Location: In the south west of France, near the Atlantic coast, around the city of Bordeaux
Grapes in Bordeaux: Merlot (50%)
Cabernet Sauvignon (26%)
Cabernet Franc (10%)
Production: 850 million bottles equates to 637.5 ML
25% of all AOC in France
Type of Wine: Full-body red wine (Pomerol)
Medium-body red wine (Bordeaux aoc)
Dry white wine (Entre deux Mers)
Sweet white wine (Barsac and Sauternes)
Burgundy (Bourgogne) begins a hundred kilometers south from Paris and spreads itself down to Lyon. It stretches for 360 kilometers.
Burgundy is a region with various soils, divided in numerous districts: Chablis, Côte d’Or (divided in Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune), Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais.
The best known wine terroirs in Burgundy are:
Côte de Nuits - Gevrey Chambertin - Clos Vougeot - Vosne Romanée - Nuits Saint Georges
Côte de Beaune - Corton - Pommard - Volnay - Meursault - Chassagne Montrachet
Côte Châlonnaise and Mâcon:
Givry - Pouilly Fuissé - Rully
The Permitted Grape Varieties are:
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Aligote, Gammay & Pinot Blanc.
Vineyards are designated with a quality status:
Grand Cru – the very best vineyard sites,
1er Cru (premier cru) – superior sites,
AC (appellation controlee) – sites within a certain appellation generally there isn’t a vineyard specified,
Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc – fruit is used from no particular region or vineyard within Burgundy
Bourgogne Grand Ordinair – uninspiring wines at best.
Location: North East of France, between the Vosges and the Rhine river
Grapes in Alsace:
Riesling (23% of Alsace wines)
Pinot Blanc (20%)
Tokay Pinot Gris (13%)
The region of Alsace has changed possession between Germany & France often throughout history and the wine production shows clear links to both countries. Riesling is king here, made in a Germanic style but often much drier than the wines of the Rhine & Mosel. Expect rich ripe fruited wines with even some oak maturation from some producers. Like most Rieslings, the Rieslings of Alsace are age-worthy. Pinot Blanc is generally a clean lightly fruited pleasant wine which is often overlooked by consumers. Pinot Gris is often referred to as Tokay Pinot Gris by the Alsace producers and is growing in prominence. Gewurztraminer is aromatic dry and spicy while Sylvaner makes delightful sweet dessert style wines.
Location: From the Massif Central to the Atlantic coast around Nantes. The Loire wine region follows the Loire river in its valley
Grapes in Loire: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet)
Type of Wine: Dry white wine (Sec)
Sweet white wine (Moelleux)
Semi-dry white wine (Demi-Sec)
Sparkling white wine
Fruity red wine
Languedoc-Roussillon region produces mainly red wines, a good share is "Vin de Table" but most of it is "Vin de Pays".
Grapes in Languedoc Roussillon: Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Type of Wine: Full-body red wine (Corbières, Saint Chinian)
Medium-body red wine (Costières)
Light and dry rosé (Languedoc, Roussillon)
Dry white wine (Costières, Languedoc, Minervois)
Sweet red wine (Banyuls, Carthagène, Maury)
Sweet white wine (Muscat)
Sparkling white wine (Limoux)
Côte Rôtie - Condrieu - Château Grillet - Hermitage - Crozes Hermitage
Gigondas - Châteauneuf du Pape - Côtes du Ventoux - Côtes du Rhône aoc - Côtes du Rhône Villages - Wines from Côtes du Rhône
Red Grapes in Rhône:
White Grapes in Rhône:
Grenache blanc 20%
Ugni blanc 20%
77% red wine
8 % rosé
5 % dry white wine
14% of French wine production
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Wine quality in Italy has improved dramatically over the last century or so, when Italians decided to export competitive fine wine. Modern Chianti is much bolder and zestier than old Chianti (the blend proportions have changed: it used to be nearly a third white wine, and now it is almost entirely red Sangiovese), because of the modern focus on getting quality from the grapes instead of just making a whole lot of wine.
Italian Wine Labels
First, like the rest of Europe, Italian wines may be labelled by the region they come from. For example, Chianti and Soave are named by the region.
Barbera and Pinot Grigio are grape varieties, and you may see wine labelled as such. Sometimes you will also see a region designation appended, like d’Asti or di Montalcino.
The wine may also be labelled by a traditional name, which tells you absolutely nothing. You may see these labelled as "Est! Est! Est!" or "Vino Nobile" because that’s what people have been calling it for hundreds of years.
On top of all this, there are the regulatory designations, which can apply to any of the labelling types above. The regulatory designation is often the only mark of sanity on the label, but even that doesn’t help much. The possible designations are:
Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)
This is the top designation; it means that the wine was made using appropriately traditional methods and appropriately traditional grapes (for weak definitions of traditional; current Chianti is quite unlike the Chianti of a hundred years ago). DOCG wines must also pass a taste test by the government regulators.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
This means that the wine is basically what it claims to be, assuming you can decipher the label. The wine must be produced in the usual manner using the usual grapes and methods that are appropriate to the wine and region.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)
This is the designation for quality wine that isn’t DOC or DOCG, usually because of the use of nontraditional methods or grapes. A region is named somewhere.
Vino da Tavola
This is the lowest grade table wine, with no interesting designations whatsoever.
• Moscato (which the French grow as Muscat)
• Tocai Friulano
The three most famous regions of Italy are:
The region of Tuscany, around the city of Florence, is famous for producing red wines, primarily from the Sangiovese grape. The most famous wine from Tuscany is the most famous wine from all Italy: Chianti.
The region of Piedmont, in Northern Italy close to the French border, produces the greatest variety of fine wine in Italy. This is where the red Barolo and Barbaresco come from, as well as the sparkling Asti.
Lastly, the regions around Venice are well known for producing white wines, including Soave and Pinot Grigio.
Chianti is a Sangiovese-based red wine and is easily the best known wine of Italy. The region of Chianti is broken down into several subregions; the best known are Chianti Classico (supposedly the best and most traditional) and Chianti Rufina. The winemaker’s consortium in Chianti uses a black rooster sign as a symbol of quality, so you should look for it. Chianti that is labelled as "Reserva" must have been aged at least three years.
Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany)
Brunello is a Sangiovese variant that is grown in Montalcino. This wine must be aged a full four years to qualify (five for Reserva).
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany)
This "Noble Wine of Montelpulciano" is a blend of several grapes, of which Sangiovese is dominant.
This wine, made entirely from Nebbiolo, is a very rich and complex red wine, if occasionally too tannic and astringent. The Barolo region is tiny.
More Nebbiolo-based wine, and a bit more balanced and harmonious than Barolo. The Barbaresco region is also tiny.
Moscato d’Asti (Piedmont)
This is a very light (6% alcohol), slightly effervescent white wine from the Asti region, made from Moscato grapes. It’s more a fun party wine than a stern and serious wine.
This is sparkling wine from Asti made from Moscat. It is made sweeter than French Champagne and has a more frizzante. You may also see this called Asti Spumante or just Spumante
Created in Venice (well, near Venice) from Trebbiano and other grapes, this white wine has a more floral fragrance and steely characters and is one of the most popular Italian export wines.
Pinot Grigio (mostly Northern Italy)
This varietal produces a light, dry white wine. It is also known as Pinot Gris, and is widely grown outside Italy.
Barbera (mostly Piedmont and Lombardy)
A medium body, fruity red wine with significant structure. Dry.
This is non-traditional red wine made in a more international style (bigger and more forward), often from a blend of several varieties including Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. While some of these wines are of top international quality, they cannot qualify for DOC or DOCG designation because they operate outside the rules.
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Ribero del Duero
This region now rivals Rioja as the most exciting wine region of Spain. Its wines are big and bold with lots of chunky fruits. It is the home of the Vega Sicilia - Spain’s most famous wine with yields as low as 18 hectolitres per hectare and made entirely from french grapes with a tiny addition of Tempranillo.
If anything, Spain’s Rioja was too successful and the Spanish people are now trying to convince the world that they have other wine regions. The region takes its name from the Rio Oja which is one of the tributaries of the river Ebro. The region of Rioja actually evolved out of its trade with Bordeaux during the time of Phylloxera the disease which destroys the roots of the vines before one realises it has attacked.
The unique wine that is Sherry comes from an area of Spain called Jerez in the hot dry Southwest of the country. Sherry is a very underrated quality wine and comes in a variety of styles from very dry - ‘Fino’ and ‘Manzanilla’, through to the medium styles of ‘Amontillado’ and dry ‘Oloroso’ to the ultra rich sweet cream Sherries.
The name means ‘The Valley of Stones’. Again this region has very hot humid summers and cold winters. 100% Tempranillo
Navarra is situated next door to Rioja, and produces 2 different styles of wine: traditional styles using indigenous grapes; and modern styles like Palacio de La Vega and Ochoa using French grapes along with the Spanish varieties. Tempranillo has become the preferred variety for red wine production.
Situated south of Barcelona this region produces elegant light wines, mainly white but the reds are fast gaining popularity.
Mainly a white wine producing area make from 100% Verdejo grape. Good Sauvignon Blanc made in this area.
Costers del Segres
Another newly created wine area situated around the town of Lerida. Alongside the Spanish grapes you will find Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay growing. These grapes have adapted well to the area and are producing some extraordinary good wines, eg Raimat Estate.
Situated almost in the centre of Spain with extremes of temperatures - hot summers and very cold winters.
Mainly a white wine area produced from the Albarino Grape. Some fantastic wines which taste like some of the good barrel fermented Chardonnay’s
Producing unique and truly Spanish wine, Priorato is one of the great red wines of Spain. Rich, robust wine full of ripe fruit with great body and structure. Delicious.
Located in the north-west corner of Spain on the Portuguese border, this region produces fine quality white wines and some very pleasant light reds.
Large scale production of table reds, whites and rosés plus Moscatel dessert white wines.
Situated to the east of Rias Baxas where the red grape Mencia rules
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Germany has 13 separate wine growing regions, each of which produces its own style of wine, often from the same varietals. Generally, the lightest and most elegant German wines are produced in the Mosel-Sarr-Ruwer and Ahr regions. Slightly fuller wines are made in the Mittelrhein, Nahe, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Saale-Unstrut, while the fullest German wines tend to come from the regions of Pfalz, Hessische Bergstrasse, Sachsen, Württembery and Baden.
The Mosel River, as it snakes its way between the Eifel and Hunsrück regions, has carved a valley that is so narrow that there could be no significant urban development. The steep slopes and slate soil, though, are just about ideal for wine production. The vines don’t shade each other and the slate soil retains the sun’s warmth through the night. For this reason the Mosel wines are much in demand abroad.
Towns along the Mosel include Trier, Germany’s oldest city with the biggest concentration of Roman ruins north of the Alps.
Though the Rhine flows mainly in a northerly direction, it makes a rather sharp bend near Wiesbaden and flows west for about ten miles. This means that the vineyards on the right bank have a southern exposure and get more sun than most others. This area is called the Rheingau, and it too produces top wines, including the much honored Johannisburg.
Mittelrhein. This is the storied part of the Rhine that you have always heard about; idyllic, half-timbered towns and vineyard-covered slopes topped by castles. It starts right where the Rheingau leaves off and extends almost to Bonn.
This area includes the upper Rhine, from the Swiss border to about Mannheim, and also part of the Neckar River, a Rhine tributary, and the shores of Lake Constance.
This is one of the two wine regions in the former East Germany that got added to the western regions with reunification. It runs along the banks of the Elbe River on a stretch that includes Dresden and the famed porcelain-making city of Meissen.
The wine from this area, mainly along the Main River to the west and east of Würzburg, is noted for its use of the round, squat bocksbeutel bottle, and for its dry, earthy "Steinwein,:" which comes from a famous old vineyard in Würzburg.
This region, which produces more wine than any of the others, is the warmest in German. Its vineyards don’t need the shelter of river valleys and certain Mediterranean fruits, such as figs and lemons, can be grown there. It is there that we find the "German Wine Road," the first to be established of the numerous named roads that abound in Germany today.
The vineyards of this region line the banks of the upper Neckar River, from about Heilbronn to Stuttgart, but very little Württemberg wine makes it outside of Württemberg, much less Germany. But those who try these wines find them the perfect foil to French and Swiss culinary influence in Swabia and the Black Forest, Germany’s gourmet paradise. You can visit quite a few festivals without leaving Stuttgart. Districts of the city holding them include: Obertürkheim, Feuerbach, Uhlbach, and Untertürkheim.
The hills along the Rhine’s east bank, from near Darmstadt to near Heidelberg, are especially known for their fruit trees, which produce a delightful spectacle when they blossom in the spring. The same hills also produce good wines, but they are little known outside the area.
This area on the west bank of the Rhine, between Mainz and Worms, is Germany’s largest wine region in area and is second only to the Pfalz in the amount of wine it produces. Rheinhessen is where the sweet Liebfrauenmilch, a big hit in Britain and America, was developed. It originally came from the vineyards around the Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) in Worms.
This is still another tributary of the Rhine, which it reaches at Bingen. The center of the wine region is Bad Kreuznach.
This region, along the banks of a tributary that joins the Rhine at Remagen, is one of the least known wine areas. It produces a good red wine but you’ll probably have to attend a festival to taste it. The principal city of Ahrweiler hosts a festival in September.
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The wines of Portugal are a legacy inherited from the Romans, subsequently nurtured and developed by the Portuguese. 9811,400 acres, with an average annual production of 112 million cases. Despite its small area, Portugal rates sixth in the world as a wine-producing country, wine production has been encouraged since the early kings, and records show exports dating back to 1367. Today, this industry employs 25% of the working agricultural population. Having been eclipsed by Port Wine for over 300 years, red and white wines are currently undergoing a major revival, due not only to investment in modern techniques and technology, including stainless steel and controlled fermentation, but also to the new generation of innovative winemakers.
The regions are classified, as they are in many other European wine-producing nations, so that appropriate regulations may be laid down. The main regions are referred to as Denominaçâo de Origem Controlada (DOC).
Portugal’s wine regions
In looking at Portugal’s wine regions, it’s helpful to split the country in two, by drawing a line about a third of the way down. This separates the northern regions of the Douro, Dão and Bairrada, and the central and southern regions of the Alentejo, Ribatejo and Estremadura. As a useful generalization, the future for the northern regions lies in focusing on high-quality, top-end ‘terroir’ wines, while the strength of the southern and central regions is their ability to produce full flavoured red wines in large quantities and at affordable prices: new world-style wines with a Portuguese twist.
In a relatively short period of time the Douro has established itself as Portugal’s premium wine region. The steeply terraced vineyards contain some wonderful terroirs, but because of the economic dominance of the Port trade it is only recently that these have been widely exploited to produce premium wines. Table wine has always been made here but, with a couple of notable exceptions (the legendary Barca Velha and more recently Duas Quintas Reserva and Quinta do Côtto Grande Eschola), it has been grim stuff, usually badly made from low quality grapes that were surplus to the requirements of Port producers.
The momentum generated by the Douro table wine revolution has led some of the Port shippers to start taking a greater interest in table wines. This is leading to improvements across the board, even with some of the more commercial wines. The Douro is not known for its white wine.
Unusually for Portugal, Bairrada is a region dominated by just one grape, the often-maligned Baga. 80% of wines from this region are red, and almost all of these are made from Baga. It is thick-skinned, high in acidity and pretty tannic. Combine this with the common practice of leaving the stems in the fermentation vat, and it has the potential to make tough, challenging wines.
This is the region of the smallholder. There are a staggering 4700 registered growers, and the average plot size is a tiny 0.2 ha. Most sell their grapes to the cooperatives that dominate the region’s production. But some estimate of the potential of this region for quality wines can be gained from the observation that more than two-thirds of the vineyards here are over 50 years old.
Dão reds have changed beyond all recognition over the last decade. Until 1990 production was dominated by underperforming cooperatives and the resulting wines were usually tough, tannic and unlovely. Since then there has been massive improvement, and while there’s still some mediocre wine made here, the overall standard has been raised. Like Bairrada, though, the fragmentation of vineyard holdings has been a hindrance to progress.
Located inland, the Dão has cold wet winters but mild, dry summers. The granitic-soiled vineyards are at altitude, resulting in ripe grapes with good acidity, and the potential for elegant, expressive red wines. I think of it as Portugal’s Burgundy.
Vinho Verde has red and white wines which can offer some pleasant drinking from quality minded producers. The wine has a slight spritz which was once due to a slight secondary refermentation, but unfortunately in modern times this is much more likely to be carbon dioxide added just before bottling.
The fortified wines of the Douro are unrivalled. They are much imitated, with similar styles emanating from the southern vineyards of France, California and Australia, but they are never equalled, and certainly not bettered.
Port is basically wine fortified with brandy spirit. This is added prior to the natural cessation of fermentation, so the wine is always sweet, as the addition of the strong alcohol kills the yeast converting the sugar into alcohol (the process of fermentation). The eventual alcohol content is still high, however (typically 20%), thanks to the brandy that has been added. Most Port is red, although some firms also produce a small amount of white Port.
Since the 18th century there has been a strong British presence in the Douro, as this was where British drinkers sourced their wines following the deterioration in relations between Britain and France at this time. The firm red wines of the region were bolstered up and protected with brandy before the sea journey north, and thus Port as a wine style was born. Or so the story goes.
Styles of Port
Vintage Port: Port vintages are declared depending on the quality of the vintage, some houses declaring much more frequently than others. In general, though, a vintage is declared about three times each decade. A declared vintage means that the Port house feels the wine is of the necessary quality to age well in bottle. The wines see up to two years in oak, but then do the rest of their ageing in the bottle. They may need upwards of fifteen years before they are ready, and may last for decades more. This is the finest quality level of Port.
Single Quinta Port: Most houses have quintas (vineyards) where they source their best fruit. In non-declared years they will release the wine from the quinta as a single quinta wine. These wines can be excellent value, frequently close to vintage quality.
Late Bottled Vintage Port: Good Port houses still produce good LBV wines. Such wines have been aged in wood for longer than Vintage Port, four years in total, or five years for a Traditional LBV. This prolonged ageing results in a wine ready to drink at a younger age.
Tawny Port: Wine aged in oak for a long time, resulting in a tawny colour. The age will be stated on the label, frequently ten or twenty years, less often thirty or even forty years.
White Port: A heavy aperitif wine, varying in style, often with a hint of oxidation.
Other styles: Ruby is a young and simple style. Vintage Character is a Port blended to resemble a vintage wine (often unsuccessfully in my opinion), and Crusted Port is a blend of several Vintage Character Ports.
The Alentejo has led the way in Portugal’s wine revolution. It’s a region that has enjoyed tremendous success over the last decade, producing red wines in two distinctive styles. On the one hand, there is the traditional Alentejo style. This is typified by José Maria da Fonseca’s José de Sousa, part of which is fermented in clay pots, and which displays leathery, herby, sweet-spice complexity. Another traditional style producer is Cartuxa (from Evora), best known for the brilliant but unusual cult wine Pera Manca. On the other hand, there is the modern, fruit-forward, almost new-world style that has been such a huge commercial success and which has propelled this region forward so fast.
The Alentejo is huge, with its flat plains covering almost a third of the country. Much of this area is given over to cereal production. It’s also hot, and irrigation is common. In contrast to the northern regions, with their fragmented smallholdings, production is dominated by large, professional outfits.
For a long time the provider of bulk wine, the Ribatejo is now emerging as an exciting source of modern-styled commercially astute red wines.
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Austria has some 141,000 acres of vineyards. Seventy percent are in white grapes. The predominant, nearly "national," variety is the Grüner Veltliner,a grape known to nearly none of our customers. Something like 36.7% of Austria’s vineyards are Grüner Veltliner.
One parent of Grüner Veltliner is said to be the Traminer. Grüners can age.
Riesling accounts for less than 3% of Austrian vineyards. Chardonnay, which also goes by the name "Morillon," accounts for less than 1%! Sauvignon Blanc has found a home in the Steiermark region. Pinot Blanc is often labeled as Weissburgunder and some very fine examples are here and there.
The major red varieties are the Blauer Zweigelt and the Blaufränkisch. Zweigelt is the most widely planted red grape. It is cultivated in all 16 wine areas of the country. It covers about 9% of vineyard lands in Austria and is a cross of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. Blaufränkisch, also known as Lemberger, is the second most important red, but possibly the most exciting local variety. It seems to really thrive in the Mittelburgenland which has been dubbed "Blaufränkischland." Cabernet and Pinot Noir are grown in Austria. They’re just not widely planted. Syrah shows promise, too.
The Regions of Austria
Four major zones with various sub-regions:
1. BURGENLAND, nearly 14,560+ hectares
Sub-regions: Mittelburgenland, Neusiedlersee, Sudburgenland (this includes a famous wine village called "Rust").
2. LOWER AUSTRIA, nearly 30,000 hectares (Known as Niederösterreich)
Sub-regions: Carnuntum, Donauland, Kamptal, Kremstal, Thermenregion (including the famous wine villages of Gumpoldskirchen and Vöslau), Traisental and the Wachau.
3. STYRIA -- nearly 3,300 hectares (Steiermark)
Sub-regions: Südoststeiermark, Südsteiermark (known as "Austria’s Tuscany") and the Weststeiermark.
4. VIENNA -- Precisely 678 hectares (Wien)
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