Wine has been around for… well… almost as long as people have been around. Archaeological evidence of wine paralleling that of civilisation dates all the way back to China 7,000 BC. Ancient tribes from Jiahu in the Yellow River Valley would ferment rice, honey and fruits to create wine. Thousands of years later we’re still drinking wine. Although, with our growing knowledge and technological developments, wine production techniques have advanced over the years bringing the world a very tasty drink.
It doesn’t matter if you’re new to wine or consider yourself and expert, this list of eleven top wine regions in the world will give you inspiration to crack open a bottle and book a trip.
1. France: Bordeaux & Champagne
When it comes to France, there are plenty of wine regions to choose from. For lovers of white wine head east to Alsace, Beaujolais is not only fun to say but the perfect place for red lovers, and for those who love a bit of both you can’t go past the famous Bordeaux. France has one other region up its sleeve: Champagne. Champagne, as the name suggests, comes from Champagne and nowhere else in the world. Yes, you can get sparkling wine from almost anywhere (even England makes a killer sparkling) but there is nothing quite like Champagne.
Major Wine Regions: Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Champagne, Cotes du Rhone, Languedoc, Loire Valley
Major Grape Varieties: Merlot, Grenache, Trebbiano Toscano, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Sauvignon Blanc
2. Italy: Sicily, Tuscany & Lombard
France and Italy are often in competition when it comes to wine recognition. With over twenty wine regions spread across Italy, France sure has competition. Italy’s most famous regions, Sicily, Tuscany and Lombard produce wines from beginner to connoisseur. Weather in wine regions have a great influence on the production and flavours of wine.
Major Wine Regions: Piedmont, Tuscany, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Sicily
Major Grape Varieties: Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Merlot, Trebbiano Toscano, Nero d’Avola, Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco
3. Spain: Rioja & Galicia
Spain comes in at number three in the world for wine production, behind France and Italy. More than one million acres of land is exclusively devoted to growing those delicious Spanish grapes. Spanish wines have a reputation for being wines you can pair with any nearly meal. With a rep like that its easy to see why a rich Spanish red from Rioja or a zesty white from Galicia, would be a sumptuous choice.
Major Wine Regions: Rioja, Penedès, Priorat, Ribera del Duero, Valencia
Major Grape Varieties: Tempranillo, Airén, Garnacha, Monastrell, Bobal
4. USA: Napa Valley, California
Wine in the USA has been produced for about 300 years. While that may seem like a lot, when comparing to other parts of the world, American wine production is still very much in its infancy. Having said that, America is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world with California dominating the US production of wine. Areas like Napa Valley are internationally renowned for their first class wines.
Major Wine Regions: Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Finger Lakes, Willamette Valley
Major Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc
5. Argentina: Malbec
Argentina is part of the New World wines and has sky-rocketed over the last 10 years into international recognition as one of the top five wine producing countries. The big grape for Argentina is Malbec. This grape variety was imported from France back in the 19th century. Since then Argentina has gained mass recognition for its wine and the production of this particular grape variety.
Major Wine Regions: Mendoza, Salta, Neuquén, Río Negro, Catamarca, La Rioja, San Juan
Major Grape Varieties: Malbec, Torrontés, Bonarda, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon
6. Australia: Shiraz
Australia is a powerhouse when it comes vineyards, having over 2,000 family run vineyards throughout the country. Shiraz (or Syrah) is the most famous grape variety Australia produces followed by chardonnay. The two make up almost 50% of Australian wine production.
Major Wine Regions: Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Barossa, Hunter Valley, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Yarra Valley, Tasmania, Adelaide Hills
Major Grape Varieties: Shiraz (Syrah), Chardonnay
7. Germany: White Wines
Germany may be better known for its beer and sausages but the wine produced here is some of the best in the world. The Germans don’t joke about their white wines, which make up about 65% of the country’s vineyards. With the cooler weather, German whites have brilliantly balanced fruit flavours and acidity. White wine from German ages spectacularly over a long period of time.
Major Wine Regions: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Mittelrhein (Middle Rhine), Baden, Sachsen, Pfalz, Rheinhessen
Major Grape Varieties: Riesling, Müller-Thurgau
8. Portugal: Port, high alcohol dessert wine
Portuguese wine has a long history, one that was very much influenced by the Romans during the time of the Roman Empire. Fabulous wines of many different varieties are grown in Portugal, including some native vines that don’t grow anywhere else in the world. Portugal is also known for its high alcohol dessert wine known as Port wine which is made by blending several different grape varieties.
Major Wine Regions: Alentejo, Dao, Lisbon, Algarve, Madeira
Major Grape Varieties: Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Castelão, Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouscet, Alvarinho, Arinto
9. Chile: New World wines
Chilean wines are part of the New World wines. Chile tends to be the envy of other wine producing countries around the world due to its lack of vine pests or diseases and the regular water supply provided by the snow melting from the Andes.
Major Wine Regions: Colchagua Valley, Maipo Valley, Limari Valley, Aconcagua Valley, Casablanca Valley
Major Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Carménère, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc
10. South Africa: Chenin Blanc
Ten to fifteen years ago, South African wines were barely a blip on the international wine radar. A lot of South African wine never even made it to the shelves but was instead turned straight into brandy. Now, South Africa is recognised as having some of the best reds and wines in the world, particularly where Chenin Blanc is concerned.
Major Wine Regions: Constantia, Elgin, Franschoek Valley, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Swartland, Walker Bay, Worcester
Major Grape Varieties: Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Chardonnay
11. New Zealand: Sauvignon Blanc
In the scheme of things, New Zealand doesn’t produce a whole lot of wine. In fact it produces only about 1% of the world’s wine. Even with that tiny number, New Zealand still reigns supreme when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc.
Major Wine Regions: Marlborough, Hawkes Bay, Central Otago, Wairarapa, Waipara Valley, Aukland
Major Grape Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir