Top Ten Wine Regions

Top Ten Wine Regions

       Wine has a rich history dating back thousands of years, with archaeological evidence suggesting that the earliest known production of wine took place from the late Neolithic or early Chalcolithic (6th Century BC), between the Caucasus and the Middle East. Tools used in the production of wine have been dated from 6,000 BC in Georgia, 5,000 BC in Iran, 4,500 BC in Greece and 4,100 BC in Armenia. Further research supports the theory that the spread of wine culture westwards was likely due to the Phoenicians who were centered on the coastal strip of today’s Lebanon, itself one of the world’s oldest sites of wine production. The wines of Byblos were exported to Egypt during the Old Kingdom (2686 BC–2134 BC) and throughout the Mediterranean. Evidence of these trade routes include two Phoenician shipwrecks from 750 BC discovered by Robert Ballard, whose cargo of wine was still intact. In ancient Egypt, six of 36 wine amphoras were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun bearing the name “Kha’y,” a royal chief vintner. Traces of wine have also been found in central Asian Xinjiang in modern-day China, dating from the second and first millennia BC. The first known mention of grape-based wines in India is from the late 4th-century BC writings of Chanakya, the chief minister of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. One of the lasting legacies of the ancient Roman Empire was the viticultural foundation laid by the Romans in the areas that today are world-renowned wine regions. In places with garrison towns (e.g. Bordeaux, Trier and Colchester), the Romans planted vineyards to supply local needs and limit the cost of long-distance trading. Monks in France made wine for years, aging it in caves.

  1. Burgundy, France

    Burgundy, one of France’s major wine producers, is located in the center of France. The production of wine began when the Romans invaded the region. During the 6th century, a king gave his vineyards to the church. At the time of the French Revolution most of the best Burgundy wines where produced by monasteries. One of the results of the revolution was that Burgundy vineyards were confiscated from the church and dismantled into smaller plots. The sunny hillsides in Burgundy contain nutrient-rich dried seafloor, giving character to famous vineyards like Domaine Romanée-Conti, Vosne-Romanée and Chassagne-Montrachet. The region produces two of the most popular wines in France, Beaujolais and Chablis. The most famous wines produced here are dry red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes and white wines made from chardonnay grapes. Other common varietals are gamay, pinot blanc, and sauvignon blanc. The most expensive wines are produced in the Côte-d’Or but other regions include Beaujolais, Chablis, the Côte Chalonnaise and Mâcon.
    Links: Top Ten French AttractionsTop Ten French WineriesTop 100 French Wines,
  2. Champagne, France

    Champagne is a province in the northeast of France, best known for its sparkling white wine . Its western edge is about 100 miles east of Paris. In the High Middle Ages, the province was famous for the Champagne Fairs. In France, the first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally; its pressure led it to be called “the devil’s wine” as bottles exploded. In the19th century there was an expansive growth in Champagne production, increasing from 300,000 bottles a year in 1800 to 20 million bottles in 1850. The trend towards drier Champagne began when Perrier-Jouët decided not to sweeten his 1846. The designation Brut Champagne, the modern Champagne, was created for the British in 1876. The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Perrier Jouët, Dom Perignon and Moet & Chandon continue to provide classic styles that define elegance, sophistication and celebration.
    Links: Top Ten French AttractionsTop Ten Champagnes, Top Ten Champagnes (Under $50)Top Ten French WineriesTop 100 French WinesTop Ten James Bond Films,
  3. Tuscany, Italy

    One of the most famous of Italy’s twenty wine regions is Tuscany, located in central Italy. The hilly soil and the climate of this region are ideal for growing grapes. Long ago, wild vines were plentiful all over the sunny, rolling hills of Tuscany. The Etruscans are believed to have domesticated these early vines. There are 160,000 acres of vineyards; approximately 75 percent of the region produces red wine. In modern times, Chianti and Chianti Classico are two of the best known Italian wines in the world. Nowadays, the most prominent varietal is Sangiovese, which is often combined with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, and other grapes into notable blends such as the Brunello, Carmignano and Super Tuscan wines. Tuscany produces the third highest volume of quality wines after Piedmont and Veneto. It is Italy’s third most planted region but eighth in production volume partly due to its poor soil, emphasizing low yields but higher quality wines.
    Links: Top Ten Italian AttractionsTop Ten Italian WineriesTop 100 Italian Wines,
  4. Bordeaux, France

    Bordeaux is located near the Atlantic coast, in the south west of France. Two major rivers, the Dordogne and the Garonne, run through the center where most of Bordeaux’s vineyards are located. The city of Bordeaux, France’s 4th largest city, lies in the center of the region. Vineyards were introduced here by the Romans during the 1st century. Bordeaux now has nearly 300,000 acres of vineyards, 60 appellations, and10,000 wine-producing châteaux . With an annual production of approximately 950 million bottles, Bordeaux produces large quantities of everyday wine as well as some of the most expensive wines in the world. Merlot is the reliable grape here and adds texture to historic wines like Pétrus and Château Ausone. Red Bordeaux is generally made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère. White Bordeaux is made from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. Sauternes is a popular sweet, white, desert wine; a popular label is Château d’Yquem. The five premier cru are some of the most renowned wines in the world: Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton-Rothschild.
    Links: Top Ten French Attractions, Top Ten French Wineries, Top 100 French Wines,
  5. Sonoma County, California, USA
    Sonoma County is located in northern California. Sonoma County is one of California’s largest producers of wine grapes, out producing even the Napa Valley. Russian colonists planted and cultivated grapes at Fort Ross in the early 1800’s. In 1824 a Spanish Padre planted thousands of vines at San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. Years later, cuttings from this mission were dispersed throughout northern California to start new vineyards. Up until the early 1900’s, Sonoma County was a major producer of hops in the United States, and several of the local drying barns can still be seen today. Because of the wide variety of climate and soil conditions, the area has established worldwide recognition in the past few decades. In 2005, the 55,000 acres of vineyards in Sonoma County produced over 230,000 tons of grapes valued at $430 million, the highest region second only to Napa County. With over 350 wineries, the Alexander Valley, Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Dry Creek, Los Carneros and Rockpile are some of the various renowned appellations. Each encompasses their own distinct terroir, exceptional climate, and soil combinations. The most common varieties planted here are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, as well as Merlot and Zinfandel.
    Links: Top Ten US Attractions, Top Ten Californian Attractions, Top Ten Californian Wine Regions, Top Ten Sonoma County Appelations, Top Ten Californian Wineries, Top 100 Californian Wines, Top Ten Sonoma County Wines, Top Ten Cheeses,
  6. Napa Valley, California, USA

    The first of the wine regions in the United States to gain international praise and attention, Napa, California, is home to some of the world’s greatest wineries. With a tradition that spans from early settlers to finding a “legal” way around prohibition, the American “cowboy” mentality comes through in the determination to make a world-class wine when they were told they never would. By the end of the nineteenth century there were more than one hundred and forty wineries in the area. Of those original wineries, several still exist in the valley today including Beaulieu, Beringer, Charles Krug, Chateau Montelena, Far Niente, Mayacamas, Markham Vineyards, and Schramsberg Vineyards. In 1976, the region got a boost from the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, which featured a Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon beating several famous French labels in a blind tasting. The results of this tasting cemented the region’s reputation as a producer of world class wines. The outstanding Mediterranean microclimate and a mixture of decomposed oceanic fossils and lava ash give the rich grapes bold and elegant flavors. Though it produces only 4% of California’s wine production on 43,000 acres, Napa Valley is recognized as America’s greatest collection of wineries. Bound by mountains on both sides, the 30-mile long region is literally blanketed with grapes. There are close to 300 wineries present here, from family-owned businesses to big companies with an annual output of a million cases or more of mainly Cabernet Sauvignons, Pinot Noirs, and Merlots, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandels and Chardonnays.
    Links: Top Ten US Attractions, Top Ten Californian Attractions, Top Ten California Wine Regions, Top Ten California Wineries, Top 100 California WineiresTop Ten Train Routes,
  7. Piedmont, Italy

    Piedmont is located in northwest Italy bordering both Switzerland and France. It is surrounded on three sides by the Alps, with the highest peaks and largest glaciers in Italy. About ninety percent of the vineyards are in the southern part of this region. Although the regions of Piedmont and Bordeaux are very close in latitude, only the summertime temperatures are similar; Piedmont has a colder, continental winter climate, and significantly lower rainfall due to the rain shadow effect of the Alps. Native vines are abundant and were once cultivated by the Romans. In the 14th century winemakers in this area experimented with “Greek style” sweet wines by allowing grape clusters to hang longer on the vine to dry out. Barbera is the most widely planted variety. However, the notable grape in Piedmont is Nebbiolo, which produces both Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Their aromas have notes of tar, violets, roses, ripe strawberries, and often truffles. Dolcetto is the lightest-bodied. Sweeter wines such as Moscato d’Asti and Asti Spumante are also made in this region.
    Links: Top Ten Italian AttractionsTop Ten Italian WineriesTop 100 Italian Wines,
  8. Douro, Portugal

    Douro is a Portuguese wine region centered along the Douro River. It is sometimes referred to as the Alto Douro (upper Douro), as it is located some distance upstream from Porto, sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influences. The earliest known mention of “Port wine” dates from 1675. With the establishment of British Port lodges in Porto, port wine became the primary product of the region, increasing its economic importance to Portugal. It was the world’s first wine region to have a formal demarcation in the western part of the present region. Over time, the vineyards have expanded to the east into hotter and drier areas. The region has Portugal’s highest wine classification (Denominação de Origem Controlada -DOC). While the region is associated primarily with Port wine production, the Douro produces as much table wine as it does fortified wine. The style of wines produced in the Douro range from light, Bordeaux style claret to rich Burgundian style wines aged in new oak.
    Links: Top Ten Portuguese Attractions, Top Ten Portuguese WinesTop Ten PortsTop Ten Portuguese Ports,
  9. Barossa, Australia

    The Barossa Valley, one of 16 distinct wine regions in this part of the country, is one of the most well known of the South Australian wine regions. The area consists of softly rolling hills forming shallow fertile valleys which combine with the Mediterranean climate to produce one of the best wine producing regions in Australia. Grapes in the Barossa Valley were originally planted by German Lutheran farmers in the 1830’s who also brought with them their wine making knowledge and unique and rich culture. The Eden Valley, falling under the jurisdiction of Barossa but much cooler, produces amazing Rieslings and Semillon while the Barossa Valley produces some of the world’s best Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre blends. Cabernet Sauvignon is also widely planted. Wines from Australia are known for their intense flavors, many being made from unirrigated vines that are over 100 years old. The well balanced wines are jam-packed with intense fruitiness. In addition to the Barossa, excellent vineyards and wineries can be found at McLaren Vale, the Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, and Coonawarra.
    Links: Top Ten Australian Attractions, Top Ten Australian Wineries, Top 100 Australian Wines,
  10. Alsace, France

    Alsace is located on France’s eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. The Alsace region, along with the area northwest of Alsace called Lorraine, was once part of Germany. The Alsace region has passed from France to Germany and back again several times throughout history. The most important factor in the Alsace landscape is the Vosges Mountains, which border the vineyard area on the west and block rain. The foothills also provide slopes that are ideal for vineyards, and a variety of soil types also adds to grape diversity. The region is approximately 37,000 acres, one of the smallest wine growing regions of France. The Alsace region in France produces primarily white wine. Along with Austria and Germany, this region produces some of the best dry Rieslings in the world as well as highly aromatic Gewürztraminer wines. Alsace’s wide range of wines also includes Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris.
    Links: Top Ten French AttractionsTop Ten French WineriesTop 100 French Wines,
  11. Loire Valley, France

    The Loire Valley, often referred to as “the Garden of France” and the Cradle of the French Language is renowned for its architectural heritage, and world-famous chateaux (castles), including Châteaux Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord and Chenonceau. The gorgeous scenery of the Loire Valley evokes the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on Western European thought and design. One of the best ways to tour this stunning valley is by bicycle and luckily many of the towns rent bicycles by the day, offer maps of the area and can suggest wonderful sites to visit. Upon visiting one will enjoy delicious foods, extensive gardens and during the summer months, extravagant wine festivals. The Loire region produces some of the world’s best wine, which are distinctive, high-quality, fruity and well-rounded.
    Links: Top Ten French Attractions, Top Ten French Wineries, Top 100 French Wines, Castles, Top Ten Castles, Top Ten European Castles, Top Ten Gardens,
  12. Mosel, Germany

    Mosel is one of Germany’s thirteen wine regions. Two rivers cut through the German landscape and converge into the Mosel River, creating a gorgeous backdrop for some of the most complex wines in the world. Viticulture was brought to this area by the Romans who planted vineyards along the Mosel and the Rhine in order to have a local source of wine for their troops stationed in the area. The steep south-facing slopes gather as much sun as possible as the delicate Riesling grapes gain a deep minerality from the rich slate soils. Riesling, the soft wine grape, is king here. Before Bordeaux took the world by storm, it was the Rieslings produced here that basked in the world’s attention. Because of the northerly location of Mosel, the Riesling wines are often light, low in alcohol, crisp and high in acidity, often exhibiting “flowery” rather than “fruity” aromas.
    Links: Top Ten German Attractions, Top Ten Germain Wineries, Top Ten German Wines,
  13. Ribera del Duero, Spain

    Ribera del Duero sits on the northern plateaus of Spain along the Duero River. This region is home to the vines that give birth to the most expensive wine in the world, Vega Sicilia. Wine has been produced here for thousands of years dating back to the time of the Romans. With over 50,000 acres of vines, one third of them are over 50 years old, and three percent are over 100 years old. The main grape is Tempranillo also referred to as Tinto del País and Tinto Fino. Garnacha, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the white grape, Albillo are also allowed by the strict DO standards. The large difference in day and night temperatures is responsible for creating wines of notable depth and balance. Top vineyards include Pesquera and Pago de Carraovejas. In 2012, Ribera del Duero was chosen as Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
    Links: Top Ten Spanish Attractions, Top Ten Spanish WineriesTop 100 Spanish Wines,
  14. Marlborough, New Zealand

    Marlborough is situated on the north-eastern tip of the South Island. This region today is the Sauvignon Blanc capital of the southern hemisphere! Marlborough made winemaking history in the 1970’s although there has been commercial activity since the 1860’s. Marlborough is one of New Zealand’s sunniest and driest areas. Marlborough is split into two main areas, the Wairau and Awatere Valley. Notable estates include Hunter’s, Jackson and Cloudy Bay. Many estates blend the two area’s harvests in order to build complexity in their wines. The other main varieties grown in Marlborough are Pinot noir and Chardonnay, but Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and some very good sparklers are also produced here.
    Links: Top Ten New Zealand Attractions, Top Ten New Zealand Wineries, Top Ten New Zealand Wines
  15. Western Cape, South Africa

    The Cape Winelands are a region in South Africa containing some of the most stunning landscapes in all Southern Africa. Located in a majestic landspace of rolling hills and striking mountains, the region was first colonized by members of the Dutch East India company in 1652. With the later arrival of settlers from Germany, France and the Netherlands, winemakers soon discovered an ideal vine growing climate. Some of the best lands for growing the grapes included the Borrosso Valley and Breede River Valley, as well as what has become the cities of Franschhoek, Paarl, Somerset West, Stellenbosch, Tulbagh and Worcester. The fertile soil and Mediterranean climate of the Western Cape, makes the Cape Winelands one of the most renowned wine producing areas in the world, growing a range of noble vine varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. Although Cape Town and the nearby Boland basin is best-known for it’s superb Bordeaux-style red wines, the wine-producing region of the province extends further north- and eastwards and has established itself as producer of world-class red, white, fortified and sparkling wines from a wide range of varietals. Visitors will enjoy regular wine tastings and delicious on site winery restaurants, which creates an amazing wine tasting experience.
    Links: Top Ten South African Attractions, Top Ten South African Wineries, Top Ten South African Wines,
  16. Rioja, Spain

    La Rioja is the most famous wine region in Spain located in the north. Winemaking in this regions dates back to Roman times. Many Rioja wines are varietal blends and can be either red (tinto), white (blanco) or rosé (rosado). Eighty-five percent of the wine produced in this region is red. The soil is clay based with a high concentration of chalk and iron. There is also significant concentration of limestone, sandstone and alluvial silt. Among the Tintos, the best-known and most widely-used variety is Tempranillo. Other grapes grown here include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. Each grape adds a unique component to the wine. With Rioja Blanco, Viura is the prominent grape (also known as Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca. Rosados are mostly derived from Garnacha grapes.
    Links: Top Ten Spanish Attractions, Top Ten Spanish WineriesTop 100 Spanish Wines,
  17. Maipo Valley, Chile

    The Maipo Valley, surrounding the capital of Santiago, produces 7000 acres of high quality, affordable reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Carmenere grapes and two white varietals, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. European vines were brought to Chile by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries in the 16th century. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. Pais was the most widely planted grape only recently been overtaken by Cabernet Sauvignon where it is the star in Alto Maipo at the foothills of the Andes. Other red wine varieties include Merlot, Carménère, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet franc, Pinot noir, Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, Malbec, and Carignan. White wine varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Riesling, Viognier, Gewürztraminer. The number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005. Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the ninth largest producer.
    Links: Top Ten Chilean Attractions, Top Ten Chilean Wineries, Top Ten Chilean Wines,
  18. Victoria State, Australia

    Australia has become the 7th largest producer of wine in the world. Victoria has more wine producers than any other Australian wine-producing state with over 600 wineries. Viticulture has existed in Victoria since the 19th century and experienced a high point in the 1890’s when the region produced more than half of all wine produced in Australia. Single varietal wines include Shiraz and Chardonnay as well as Viognier, Pinot noir, Graciano and Tannat. Yarra Valley, Victoria’s oldest vineyard region, also offers numerous sparkling wines. Kiwifruit wine can also be found in some locations throughout the state!
    Links: Top Ten Australian Attractions, Top Ten Australian Wineries, Top 100 Australian Wines,
  19. Baden, Germany

    Baden, in the south west region of Germany, lies between the Black Forest and Rhine River. It is Germany’s third largest wine region with 40,000 acres of vineyards. Baden is in close proximity to Alsace, France, so similar grape varietals are grown in both regions. Wines coming out of the Baden region are unique as they are recognized for their strong flavor and low acidity. Although wine was made in the region since the 2nd century, Baden began exporting wines to other parts of Europe in the 16th century. Dominant among the numerous grapes grown here is the Pinot grape – Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder), Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc comprise 55% of the vineyards. This region is also home to the Spätburgunder Weissherbst, a popular rosé wine. Riesling, once the hopeful star, plays a smaller role with 8 % as the region was found to be too hot for a grape that loves cooler climates.
    Links: Top Ten German Attractions, Top Ten German Wineries, Top Ten German Wines,
  20. Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada

    Niagara-on-the-Lake (2011 population 15,400) is a Canadian town located in Southern Ontario where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario in the Niagara Region of the southern part of the province of Ontario. It is located across the Niagara River from Youngstown, New York, USA and boasts a thriving wine culture.
    Links: Top Ten Canadian Attractions, Top Ten Canadian Wineries, Top Ten Canadian Wines, Top Ten Waterfalls,
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