Travel Guide - Introduction
Travel Guide - Destinations
|Here in our Travel Guide, we've compiled some valuable
information about the wines of different nations and regions, so that
you'll know what delights await you, and the kind of taste sensations
you can expect as you journey through the world of wine! We've divided
up our Travel Guide into the countries listed below on the TABS,
just simply click on or off to expand the information lying within. Pick
up valuable tips about developing your own expertise as a wine connoisseur!
European Region - ItalyClick
on arrows to Expand
have selected your destination as Italy
Regions - Northern Italy
|For a country stretching from Germany in the north, nearly
to Africa in the south, variety is what you get in Italy, with wine produced
in all 95 of the country's provinces. In the north-east, Valpolicella
and Friuli are exceptional reds of outstanding quality - but look out
for sparkling northern wines such as Asti, though you must travel to the
central Po valley for Lambrusco. To the west, the red Sangivese grape
produces Chianti, think of Rome and you think of Frascati, whilst to the
South, Primitivo, Puglia and Negromaro deserve mention - and watch out
for up-coming Sicilian wines!
The classification system for Italian wine mirrors that for French. Italian
wines are generally Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) or Denominazione
di Origine Controllata et Garantita (DOCG). These levels correspond with
the Appellation (d'Origine) Contrôlée wines of France, the
DOCG wines supposedly with an extra degree of quality. The fairly recent
qualification of Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) corresponds to France's
Vin de Pays wines, whereas the lowest category for Italian wine, Vina
da Tavola, accounts for the table wines. Unusually this latter category
has in the past included some of Italy's top wines, as quality conscious
wine makers were excluded from the DOC or DOCG categories because of the
grapes or wine making practices they used. The Italian wine region where
these latter two have been most concentrated is around Chianti in Tuscany,
the wines frequently referred to as 'super-Tuscans'. The relaxation of
the DOC and DOCG regulations in 1992, together with the creation of the
IGT category, was intended to bring the winemakers behind these 'super-Tuscans'
back into the fold.
Regions - Central Italy
|The northwest of Italy is divided into four regions,
Valle d-Aosta, Lombardy, Liguria and Piedmont. This latter may be regarded
by some as the most significant Italian wine region, for it is the origin
of perhaps the greatest Italian red wine, Barolo. This is a frequently
age-worthy wine made from the Nebbiolo grape, which may be searingly tannic
in its youth. Many of the wines produced deserve ten or fifteen years
Nearby is Barbaresco, another red wine made from Nebbiolo, which is more
approachable in youth and may also more affordable - although top examples
still command a high price. Barolo and Barbaresco may be designated as
Riserva if aged in barrel for four years or three years respectively.
Both Barolo and Barbaresco are DOCG wines.
After Nebbiolo, Piedmont's second grape is Barbera (used in the blends
mentioned above). Great value wines can also be sourced from the a number
of top producers who bottle under the Barbera d'Alba and Barbera d'Asti
DOCs. The third most important grape is Dolcetto - the occasional Dolcetto
d'Alba can be wonderful, although most are light, quaffing wines.
Think of sparkling Italian wine and you're thinking of Asti (once known
as Asti Spumante), an off-dry sparkling white wine made in Piedmont from
the Muscat grape. The wine is often of poor quality, although good examples
can rarely be found. Also there is Gavi, a dry white made from the Cortese
In the northeast there are three Italian wine regions, but like the northwest
only one of them is of great importance. This is Veneto, the other two
being Trentino-Alto Adife and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, often abbreviated
to Friuli. The latter two produce some pleasant varietal wines, and there
are a few stars - such as Silvio Jermann in Friuli. In Veneto, however,
there are a few DOC areas worth a little more attention.
The vast majority of Italian wine is red, but there are also some wonderful
white wines. Of all Italian white wine, those from the much maligned Soave
region are perhaps the best known. These wines are made from the Garganega
and Trebbiano grapes. Neither grape is a stunner, yet a few producers
can fashion a wine head and shoulders above the usual dross. If you see
a wine from one of my recommended producers, it is certainly worth a try.
Recioto di Soave, also from this region, is a sweet white wine, strangely
accorded the DOCG status, made from partially dried grapes.
Nearby is Valpolicella, a red wine DOC. Straight Valpolicella may be a
pleasant easy drinking red, whereas Valpolicella Classico (from the central
region) and Superiore (which denotes a higher alcohol content) may be
a little more substantial. Recioto della Valpolicella is a red wine made
here, but clearly way out in front is Amarone della Valpolicella. Both
of these wines are made from air-dried grapes, predominantly the Corvina
variety, and fermented out to dryness for the Amarone, whilst the Recioto
is kept sweet. They are concentrated, complex, and frequently beguiling.
Basic Valpolicella, once made, may be passed over the lees of a Recioto
or Amarone wine giving a slight refermentation, producing what can be
a beguiling red wine known as a Ripasso di Valpolicella. This DOC is in
the running for top Italian red wine bargain, as a good producer will
often fashion a mini-Amarone at a fraction of the price of the real thing.
Regions - Southern Italy
|The central regions of Italy are responsible for what
is probably the best known of all Italian red wine, Chianti. This DOCG
wine hails from Tuscany, probably the best known and most travelled Italian
wine region, as it is home to such beautiful destinations as Florence
and Pisa. Chianti is made from the Sangiovese grape, with small amounts
of other grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, also permissible. The best
wines are from the Chianti Classico subregion, but others are also worth
trying, particularly Chianti Rufina. The very best wines are aged for
longer before release, and are designated Riserva, and these are from
the Classico and Rufina regions. So-called 'Super-Tuscans' - wines made
outside the DOC/DOCG rules - can offer top quality, but often at a price,
eg Sassicaia, Tignanello, Solaia, Cepparello.
From nearby Montalcino comes Brunello di Montalcino, another famous Italian
red wine which, like Chianti, is another DOCG wine made from Sangiovese
(Brunello is the local name for this grape). If aged for five years before
release it may be designated Riserva. Rosso di Montalcino is another red
wine made here, but is intended to be consumed in its youth. If from a
good producer it can represent good value for money.
Not too far from Montalcino is Montepulciano, home to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano,
another impressive Italian red wine DOCG, again made from Sangiovese -
it is not to be confused with wines made from the Montepulciano grape.
Vino Nobile has a reputation for being austere, but from the best producers
it can be wonderful.
Outside of the three most important regions in Tuscany - Chianti, Montalcino
& Montepulciano - there are a number of regions along the coast which
are also home to some delicious, good value and also serious wines. The
DOC Morellino di Scansano (Morellino is another regional name for Sangiovese)
is the longest established and most well known. If looking for Italian
red wine at a bargain price this can be a good hunting ground.
Outside of Tuscany the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Umbria and Latium produce
some of the most infamous of all Italian wines. Many of us have experienced
the produce of these Italian wine regions, as from the former comes Lambrusco
and from Latium comes Frascati, two of the most abused names in Italian
wine making. There are some good wines to be found though. From the Marches
come Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno, both red wines made from Montepulciano
in combination with other grapes, and both can be good value. Verdicchio
is the grape largely responsible for the regions best known white wine,
Verdicchio and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. Both can be good drinking.
From Abruzzi comes Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, a reliable red wine, also
made from the Montepulciano grape.
|In the south the production centres around red wine,
which may rival the wines of the south of France for interest and good
value. There are few wines of interest in Molise, Campania, Basilicata
or Calabria but Puglia (Apulia) is a more rewarding hunting ground.
The DOCs of Castel del Monte, Salice Salentino, Copertino
and Primitivo di Manduria have the best reputation. There is little
wine of interest on Sardinia, but Sicily is an Italian wine region
on the up. Known for its fortified wine Marsala, the table wines are
improving in quality. These are often made outside the DOC regulations
as Vina da Tavola or IGT wines. Sicilian white wine, from a top producer
such as Planeta, can rival the red wine for quality.
European Region - Spain
You have selected your destination as Spain
Regions - Northern Spain
|Spain has a long history of producing fine wines, particularly
the red wines of Rioja. Surprisingly, however, this famous name is just
one small region among many, some of which produce equally good wines. Some
of these regions are huge, and account for the fact that Spain has the largest
area of land dedicated to viticulture of any country in the world. Traditionally,
Iberian wine always travelled well - thus the fortified wines of Sherry,
Port and Madeira have found their way to all corners of the globe. Today,
however, Spanish wines are on the move once more, since they are now seen
as newly emerging wines of quality, especially the reds. Try some of the
delicious full bodies reds from Navarra, Penedes or Valdepenas. Cava, the
sparkling wine from Cataluna, is a delight.
Spain has a similar classification system to France and Italy,
with all classified wine regions regulated under the Denominacion de Origen
(DO) system. Red wines are often labelled as Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva.
In Rioja and the Ribera del Duero, Crianza wines are two years old, with
at least twelve months spent in cask (elsewhere the oak ageing may legally
be restricted to just six months). Reservas are three years old (at least
one year in cask), Gran Reservas five years old (two in cask, three in bottle).
Regions - Central Spain
|Coming further across is the Ribera del Duero, a region
of vineyards situated around the Duero river, which, as it flows west through
Portugal, becomes the Douro, home to the vineyards that give rise to Port.
Despite Rioja's reputation, it is in fact the Ribera del Duero that is home
to Spain's most expensive wine, produced by Vega Sicilia. There are some
splendid wines to be had in this region, based on a mixture of international
(Cabernet Sauvignon) and indigenous (Tempranillo) grapes.
Further east, and back to the north a little, is Rioja. The epitome of fine
red Spanish wine for generations, Rioja can still be superb. Styles vary,
from easy drinking Crianzas and some Reservas, to the Reservas and Gran
Reservas of the top estates which may cellar and improve for decades. The
grape of note is the Tempranillo, although there are some plantings of lesser
grapes, including Garnacha Tinta (known as Grenache in France). Rioja is
divided up into three regions, by far the most important of which is the
Rioja Alta (which is also the name of one of the top estates). Slightly
to the east are Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja, the former producing some
drinkable wines, the latter less so.
Moving across to the Mediterranean coast there are a number of DO regions,
such as Priorato and Somontano, which for many years produced nothing of
great interest. Quite recently, however, Priorato has been making waves,
with big, age-worthy and exciting wines from the likes of Clos Mogador and
Clos Erasmus. Penedes is also worth a mention, not least because it is home
to one of Spain's most well known wine makers, Torres. This company, led
by Miguel Torres, produces a vast array of styles using a number of indigenous
and international grapes, from sparkling Cava through to Gran Reserva reds.
They also have related outposts in Chile (Miguel Torres) and California
Regions - Southern Spain
|Just one region dominates central Spain, and that is La
Mancha. This is a vast million acre DO, which relies on Airen for its whites,
and Cencibel (another name for Tempranillo, just to confuse you) and Garnacha
Tinta (Grenache), among others, for its reds. I read an editorial recently
which stated that La Mancha was going to be the next big success story,
following in the footsteps of the Napa Valley and Coonawarra. I have as
yet to see any real evidence of this.
Just to the south of La Mancha is Valdepenas, a red wine region, much less
important than Rioja or the Ribera del Duero, which produces a few drinkable
wines. Some of the best producers are using oak-ageing to add more appeal
to their wines. Good value drinking can be found here, from one or two producers.
Further to the east are the DOs of Almansa, Valencia, Alicante, Jumilla,
Yecla and Utiel-Requena. There are some good value wines to be found here,
and I have been particularly impressed with the efforts of Castano.
|This is the home of Sherry, produced from a small region
around the town of Jerez. Sherry is made principally from the Palomino and
Pedro Ximénez (PX) grapes, with a splash of Moscatel. The grapes
are harvested and fermented in the normal way, but the wines are then left
in contact with air for a prolonged period of time. Some will simply oxidise,
whereas some develop a coating of flor, a thick layer of yeast, on the surface.
This yeast imparts a distinctive flavour.
The wines then pass through a solera system, a tier of barrels containing
wine of differing ages, oldest at the bottom and youngest at the top. The
wine in the lowest barrel is drawn off and bottled, and each barrel is topped
up with wine from the one above. This maintains a steady stream of wine
of similar character year after year, and explains why sherry is almost
never vintage dated. Sherries come in a number of styles. These can broadly
be divided into dry, medium or sweet.
|Dry: Fino is the
most commonly seen dry Sherry, a flor wine generally intended for drinking
young. Manzanilla is a light style of Fino from Sanlúcar de Barrameda,
a small fishing village on the Mediterranean coast. Amontillado is a wine
left in cask until the flor has died and sunk to the bottom, the wine then
darkening and taking on a more nutty character. Wines that are halfway between
the Fino and Amontillado stages may be termed Fino Amontillado or Manzanilla
Pasada. Oloroso is a wine which did not grow the flor yeast (the opposite
of Fino), and it may be used as the base for medium or sweet Sherry. It
may also be sold dry (Oloroso Seco).
|Medium: The most
common medium sherry is a sweetened Amontillado, but they may also be created
from Oloroso wines.
|Sweet: At their best
these are made from Oloroso wines, sweetened with PX. In modern times they
are just as likely to be poor Finos sweetened up with some Moscatel. Sweet
Sherries from just PX can be astounding. At the sweet
end of the spectrum we also have the cream and brown Sherries, which I shall
discuss no further.
European Region - Portugal
You have selected your destination as Portugal
Regions - Northern Portugal
|Portugal is one of the most renowned producers of wine
in the world, but its reputation is based not on table wine, but on the
fortified wines of Port and, less so, Madeira. But Portugal also produces
a few excellent table wines, particularly in the north of the country.
There is an eclectic mix of grape varieties, and undoubtedly the leader
of the pack is the Touriga Nacional. This grape is the basis for fine
Ports and the red wines of the Douro, as well as having an increasing
presence in many other regions.
Regions - Southern Portugal
|In the north is the Douro DOC, situated around the
river of the same name. The Douro enters Portugal from Spain, where
it is known as the Duero, and is home to the vineyards of the Ribera
del Duero. Full bodied, meaty, complex reds can be produced here.
Nearby is Dâo, very much an up and coming region for good value,
full bodied reds, and even a few white wines. Wines from single quinta
estates are, as always, likely to be of higher quality.
Also nearby is Bairrada, another DOC producing a few good value red
wines, although they are of less significance than those coming from
the Douro and Dão. Bairrada has the dubious honour of being
one of the main sources of grapes for Mateus Rosé, a medium
sweet carbonated wine which graces supermarket shelves the world over.
Also in the north is Vinho Verde, a region producing red and white
wines which can offer some pleasant drinking from quality minded producers.
Most offerings, however, are dire, so choose carefully. 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.
|Further south the wines are much less significant.
Around Lisbon are the regions of Estremedura and Ribatejo, although
neither produce any great wines. A number of tiny subregions, including
Carcavelos, Colares, Bucelas and Setúbal produce a few interesting
Getting much further south, Alentejo can be interesting, as can Terras
do Sado. On the Algarve a number of DOCs produce unsurprisingly forgettable
wine. These include Lagos, Portimâo, Lagoa and Tavira.
Port - The Styles
|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.
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.
|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.
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.
A heavy aperitif wine, varying in style, often with a hint of oxidation.
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.
European Region - France
have selected your destination as France
|Whilst nowadays challenged by many other wine-producing
nations, France is one of the world's most revered wine producers, with
a climate and landscape perfect for the creation of a variety of wines
which represent quality and subtlety. Over a quarter of the world's wine
is produced in France - and, whilst it has traditionally been seen as
a nation which often produces more sophisticated wine which will benefit
from ageing, France is increasingly making wines which have the same full-bodied,
fruity taste as those of the New World, particularly the up and coming
Vin de Pays which are ideal for immediate drinking.
A League of their Own
|French grapes have influenced wine-makers throughout
the world, and wherever you travel, you'll find reminders of a French
heritage in grape names like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir
, Syrah and Merlot. To the French, the secret of these great grape varieties
lies in the soil, whose individual and unique characteristics throughout
France give each grape its own unique qualities. The concept of highly
individual local soil conditions is known as 'terroir', and such matters
are discussed with reverence and respect by lovers of French wine everywhere!
Regions - Tour de France
|Legislation exists to classify wines into different levels
of quality, so look out for the following, in increasing order of superiority:
Vin de table:
simple wine made for casual drinking
Vin de pays: good, sometimes great, quality
'country wines', usually labelled with the grape variety from which
they are made.
Appellation Controlee: wines made under
strict regulations from carefully delimited areas, including such famous
French wines as Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone and Muscadet.
|As a general geographical guide to French wines, the
following will provide a useful summary:
|Champagne ( Northern ):
in the Reims and Epernay region, the chalky soil produces thin, acid white
wine perfect for the production of Champagne which is exclusive to this
|Alsace ( Eastern ):
spicy, perfumed dry white wines and sweet wines.
|Burgundy - ( West of Alsace ):
produces Chablis (white), Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Beaujolais
Southern region - includes the Rhone Valley and the Langeudoc Roussillon,
source of much of the best quality Vin de Pays.
|Bordeaux ( Western ):
the red wine capital of the world! There are great white wines as well
(Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves) and unforgettable sweet wines from Sauternes
|Rhone - ( Southern ):
In the south Syrah makes way for a more varied selection of grape varieties,
with Grenache leading the pack. There are some more famous names here,
particularly Châteauneuf du Pape, although I'm glad to say only
a few top wines command the prices that we see in the north.
|Rhone ( Northern ):
The relatively small appellations of the north produce less wine than
those of the south, but they are equally famous if not more so. The most
northerly is Côte Rôtie (the "roasted slope"), which
produces fine wine from the Syrah grape, sometimes with a small percentage
of Viognier blended in to add an extra dimension to the wine. The slopes
on which the grapes for these wines are grown are precipitous, vertigo-inducing
affairs, but the wines are so fine that the vignerons will always persist
here despite the difficult conditions. From a good vintage many will be
at their best when fifteen or twenty years old.
|Loire - ( Northern ):
The Loire has traditionally been regarded as the northern limit of viticulture,
but with global warming this view may quickly become outdated. The climate
in the early years of the 21st Century has certainly been very favourable
for viticulture here, and although some acid freaks may complain that
their Vins de Touraine is not quite as rasping as it used to be, there
have been more and more excellent wines produced as a result, even in
heatwave vintages like 2003. This intimate relationship of quality and
climate determines where the Loire's greatest vineyards are to be found,
almost exclusively on south-facing slopes to capture every last inkling
of the sun's rays. Such vineyards may be located on the right bank of
the Loire, as at Vouvray and Savennières (the Clos de la Coulée
Serrant), but the majority of the vineyards are found on the left bank,
often where a tributary joins the great river, such as at Coteaux du Layon
(the flow of which generates an almost unbroken run of southerly slopes,
from Passavant-sur-Layon down to Chalonnes) and Sèvre-et-Maine.
|Coteaux du Languedoc ( Southern ):
The Coteaux du Languedoc is the largest and one of the most significant
viticultural regions of the Mediterranean vineyards. Created in 1985,
it is a catch-all appellation, which is in a state of limbo. Although
at present the region is a seeming array of terroirs, crus and subregions,
it is becoming clear with time which regions have true potential. On the
back of this knowledge, it is likely that the Coteaux du Languedoc will
eventually develop a tiered classification system like Burgundy or Bordeaux.
At the bottom of the tier will be the regional zone, basic AC Languedoc,
analogous to AC Bordeaux or AC Bourgogne. The whole region will be entitled
to this appellation provided basic criteria are met. The next steps up
are the subregional zones, of which there are seven, and the communal
zones, of which there are presently twelve. Whereas the names of some
of the communal zones may sound familiar, the subregional zones have not
entered everyday use. The three foremost subregional zones are La Clape
& Quatourze, Pic St Loup and Grès de Montpellier.
|Roussillon ( Southern Eastern Tip):
The wines produced in Roussillon are no less diverse than its soils, and
there are few epicurean pleasures more more appealing to the eye than
an array of vins du Roussillon. The colours span the vinous spectrum,
from pale dry Muscat through the ambers and golds of Rivesaltes, to the
red wines of Cotes du Roussillon and Collioure, to the inky dark wines
of Maury. There are only seven appellations, some with just a handful
of domaines, producing this fine assortment of wines, a feature which
makes Roussillon's newly apparent and quite increasingly tangible identity
all the more impressive.
Region - USA
have selected your destination as USA
Regions - California North Coast
|Too many the wines of North America mean nothing more
than California, but this is plainly a short-sighted view. Although it
accounts for over 90% of the wine produced in the USA, there are a number
of other states producing wine, most significantly north of California
in Oregon and Washington, as well as some east of the Rockies. North of
the border, Canada also produces some stunning wines.
recent years California has become best known for full bodied, full throttle
reds and full bodied, oaky whites made from very ripe fruit. Favoured
red varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. The whites
are predominantly Chardonnay. As with many wine countries of the New World,
the winemakers of California are still very much finding their way when
it comes to which grape varieties are suited to which regions. Hence the
different geographical wine regions, referred to as American Viticultural
Areas (AVAs), are not as significant as the name of the producer on the
label. The AVA system, in fact, makes no stipulations as to yields or
varieties used at all. The planting of Pinot Noir in cooler areas such
as the Russian River Valley, however, is a sign that the Californian winemakers
are on their way to finding more meaning in the AVA system.
Regions - California South Coast
|The Napa Valley remains central to the Californian wine
industry. It lies just north of San Francisco Bay, and is home to many
of the Cabernet Sauvignons for which the state has become famous. Many
of these wines match or exceed classed growth claret for price. Such highly
prized, highly sought after 'Cal-Cabs' are often referred to as 'cult
wines', and they reach phenomenal prices at auction. The prime example
is Screaming Eagle, running to a production of just 500 cases annually.
Top wines come from the AVAs of Rutherford, Oakville, St Helena, Howell
Mountain and the Stag's Leap District. Abutting San Francisco Bay and
lying partly in the Napa Valley and partly in Sonoma is the cooler Carneros
AVA, responsible for some good Pinot Noir.
Nearby, Sonoma also produces some fine wines, with reds again predominating.
Top AVAs here include the Alexander Valley and Sonoma Valley. The Russian
River Valley and Carneros have developed a reputation for Pinot Noir,
their cooler climates suiting this variety. Further north are the less
significant Anderson Valley and Potter Valley AVAs, in Mendocino, and
the Clear Lake AVA in Lake.
Regions - Washington & Oregon
|Not far south of San Francisco Bay are the Santa Clara
Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The latter is home to one of California's
most eccentric winemakers, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, working with all
manner of varieties including those of the Rhône, such as Grenache
and Viognier, as well as some Italian grapes. Also to be found here is
Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, who raises excellent wine from a number
of different sites in California.
Moving further south through Monterey are the less significant regions
Carmel Valley, Arroyo Seco, Paso Robles and Edna Valley. These seem
to be a real jumble of wine regions with, as far as I can tell, no great
identity of their own. There are a few appealing wines produced here,
More significant is Santa Barbara, incorporating the Santa Maria Valley
and Santa Ynez Valley AVAs. There is a mixture of wine styles produced,
including varietal Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, as
well as some Rhône like wines.
Regions - Canada
|North of California, the cooler states of the Pacific
Northwest are gradually increasing production. Of particular interest
in Oregon is the Pinot Noir, as the cool climate may suit this variety.
In recent years there has been a massive expansion of vineyards planted
with Burgundian clones.
|There are some vineyards in Canada, mainly in Ontario.
As with the Pacific Northwest, some feel that the climate is suitable
for Pinot Noir, and a number of famous Burgundian names have purchased
land here. Canada's forte, however, is icewine, a dessert wine produced
when the grapes are left to freeze on the vine, exactly the same method
for producing the German eiswein.
Region - Chile
You have selected your destination as Chile
|The wine producing nations of South America are making
great strides in improving the quality of their product. The wines of
Chile are the most predominant on the foreign market. West of the Andes,
Chile's climate varies from the heat of the arid, rocky, mountainous desert
to the north and the icy, Antarctic expanse in the south. Midway between
the two are the warm, fertile valleys that are home to this nation's vineyards.
Although, like many New World nations Chile has only made an impact on
the foreign market in the past decade, viticulture has been established
here for centuries. There are a wide selection of international varieties
planted, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and others.
In truth, much of what was once thought to be Merlot has recently been
identified as Carmenère, a rarely planted variety of Bordeaux.
Many wineries are offering varietal Carmenère, although many also
continue to blend it with the correctly identified Merlot.
|The northmost region is Aconcagua,
and being this far north it is Chile's warmest. The hot and dry conditions
mean that there are few wineries of note here. In the intermediate region
Panquehue, however, conditions are better,
and here there can be some interesting wines produced. Nearer the coast
is the subregion Casablanca, and consequently
this is one of the cooler regions. There are large plantings of white
varieties, including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Inland again is Maipo,
Chile's oldest wine region, which is divided into a number of subregions.
Red varieties are favoured, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, and some
of the wines produced are very good.
South of Maipo is Rapel,
with it's subregions Cachapoal and Colchagua.
There are some wines of interest produced here, and also further south
at Maule. This latter region is also subdivided,
the most significant region probably being Curicó,
which also includes Lontue. Nearby is Chimbarongo,
responsible for some interesting Pinot Noir.
The southernmost region of interest is Bío
Bío, a relatively wet region. This has been a jug wine
region for too long, and plantings of quality varieties such as Chardonnay
and Pinot Noir are increasing.
Region - Argentina
You have selected your destination as Argentina
|Argentina, is increasing quality, and consequently is
also making an impact. As well as this county, there is also a small amount
of wine coming out of Uruguay. Eyeing up the success of Chilean wines
on the foreign market, and faced with a drop in consumption by the home
market, Argentinean winemakers have been keen to increase their exports.
The slow arrival of Argentinean wines abroad does not signify a lack of
produce, however, as few countries have more land committed to viticulture.
Until recently, though, the vast majority of the somewhat questionable
wine produced was consumed by the thirsty Argentineans. The pulling up
of perhaps a third of the vineyards in existence, followed by some selective
replanting of quality varieties was the first step towards the production
of quality wine suitable for the wine drinkers of North America and Europe.
Regions - Uruguayan
Like Carmenère in Chile, Argentina has its own
French variety, Malbec. This grape, historically thought of as a minor
Bordeaux variety, as well as playing a role in the appellations of the
south-west of France, such as Cahors, is behind some of Argentina's
top reds. Argentina has another interesting grape, Torrontés,
a white variety with some character. With good winemaking this variety
can produce fresh and aromatic wines, not unlike those made from Muscat.
Accounting for roughly three-quarters of all the vine plantings, Mendoza
is situated in the west of the country. The vineyards extend from the
foot of the mountains up to about 4000 feet above sea level, with the
highest, cooler vineyards being more suitable for white varieties. The
majority of wine, produced from low quality vines, is destined for jug
wines or grape concentrate, but there are more and more plantings of
internaional varieties. Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Tempranillo
lead the way, and it is the wine produced from these that can increasingly
be found on the foreign market.
Other areas are of less importance.
North of Mendoza are San
Juan, Cordoba, La
Rioja, Salta, Jujuy
and Catamarca. To the south are Río
Negro and Neuquen.
|There are a few Uruguayan wines to be found. To continue
the theme, Uruguay's top grape is Tannat which, like Malbec, also has
it's home in the appellations of the south-west of France, this time principally
in Madiran. Wines made from Tannat can be
rather tough and demand long ageing, so many producers blend with other
varieties to make a more approachable wine.
Region - South Africa
You have selected your destination as South Africa
Wines of Distinction
|Since 1652 much has evolved. The establishment of a trading
station led to a flourishing wine industry, and later to the birth of
a nation. Jan van Riebeeck, the first governor of the Cape, planted a
vineyard in 1655, and on February 2, 1659, the first wine was made from
Cape grapes. This led to the planting of vines on a larger scale at Roschheuvel,
known today as Bishopscourt, Wynberg. Van Riebeeck strongly encouraged
the farmers to plant vineyards although at first they were most reluctant.
Since then much has been achieved to develop South Africa's export markets.
|The Cape wine growing areas, situated in the narrow viticultural
zone of the Southern Hemisphere produce some of the world's most outstanding
wines. The area has a Mediterranean climate. The mountain slopes and valleys
form the ideal habitat for the wine grape vitis vinifera whose products
have given pleasure to man for many centuries.
Long, sun-drenched summers ensure grapes with enough sugar to provide
excellent wines year after year. Wet winters with cool sea breezes and
temperatures of 0-10 degrees Celsius also contribute to the ideal conditions
for viticulture at the Cape. An official seal is given to each bottle
by the Wine & Spirit Board which verifies that the claims made on
the label regarding origin, vintage and grape variety.
|Around Cape Town is Stellenbosch, responsible for probably
the Cape's finest red wines, although there are a range of styles produced
here. Although responsible for less than a fifth of all wine production,
it is undoubtedly the centre of the South African wine industry. Many
leading estates have their headquarters here.
Directly to the east, on the Atlantic coast, is Constantia.
The source of the dessert wine Vin de Constance, drunk by Napoleon when
exiled on St Helena, this region is now also the source for some excellent
Inland of Stellenbosch is Paarl.
A diverse range of styles are produced here, including dessert wines
and flor-influenced wines very much in the style of Sherry. It is home
to a number of top estates.
To the south is Elgin, one of South Africa's
newest regions. There are already signs that top quality wines will
be produced here, including Pinot Noir.
Further round the coast is Walker Bay,
a relatively cool climate region which as always has led to the planting
of Pinot Noir. This is probably the most exciting South African region
for this variety, with several estates having considerable success.
There is also some very good Chardonnay.
The remaining coastal regions, Piketberg,
Swartland and Overberg
are of less significance. Moving inland, there are a number of hot,
arid wine wards, including Worcester, Robertson,
Tulbagh and Little
Karoo. Save for a few interesting estates, the wines produced
here are of less interest to the wine lover. Olifant's
River, to the north, is another jug wine region.
Region - Australia
You have selected your destination as Australia
Regions - New South Wales
|From the outside, Australia as a wine-producing nation
seems to have come from nowhere. Its wines have only made an impact on
the international scene in the last two decades. With most of Australia's
landmass being inhospitable and uninhabitable, it's no surprise to find
that the majority of wine-growing regions tend to be along coastal areas,
especially in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Within these
areas, climatic variations account for a wide variety of wines which are
more than a match for their European counterparts.
Regions - Victoria
|In the north east is the Hunter Valley, one of the most
long established wine regions, and in New South Wales doubtlessly one
of the most significant. Frequently divided into Lower and Upper Hunter,
it is responsible for the excellent Semillon wines, as well as some characterful
Shiraz, and nowadays some good Chardonnay as well. Other regions in New
South Wales include Mudgee, a small region not far from the Hunter Valley,
and the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, also known as Riverina, which has
for long been responsible for large amounts of cheap wine, but is now
seeing some investment at the hands of Foster's.
Regions - South Australia
|To the south of New South Wales is Victoria,
where there are some exciting wines produced, not least from the cool
coastal areas. The Mornington Peninsula is
one such area, and it is responsible for some of the few interesting Pinot
Noir wines produced in Australia. Nearby is the wonderful Yarra
Valley, another classic and long established cool region, with
no less history than the Hunter Valley. Here
there are more excellent Pinot Noirs. The third of the cool coastal regions
is Geelong. This area was devastated by the
vine louse Phylloxera, but was replanted in the 1960s. Further inland,
the Goulburn Valley and Great
Western are two of the more significant regions, the others including
Macedon and the Pyrenees.
The Goulburn Valley has a temperate climate
and some famous old wineries produce some delicious red and white wines.
From Great Western come some excellent sparklers
and classic Shiraz. To the north east are Rutherglen,
King Valley and Milawa,
fortified and dessert wine regions. There are also some good table wines
Regions - Western Australia
|The names of the wine regions of South Australia are
some of the most familiar of this continent. Nevertheless, some of the
most enjoyable wines are the regional blends, made from grapes harvested
in a number of different wine regions. These wines are labelled solely
as South Australia without any further detail on origin. Many will be
mass produced wines made for early consumption, but some are of top quality
with excellent cellaring potential. Such wines include those from the
Penfolds stable, led by their flagship wine Grange.
Furthest south is Coonawarra, a region of
considerable repute, and many would agree it is the finest region of South
Australia. Its future depends on whether the name can be restricted to
those parts that lie on the famous Terra Rossa soils which are responsible,
to some extent, for the quality of the wines produced. Cabernet Sauvignon
excels here, but there is also Chardonnay, Shiraz and other grapes.
Further north, Padthaway produces some excellent
Chardonnay, as well as some sparkling wines. The Adelaide
Hills, together with the Eden Valley and
Clare Valley further north again, have also
gained a reputation for some excellent white wines. Adelaide has some
excellent Chardonnay, whereas both Eden and Clare have gained a reputation
for Riesling, although the latter also produces some very significant
And now we come to another of Australia's oldest and best known regions,
the Barossa Valley. Barossa made its name
with big, blockbuster Shiraz, but there are also some good Semillon wines,
although none to rival those of the Hunter Valley. As well as numerous
vineyards, there are many wineries situated in the Barossa, vinifying
grapes trucked in from all over the state.
Nearer the coast is McLaren Vale, an historic
region which has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. It is best known
for its red wines.
Regions - Tasmania
|On the west coast the relatively cool climate Margaret
River has made dramatic leaps in quality. The wines have gained
a reputation for elegance rather than power. Nearby is Great
Southern, Pemberton, Geographe
where there are also some wines of interest.
Variety and Diversity
|Tasmania, off the coast of Victoria, is another cool
climate region that has seen expansion in recent years. The vineyards
are best suited to white varieties, and there are some good table and
sparkling wines appearing.
|Australia's own Shiraz is a popular red, whilst Pinot
Noir allows for the production of excellent sparkling wines, especially
when combined with Chardonnay.
Region - New Zealand
You have selected your destination as New Zealand
Regions - South Island
|A country now well known for its unique, intense style
of Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand also produces some excellent Chardonnay
and Riesling. Until recently the red wines have never been very impressive,
but recent vintages have demonstrated that this is no longer the case.
New Zealand is now responsible for some good Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
based wines, but is also beginning to produce Pinot Noir of world-beating
Regions - North Island
|It is the South Island that produces the most significant
wines. The Marlborough region, New Zealand's
largest, near the northern tip, is well established as a the country's
top region when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc. It is the combination of
good ripening conditions combined with cool nights which maintain natural
acidity in the grapes that has made it so successful. There is also some
Other regions of the South Island include Nelson
and Canterbury, which includes Waipara.
These are somewhat overshadowed by Marlborough. Further south, however,
is a region which is certainly not overshadowed, and that is Central
Otago. The Pinot Noir produced here is of ever increasing quality,
and worth looking out for.
|At the southernmost tip is Wairarapa,
which includes Martinborough. Martinborough
is a small region which has seen success with mainly white grapes, but
also some wonderful Pinot Noir.
Hawke's Bay, further north, has a warmer
climate and a history of success with red grapes as well as white. Some
wines produced are outstanding. Gisborne,
conversely, has mainly white varieties, whereas the vineyards of Waikato,
Auckland and the Bay
of Plenty are both known for reds and whites. In the far north,
Northland produces a small amount of grapes.