NATIONAL WINE WEEK 2017
The major wine producing countries
Old World vs. New World
There are two means of classifying wine by varietal (grape type) and by region and broadly the regionality can be further sub-divided into two distinct areas; Old World, meaning mainly Europe and New World, meaning just about anywhere else that wine is grown, but normally confined to the US, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa and South America. These main wine growing regions are centred in two bands around the globe to the North and South of the Equator,
In terms of Old World, France is probably the most famous and prestigious, followed by Italy; as far as the New World is concerned the US, manly California and Australia are the two leading producers.
The major difference between the two major regions is that in the Old World, wine is mainly defined by where it comes from – the actual region and not the varietals that are used to make the wine, whereas in the New World the reverse is the case. And then of course there's Sparkling Wine!
America / California
The United States is known for its innovative and experimental approach to wine making.
Wine is being produced in almost every State; however the leading region in terms of production is California.
For every 10 bottles of wine produced in the United States 9 of them are produced in California.
Pretty much most varietals are planted in California, but the State is most well known for its Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon based wines, with the two most famous regions being the Napa Valley and Sonoma.
California is also one of the leading producers of Rosé wine. Other key States are New York, famous for its delicate Rieslings and Washington State with its powerful Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varietals, and finally Oregon, which is fast becoming one of the best Pinot Noir producing regions in the world.
Chile has a long history of wine production dating back to the 16th century, when Spanish conquistadors began planting vines.
Chile has also so far escaped the vine disease which had devastated European vineyards in the late 19th century and California.
The majority of Chilean vineyards are in the central part of the country and unlike most other countries, the vines have not been grafted, so remain pure.
Chile is famous for its fruity, oaked Chardonnay’s and robust, juicy Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Other key varietals are Carmènere, similar to Merlot and the indigenous Pais.
Argentina is 5th biggest wine producer in the World, although previously it had been known for cheap ‘vin de table’ over the last 10 years it has become a major quality wine producer, with an emphasis on robust reds; the majority of vineyards centred around the Mendoza region.
Argentina’s classic varietals are Malbec, Chardonnay and the native white Torrontes. However Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo varietals are also grown
It was the Romans who first brought vines to Great Britain and wine production was an important industry for hundreds of years however at the turn of the 20th century wine making began to disappear and only in the last 20 or so years that there has been a major resurgence.
Most vineyards are situated in the South East and West of England, although there are also vineyards in parts of Wales and the Midlands and North of England.
With vast swathes’ of South East England similar in climate and soil to that of the Champaign region, high quality sparkling wines have become the driving style, classically blended from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both of which are now the most widely planted varietals in the UK. Other varieties grown in England & Wales include Seyval Blanc; Bacchus and Rivaner (Müller-Thurgau).
English wines, those from grapes grown in the England and made and bottled within the same region (as distinct from British wine which is normally bottled in the UK from bulk grape juice from other countries) is becoming extremely popular for their high quality sparkling and still styles and was the 'wine of choice' at the recent Royal wedding.
Although slipping in share, France remains the most famous wine country, with Bordeaux being probably the World’s most prestigious wine region.
Bordeaux reds are primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, often blended with minor grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot or Malbec.
White Bordeaux wines are mainly Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends. Champagne is famous for its Chardonnay based sparkling wines, while Burgundy is known for its Chardonnay based still white wine and Pinot Noir based reds.
In the southern part of Burgundy, Gamay is king and makes the fruity Beaujolais. Wines of the Rhone Valley are divided into two categories; the Syrah based wines from the North and Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre blends of the South.
In terms of whites, Marsanne, Roussane, Grenache Blanc and Viognier are often blended. The Loire Valley is famous for dry whites and grows most varietals, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne from which the famous Muscadet is made and the red Cabernet Franc.
There are three other key French wine regions; Alsace, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence well-known in turn, for their dry whites, value reds and refreshing Rosé.
Germany has been producing wine since the Romans invaded in 100 BC Some of the most northern vineyards in the world are located there with the leading grape varietal being the delicate yet often racy Riesling. In terms of reds, Germany also produces a small amount of highly expensive Pinot Noir.
However Germany, unfairly suffers from a wine quality image problem.
Italy produces more wine than any other country in the world and is now the second favourite UK wine country, mainly due to the popularity of Pinot Grigio based wines.
Two of Italy’s most famous wines are the Nebbiolo grape based Barolo and Barbaresco from the Piedmont Region.
Another famous wine is Chianti, from Tuscany; a wine based on the Sangiovese grape. Tuscany is also home of Montepleciano d’ Arbruzzo.
‘The Trevenito’ region based around Venice, is the home of most Italian white wines including much of the Pinot Grigio varietal. The region is also the home of Prosecco sparkling wine.
Portugal is known for its white Vinho Verde made mainly from the Albariño and Loureiro varietals as well as the robust red Dao and Douro wines produced mainly from the Touriga Nacional, but blended with other varietals.
However Portugal is probably more famous for their fortified wine known simply as ‘Port’ traditionally made from blends of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cäo.
Spain is famous for its Albariño based white wine from the Rias Baixas region in Galicia, sparkling, light and refreshing Cava’s based on the Parellada, Macebeo and Xarel-lo varietals from the Penedes region and of course the Tempranillo based Rioja from the south of Madrid and Ribera del Duero wines as well as the famous fortified wine; Sherry which comes from Jerez and is produced mainly from Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximénez varietals.
Winemaking in South Africa goes back more than three hundred years and is mainly centred on the Western Cape, which has a Mediterranean style climate.
The most widely planted varietal is Chenin Blanc and indeed it is this white wine has helped build South Africa into the World’s 7th biggest producer.
Other key white varietals are Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc.
Although historically more of a white wine producer South Africa also produces red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinotage, a native crossing of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir.
Australia is the UK’s favourite wine country and the 4th biggest producer in the World, although it has only been making wine since the late 1800’s and is best known for big and robust, mouth-filling and fruity red and white wines, many of which also have strong oak flavours.
The most widely grown varietals are Shiraz and Chardonnay, followed Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir.
The majority of Australia’s vineyards are clustered in the south-eastern part of the continent. Although the style of Australian wine is changing to a more sophisticated and complex base, it is the uncomplicated and fruit-driven Chardonnay and Shiraz that have built the foundations for the Australian wine dominance of the UK.
Producing around just 1% of the World’s wine New Zealand has made a big impression in terms of quality.
The country, whose vineyards are the most southerly in the world and mostly based with the central area of North and South Island, is best known for its white wines, especially the fresh, vibrant Sauvignon Blanc which has helped build the country’s reputation and the equally delicious Pinot Noir, which makes delicious earthy still wines.
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