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Wine Knowledge

Wine Knowledge

To browse the regions, click on the countries below to view.

  • AustraliaAustralia

    Wine has been made in Australia since soon after white settlement in the late 18th century. Now, there are over 2000 wine producers making Australia the world's 7th largest producer of wine.

    Australia has been the primary producing country to market wines with the names of two grape varieties on the label (i.e. - Sémillon/Chardonnay). In two grape blends, the variety that represents the greatest portion of the blend is named first.

    Being in the southern hemisphere, the growing season is reverse of that of the European and American producers, harvesting in March and April.

    Grape varieties

    Major grape varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Riesling. The country has no native grapes, and Vitis vinifera varieties were introduced from Europe and South Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Although Syrah was originally called Shiraz in Australia and Syrah elsewhere, its dramatic commercial success has led many Syrah producers around the world to label their wine "Shiraz".

    Major wine regions

    • The state of South Australia, which produces about 60% of the country's wines, also has the most wineries and sub-regions, including McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Coonawara and the Barossa Valley.
    • New South Wales is home to the Hunter Valleys, Riverina and Mudgee
    • The southern state of Victoria includes the Yarra Valley, the Mornington Peninsula, Goulburn and Milawa.
    • In Western Australia you'll find the Swan Valley and the tiny region of Margaret River at the southern tip.
  • FranceFrance

    France is one of the oldest wine producing regions of Europe and produces the most wine by volume & value in the world.

    Wine Regions of France :

    • Alsace
    • Beaujolais
    • Bergerac
    • Bordeaux known in British English as Claret, includes Medoc, Graves and Sauternes
    • Burgundy or Bourgogne including Chablis, Cote d'Or and Maconnais
    • Loire Valley, including Muscadet, Vouvray and Sancerre
    • Rhone Valley including Cotes du Rhone, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Crozes-Hermitage AOC

    Interesting wine fact : Terroir

    'Terroir' refers to the unique combination of natural factors associated with any particular vineyard. These factors include such things as soil, underlying rock, altitude, slope of hill or terrain, orientation toward the sun, and microclimate (typical rain, winds, humidity, temperature variations, etc). No two vineyards in the same area have the exact same terroir, although the differences are typically so small that they cannot be detected in the resulting wine...

  • ItalyItaly

    Italy is the oldest wine producing region in the world with more than 1 million vineyards under cultivation. With grapes grown in almost every part of the country it is the world's third largest producer of wine and its wines are considered to be among the most prestigious in the world.

    From the cool, Alpine climate of the north-east, to the heat of the far south, Italy has a variety of climatic conditions ideal vine-growing latitudes on a backbone of mountains and hillside slopes running the length of the country.

    Italy's 20 wine regions correspond to the 20 political regions. Understanding of Italian wine becomes clearer with an understanding of the differences between each region; their cuisines reflect their indigenous wines, and vice-versa

    As far as generalizations can be made, Italian wines tend to be acidic, dry, light-to-medium bodied, and subdued in flavour and aroma. As a result of these characteristics, Italian wines are, in general, a better accompaniment to food than they are beverages to be enjoyed on their own.

  • ChileChile

    Chile has a long history of wine making, going back to the conquistadores who brought grape vines with them in the mid 16th Century and planted vineyards. In the mid 18th century, French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were introduced.

    Much low quality wine has historically been produced and producers have traditionally been more interested in quantity than quality. However, in the early 1980s a renaissance began with the introduction of stainless steel fermenters and the use of oak barrels for ageing. Subsequently, the export business grew very quickly and large amounts of quality wines were produced. The number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005. Chile is now the fourth largest exporter of wines to the United States.

    The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère, which is often regarded as perhaps the most suitable grape for the Chilean climate.

    In international competitions, Chilean wines have proven to be among the best in the world. For example, in the Berlin Wine Tasting of 2004, 36 European experts blind tasted wines from two vintages each of eight top wines from France, Italy and Chile. The first and second place wines were two Cabernet-based reds from Chile : Vinedo Chadwick 2000 and Sena 2001. They outscored two of Bordeaux's best, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Margaux.

    Wine Trivia : Chile is entirely free of Phylloxera, so its vitis vinifera grape vines do not need to be grafted.

  • ArgentinaArgentina

    Argentine wine, as with many aspects of Argentine cuisine, has its roots in Spain. During the Spanish colonization of the Americas, Juan Cedrón (or Cidrón) brought the first vine cuttings to Santiago del Estero in 1557, and the cultivation of the grape and wine production stretched first to neighboring regions, and then to other parts of the country.

    Argentine winemakers have traditionally been more interested in quantity than quality and the country consumes 90% of the wine it produces. However, the desire to increase exports fueled significant advances in quality. Argentine wines started being exported during the 1990s, and are currently growing in popularity.

    Due to the high altitude and low humidity of the main wine producing regions, Argentine vineyards rarely face the problems of insects, fungi, moulds and other diseases that affect grapes in other countries. This permits cultivating with little or no pesticides, allowing even organic wines to be easily produced.

    The most important wine regions of the country are located in the provinces of Mendoza and San Juan (Cuyo region), and La Rioja. Salta, Catamarca and Río Negro are also wine producing regions. The Mendoza Province produces more than 60% of the Argentine wine and is the source of 84% of total exports.

    There are many different varieties of grapes cultivated in Argentina though Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon among the reds, and Torrontés and Chardonnay among the whites, are the most popular of them.

  • SpainSpain

    Spain is the second largest producer of wine in the world, the largest being France and the third Italy. The best known Spanish wine is probably Sherry, which is produced in Jerez. The country's three most important red wine regions are Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Penedes.

    In Rioja, the law permits the use of four red grape varieties. Tempranillo is the primary grape used, followed by Garnacha (also known as Grenache), Graciano and Mazuelo. The latter two are excellent, but difficult to grow varieties. Crianza wines are those that have been aged for two years, Reservas are aged three years, and Gran Reservas (also known as Reserva Especial) are aged at least five years.

    Until about 25 years ago, Spanish red wines were generally of mediocre quality. Many were aged too long in wood, overpowering their freshness and fruit character. However, quality has risen to the point that they compete successfully in the international market.

  • New ZealandNew Zealand

    Geographically, positioned about 1800 miles east of Australia, New Zealand has two main islands - the North Island and South Island. New Zealand wine is largely produced in ten major wine growing regions spanning latitudes 36° to 45° South and extending 1,600 km.

    On the North Island, there are two primary wine producing areas. They are the Martinborough region near the capital city of Wellington and the Hawks Bay region farther south. Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon are the two dominant grapes with Pinot Noir plantings rising rapidly.

    The best known growing region on the South Island is Marlborough. It has become widely known for stunning Sauvignon Blanc's which are made there. Again, Pinot Noir is among other 'up-and-coming' grape varieties grown in this region.

    The market success of New Zealand's Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays and lately Pinot Noirs mean that these varietals will dominate future planting.

  • USA, CaliforniaUSA, California

    If California, which accounts for about 90% of American wine production, were a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world.

    The first vineyard and winery was established by Spanish missionaries in 1769. Following two hundred years of successes and failures, U.S. wine received international recognition at the historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976. There, in a blind tasting conducted by the crème de la crème of French wine experts, the French selected U.S. wines as the winners of the competition. In the white category, a California wine won not only first place, but three of the top four were from California. One of the first vintages from a new winery in California, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, beat all contenders, including Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Montrose, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Leoville Las Cases.

    Called "history's most important wine tasting" the Paris wine competition, shattered the myth of French wine superiority and revolutionized the world of wine.

  • South AfricaSouth Africa

    South African wine has been produced since 1659, when the first wine was produced by the Commander of the Cape, Jan van Riebeeck. Production is concentrated in the south-west of the country, with major vineyard and production centres at Paarl, Stellenbosch and Worcester.

    A Wine of Origin system was implemented in 1973 with designated production regions, districts and wards. There are nearly 60 officially declared appellations.

    In 2005 South Africa had 100,207 hectares of vineyards, with about 55 percent planted in white varieties including Chenin Blanc, Colombard; Sultana (a grape also used for raisins and table grapes), Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. South Africa's red varities include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Pinotage.

    Dr. Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, developed the Pinotage grape variety in 1925 through crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault

  • GermanyGermany

    German wine is primarily produced in the west of Germany, along the river Rhine and its tributaries, with the oldest plantations going back to Roman times. Germany has about 102,000 hectares of vineyard, which is around one tenth of the vineyard surface in Spain, France or Italy. The total wine production is usually around 1.2 billion bottles, which places Germany as the eighth largest wine-producing country in the world. White wine accounts for almost two thirds of the total German production.

    As a wine country, Germany has a mixed reputation internationally. Germany's reputation is primarily based on wines made from the Riesling grape variety, which at its best is used for aromatic, fruity and elegant white wines that range from very crisp and dry to well-balanced, sweet and of enormous aromatic concentration. The only drawback to Riesling is that it takes 130 days to ripen and, in marginal years, the Riesling crop tends to be poor.