Wine has been enjoyed by humankind since prehistoric times and continues to be one of life’s greatest pleasures in the food and beverage arena. While its origins were in West Asia, today the top producing wine regions, accounting for more than half of all production, are Italy, France, Spain, and the US. Other top wine regions in the world include Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Germany, and China. Below is an overview of each country, their prominent wine regions, and top grape varieties. These top producing wine regions are also some of the best wine regions in the world.
With over 500 grapes indigenous to the region, it’s no surprise that Italy is the top producing wine region in the world. Northern Italy’s mountainous terroir results in a cool to moderate climate producing higher acidity wines. Southern Italy’s warmer, mediterranean climate is perfectly suited for the production of fuller bodied wines. Here are some of the best wine regions in the world.
The top wine regions within Italy are:
• Piedmont for their rich, oak-aged Nebbiolo from Barolo, delicate Nebbiolo from Barbaresco, crisp Barbera, and mouth-watering Arneis
• Tuscany for their meaty Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico both made from Sangiovese grapes, and “Super Tuscans” made from grapes not indigenous to Italy
• Veneto for their crisp Prosecco and refreshing Pinot Grigio
• Abruzzo for their fruity and spicy Montepulciano
• Campania for their jammy Primitivo, Aglianico, and Nero D’Avola
France is considered the birthplace of modern winemaking. In the North and East, the Alps produce a cool to moderate climate enabling the production of refreshing, crisp, high acidity wines. The South and West are impacted by an ocean effect; as such, the climate is warmer producing richer, fuller wines.
Some of best wine regions within France are:
• Champagne for their complex traditional method sparkling wines
• Burgundy for their fresh Pinot Noir and crisp Chardonnay
• Bordeaux for their full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Carmenère, and/or Petit Verdot
• Rhône Valley for their rich blend of Grenache, Syrah, and/or Mourvèdre
• Loire Valley for their crisp Sauvignon Blanc
• Provence for their fruity rosé
France has many wine regions that are considered some of the best wine regions in the world.
The southern coast of Spain was once the home of the highest trafficked ports for trading and exporting wines. The wine regions within Spain are generally in a moderate to warm Mediterranean climate, ideal for producing full-bodied wines.
The top wine regions within Spain are:
• North Central Spain’s Rioja for their smoky, herbal Tempranillo often blended with Mazuelo, Graciano, and Garnacha
• Southern Spain for their Sherry, oak-aged using the Solera system
• Galicia and Basque Country for their refreshing Albariño from Rías Baixas
4. The US
US wines famously received their international acclaim during the 1976 Judgement of Paris. The first place prizes in both the white and red wine categories were snagged by California producers Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, respectively.
Nowadays the best wine regions in the US remain on the west coast, but new wine regions are burgeoning.
The top wine regions in the US are:
• California for their fruity and complex Cabernet Sauvignon and oaky Chardonnay
• Washington for their fruity Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah
• Oregon for their fruity Pinot Noir
• Texas for their wide range of grape varieties, though Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo are the most planted
• New York State for their fruity Concord and crisp Riesling
Argentina is well known for its steak and there’s no better pairing than an Argentine wine. The vineyards lie between the Andes as well as the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This is a region that sees extreme highs in temperatures during the summer with mild winters. Its flagship grape varieties are the jammy Malbec and the uniquely floral Torrontés. Look for these wines from the Mendoza and Salta regions respectively, for the top producing wine regions for those varieties.
6. South Africa
Over the last couple of decades, post-Apartheid’s South Africa is gaining international acclaim for its wines. While Pinotage, a Pinot Noir and Cinsault cross, is its most unique grape variety, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted red wine grape variety in the country. Chenin Blanc, also known as Steen locally, is its most planted white grape variety. The highest quality wines from South Africa tend to originate in the coastal region districts.
Given Chile’s north-to-south stretch of approximately 3,000 miles, the wine regions within the country have a range of climates. From fully dry and desert-like to Maritime, there’s quite a variation in the climate. The most planted grape in the region is Cabernet Sauvignon; Maipo Valley is one of the most prominent wine regions within Chile.
Germany’s cool climate makes it the perfect place to grow crisp and refreshing grape varieties like Riesling. One of the best regions within Germany for Riesling is Mosel. The typical expression for Mosel Riesling is dry or off dry. Pro tip - use the alcohol percentage as a guide depending on your tastes. The higher the alcohol, the drier the wine will be as more of the sugars have fermented.
While there’s evidence to suggest that winemaking may have originated in China in prehistoric times, its modern winemaking industry has recently burgeoned in the last few years. There are vineyards scattered across the country, mostly across Northern China. The most prominent grape variety in China is Cabernet Sauvignon made into Bordeaux-style wine.
These nine countries are the top producing wine regions in the world. There are many wine regions worth exploring, but the countries on this list tend to be the most available and accessible to wine lovers in the US. Cheers and happy tasting!