Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Different wine growing regions of the world

As I mentioned very early on in my blog, I am a BC wine guy; but that doesn't preclude the rest of the world. There are some interesting facts, and misconceptions out there about where all the great wine in the world comes from.

I'm not going to rehash my column about why Canadian wine gets little respect in the world; I'd highly recommend everyone go back and read that column; but here is another reason that we are not necessarily thought of as a major wine player: we don't produce that much of it.

Looking at a list of the top 10 wine producers in the world, I would suggest that the first four are obvious to even the most inexperienced wine enthusiast: France, Italy, Spain and the USA, in that order. Who's number five? This one was a bit of a surprise to me, and it's a country that I do not believe I have EVER tasted wine from: Argentina.

Argentina relies highly on wine exports to keep their production this high. Their wine industry has its roots in Spain, but their most planted grape actually has it's origins in France: Malbec. In fact, the second most planted red grape, Bonarda, also comes from France where it is called Douce Noir. Spain's influence isn't found until you get down the list to the fifth most planted red grape, Tempranillo, which also trails Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in terms of the amount planted.

The influx of Italian immigrants to Argentina has brought with it many Italian varietals with notable plantings in Argentina as well, including Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Lambrusco, Nebbiolo, Raboso and Sangiovese.

Argentina's most widely planted white grape is called Pedro Gimenez (a close relative of Spain's Pedro Ximenez). Many other white grapes are planted in earnest as well, including Torrontes Riojano, Muscat of Alexandria and Chardonnay.

While Malbec has never much appealed to me, I'm going to have to search out a good Argentinian Malbec and try it out.

Sixth on our list is another country that relies heavily on their export business, our friends from Down Under, Australia. I promise not to make a "shrimp-on-the-barby" joke in this entry.

Australia is primarily known for their Shiraz (Syrah in other parts of the world), and it dominates in terms of area planted. As of 2008, Shiraz accounted for almost 44,000 hectares, more than the next four red grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Grenache) combined.

On the white side, it's all about Chardonnay, which, at over 31,000 hectares, accounts for about 45% of ALL the white grapes planted in Australia.

I have been to a couple different tastings of Australian wine and while the tastings included many varietals, they were dominated by Shiraz, both in sheer numbers of wines to taste, and the quality of the wines.

I hear their Chardonnay goes really well with BBQ shrimp, though. See what I did there? I lied. Live with it.

Next on the countdown at number 7 is Germany and their aromatic whites, lead by Riesling. We've talked about these in the past, German Rieslings are my favorite.

At number 8 is another country I'm pretty unfamiliar with, South Africa. I've only tried one South African wine, if memory serves, and it was awful. South Africa produces many different varietals but is primarily known for Chenin Blanc, which makes up about 18% of the plantings, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Columbard (a white grape which is an offspring of Gouais Blanc and Chenin Blanc).

At number nine is Chile and their Carménère, (often called the "lost varietal" of Bordeaux), which is their most famous export although not their most planted red grape; that honour goes to Cabernet Sauvignon. Second on the list is a grape called Pais, which is used mainly for domestic consumption. Pais was Chile's most harvested red grape for most of the history of the Chilean wine industry, just being passed by Cabernet Sauvignon at the beginning of the 21st century.

Rounding out our top 10 is a country we've discussed in the past; Portugal. Known mainly for Port wines, Portugal also produces some high quality table wines. For more info on some of those, please reference past blog posts on Portugese Douro.

So now I have a good shopping list: Argentinian Malbec, South African Chenin Blanc, and Chilean
Carménère. Oh the horror of having to shop for new wines :-)

So as you see from this list of the top 10 wine-producing regions (in terms of litres produced, not quality), Canada doesn't make the list. We fall into the "everyone else" category, with the likes of New Zealand, China and Mexico. And about a bazillion other countries who produce wine.

Hope you enjoyed the read, and maybe even learned a little something. I certainly did.

Until next time

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