling varieties as well as its reds made with Pinot Noir are also remarkable.
Red wines made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are fairly full-bodied and usually put for quite some time in oak.
Portugal also adopts the Designation of Origin system.
Its first tier is the ‘Denominação de Origem Controlada’ (DOC – Protected Designation of Origin), including 12 of them, of which a few stand out due to their tradition or excellence: Dão, Douro, Porto, Bairrada, Setúbal, Alentejo, Vinho Verde and Madeira.
Its second tier is the ‘Indicação de Proveniência Regulamentada’ (IPR – Regulated Indication of Origin), equivalent to France’s VDQS.
In the third tier are those wines that classify under ‘Vinho Regional’ (Regional Wine), equivalent to the French ‘Vin de Pays’.
The Alentejo region has become more and more well known during the last few years thanks to the modernization of its vineyards, and the production of excellent wines, particularly the red ones.
The old IPRs (Indicação de Proveniência Regulamentada – Regulated Indication of Origin) are being transformed into DOC. Alentejo’s main varieties of grapes produce red wines and, among them, stand out Periquita, Trincadeiro and Aragonez.
The typical wine of this region is red and full-bodied, made mainly with the grape variety Baga, that contributes with at least 50% of the blend. Castelão and Tinta Pinheira complement the blend.
In its whites, Bical, Maria Gomes and Rabo de Ovelha contribute with more than 60% of the blend, complemented with Arinto, Sercial and Seriealinho.
Most of its production is composed of red wines, but a few whites also stand out.
In the reds, the Touriga Nacional amounts to at least 20% of the grape varieties. TheAlfocheiro Preto, Bastardo, Jaen, Tinta Pinheira and Tinta Roriz varieties contribute with the remainder 80%.
In the white wines, the Encruzado comes in with 20% and the Assário Branco, Barcelo, Borrado de Moscas, Cercial and Verdelho complete with the remainder 80%.
Besides good table wines, this region has become famous for producing the Port Wine, a fortified wine made from the same grape varieties of the quiet wines, the only difference being the vinification method. The Douro region produces more red than white wines. Its red wines have good ageing faculties and usually improve substantially with time.
The main varieties used in the elaboration of such wines are Touriga Nacional (the most important one), Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Barrocão, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca, Malvasia Preta and Mourisca, for the reds, and Donzelinho, Esgana Cão, Folgazão, Verdelho, Malvasia Fina and Rabigato, for the white ones.
Madeira is a wine elaborated in the Island of Madeira; it is a fortified wine(generous wine) produced from Malvasia (same as Malmsay), Boal, Verdelho and Sercialvarieties, that make up the main types of Madeira Wines: the sweet, the medium sweet, the dry and the extra-dry ones, respectively.
Its ageing method differs from that of Porto Wines. In the Madeira wines, the stoving method is employed. This method keeps the wine barrels in a warm atmosphere; such procedure accelerates the ageing of the wine.
The fortified wines (or generous wines) produced in the Douro Region are classified as Port wines. They are sweet and strong wines that have their fermentation interrupted by the addition of winy brandy, maintaining thus a great portion of the sugar contained in their must, and developing an alcohol content of around 20%.
There are several types of Port wines:
- Vintage, the most rare of all, is produced only in years of exceptional harvests. It is extremely full-bodied and, contrary to the regular Port wine that ages in barrels, Vintage stays only from two to three years in oak before being bottled to proceed with its ageing that may last a further 50 years or more. As a rule, Vintage Port Wine should not be consumed earlier than seven years after being put in bottles. Sooner than that, the wine is still too hard and closed. Since it is not filtered in order to maintain its strength, it usually produces a large amount of sediments during its ageing, and for that reason it should be decanted before serving. The Vintage is a Port that is corked like any regular wine and because of that it must be fully consumed after being opened.
- Late Bottled Vintage is a Vintage that can be consumed earlier, since it remains in oak from four to six years; it is filtered and produces only a small amount of sediments inside the bottle. After being bottled, it is ready for consumption.
- Ruby is a young and fruity Port that spends between three and four years in oak and should be consumed while it still is young, so that it might display all its freshness and aroma.
- Tawny, more orange colored than the Ruby type, rarely remains longer than six years in oak. It is a quite light and elegant wine and, like the Ruby, may be enjoyed along several days after being opened, without losing its qualities.
- Colheita is a Tawny made from one single grape harvest, with an indication of its year, that remains in oak a minimum of seven years. It is common to mention ‘Reserva’ in its label.
- Garrafeira is a Colheita that ages during many years in the bottle before being released in the market.
- Port wine with age indication is the Port that shows in its label the average age of the wines that were mixed in its cut. It also shows its bottling date.
- Vintage Caracter, likewise the Tawny, is obtained by mixing different wines, being however much more full-bodied.
- Port White is vinified in the same way as the red one, but using white grapes instead, like Viosinho, Malvasia Fina, Códega, Gouveio and Rabigato. It is available in the variants extra-dry, dry or aperitif, and lágrima (tear), the latter one being very sweet.
This region produces famous sweet and generous wines, like the Moscatel de Setúbal. It is made from Muscat grapes, which compose the cut with at least 2/3 of the total volume, combined with the following regional white varieties: Tamarês, Malvasia, Boais, Arinto, Fernão Pires and Branquete.
This region is located in northwestern Portugal, and produces a wine unlike any other one in the world.
Both white and red Vinho Verde is a wine with a low alcohol content and a high acidity. It is a wine that must be consumed young, since it does not age well and that, in the course of time, tends to lose its freshness and effervescence, its most valued characteristics. In spite of this fact, most of the producers do not usually indicate the vintage of the wine in the label.
The reds are quite tannic, due to the fact that they are usually vinified with the skins and the stalks of grapes. Since they are acid, are ideal to accompany heavy dishes.
The whites are quite pleasant and extremely refreshing, usually dry, but also available in sweet versions, fact not always mentioned in the label.
South Africa’s main vineyards are situated in the Cape Province.
In the red wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon variety predominates and among the whites, whether sweet or dry, the Chenin Blanc.
Among the reds, however, stand out those produced from pinotage, a cross of the varieties Pinot Noir with Cinsaut, which is a South African specialty.
In addition to the DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada – Controlled Designation of Origin) system, Spain classifies its wines according to the type of production.
A wine is classified as Crianza if it was created in the cellar, that is, if it was aged during some time in its origin.
Red wine will be classified as Reserva if it remains at least three years in the cellar, of which one year in oak and two years in the bottle. White wine must be at least six months in oak.
Red wine will be classified as Gran Reserva if it stays, at least two years, in oak and three years in the bottle. White wine must be at least two years in the cellar, six months of which in oak and the remaining time in the bottle.
A few wines disclose the time they were kept in the cellar, through an information in the label such as ‘third year’, or ‘fifth year’.
Three regions stand out among all the designated ones: Jerez, Ribera Del Duero and Rioja.
Jerez (Sherry Wines)
Situated in the Andalusia region, at the south of Seville, with vineyards established around the cities of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Jerez de la Frontera, the Sherry region produces wine with quite peculiar characteristics.
The white grape varieties Palomino, Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximenes are the responsible for those wines.
Sherry wines can be classified as Finos (Fines) or Olorosos (Scented).
Os Finos are divided into two types:
- Finos, properly speaking, are light colored wines that reach an alcohol content between 15,5 and 17%.
- Amontillados are amber colored wines, very dry and with an alcohol content between 16 and 18% of the volume.
The Olorosos are darker than the ones classified as Finos and have a higher density and alcohol content; available in different variations:
- Rayas, an inferior type of Oloroso, are full-bodied wines with less delicate aromas and normally having an alcohol content above 18%.
- The Olorosos, properly speaking, are dry, dark-gold colored strongly aromatic wines, with an alcohol content above 18%.
- Paloscortados, a superior type of Oloroso, normally displays the aroma of the Amontillados and the flavor of the Olorosos, as well as the latter’s color and alcohol content.
- Creams are medium sweet wines, with the body of the Olorosos. They are a mixture of dry Olorosos wines, with a portion of Pedro Ximenes.
There are also sweet dark wines made from two different grape varieties:
- Pedro Ximenes, natural sweet wine made with Pedro Ximenes white grapes. It has a dark color and an alcohol content between 10 and 15%.
- Moscatel, a wine also naturally sweet made from Muscat grapes, with an alcohol content between 10 and 20%.
- Manzanilla, produced in the region of Sanlucar de Barrameda and that, despite being controlled by the Jerez Regulatory Board, is a DO different from it. It is a dry, light and very clear and scented wine with an alcohol content between 15,5 and 17%. It is produced in two types: Manzanilla Fina, that does not grow old, and Manzanilla Pasada, that evolves towards a certain ageing condition, reminding slightly the Olorosos.
Ribera Del Duero
Ribera del Duero is the land of the most famous Spanish wine, the ‘Vega Sicilia’, considered to be one of the best in the world. ‘Vega Sicilia Unico’, which is the Vega Sicilia’s top of the line, remains up to 10 years in oak.
The grape variety mostly used at Ribera del Duero is the tinto fino, the same as the tempranillo in Rioja, but participating in a larger proportion in the wines of the Ribera region.
Rioja is located in the north of Spain and is the main Spanish DOC.
Altogether, it produces the best Spanish red wines. It is divided into three subregions, the principal of which being Rioja Alta, and coming next in order of importance, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baixa.
Among the grapes that compose Rioja’s red wines, stand out Tempranillo, the main variety and the one that provides the body and the aroma to those wines, and theGarnacha, responsible for their alcohol content. Participate also in the cut theGraciano and Mazuelo varieties.
Among the white wines, the main varieties used are Viura, the most important, plusMalvasia and Garnacha Blanca.
In the United States, wine is produced in several states, but California has the best ones, particularly along its northern shore where the regions of Napa, Sonoma, Carneros and Mendocino stand out.
Most of the American production is composed of varietal wines, in which the variety mentioned in the label must participate with at least 75% of the wine’s content.
California’s most outstanding varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandelfor the red ones, and Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, for the whites.