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Introduction to the Rest of the World

Below are details of some other regions around the world:

 

Austria

Austria was plagued by scandals in the 1980s (nobody mention anti-freeze!), but it is finally coming back into the mainstream again. Due to much stricter laws – most importantly regarding yields (i.e. the number of grapes grown per acre) – the wines are also much improved. Wines in Austria are not allowed to be sweetened. The Austrians drink most of the wine produced in Austria, so the best is generally not exported. However, some of the decent wines do get out: you just have to look for them!

Around 40% of all grapes grown in Austria are Grüner Veltliner. This grape can produce a variety of white wines: from crisp and refreshing with hints of spice (in youth), to honey and toast flavours (in aged wines). Other grapes grown in Austria include:

  • for whites: Welschriesling (not related to Riesing);
  • for reds: Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Saint Laurent (similar to Pinot Noir).


The classification system is similar Germany’s, but there are two additional categories:

  • ‘Ausbruch’ – which is between BA and TBA
  • ‘Strohwein’ (or ‘Shilfwein’) – which uses grapes that have been laid out on straw during winter to concentrate flavours.


There are four wine regions in Austria: Niederösterreich, Burgenland,  Steiermark, Wien. Within these areas, there are 16 sub-regions:

Niederösterreich (near Slovakia)

Most known in export market. Most notable sub-regions are Kamptal, Wachau, Kremstal. Some very fine wines being made from Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.

Burgenland (near Hungary)

Great sweet wines and good reds. Most notable sub-regions are Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgunland, Südburgenland.

Brazil

Most of Brazil is too hot to grow wine, but there are a few. The most notable is Serra Gaucho: a hilly region in the south of Brazil that is relatively cool. Over 80% of Brazil’s wine comes from here. Most of the wine created is sparkling wine, like Italy’s Asti.

 

Bulgaria

Although you might not think of Bulgaria as a major player in the wine world, it was the top selling red wine in the UK in the late 1980s, and the largest exporter of wine in the world in the mid 1990s – however, much of it was pretty rough! Thankfully, quality has increased due to investment and winemakers’ attention to detail. Oh, and by winemakers dropping the use of some inferior local grape types in favour of international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The classification system is quite extensive:

  • Standard wines: still wines mostly consumed by domestic market.
  • Special wines: sparkling, liqueur and fruit wines only.
  • Declared Geographical Origin (DGO): although they aren’t not labeled as “DGO”, these wines are allowed to show the region and grape type on the bottle.
  • Controliran: like France’s AOC: must be specific grape type from specific vineyard which must be stated on label along with term “Controliran”.


There are 5 regions with Bulgaria:

  • Black Sea region - specialising in Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer;
  • Danube Plane region - Cabernet Sauvignon;
  • East Thracian Valley - Merlot;
  • West Thracian Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon;
  • Struma Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon, Melnik (local grape like Cabernet Sauvignon).

 

Canada

The most famous wine from Canada is icewine. Frozen grapes are picked early on a winter’s morning, and pressed while still frozen. The grapes are as hard as glass so, when pressed, the frozen water is ejected out of the grape like shards of ice. This leaves highly concentrated juice which is high in sugar, flavours and acids.

Niagara Peninsular is the most important region for icewine. It has a mild climate due to being close to Lake Ontario and Niagara.

Another significant area is Okanagan Valley which has a dry and sunny climate. The most successful grapes are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

 

China

A new super-power in terms of wine, China is really important. The Chinese market for wines, especially top French wines (such as French Bordeaux’s Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite, Chateau Margaux, etc), is growing exponentially. In addition, China is also a major grower of grapes (6th biggest in the world) and producer of wine (8th biggest in the world). Since the 1980s, foreign wine experts have been allowed into China which meant that western-style wines started to be produced and the economic boom of 2000 heightened the popularity of French wines further. Most of the wine produced in China is not exported.

80% of Chinese wine is red, with most being made from local grape types. Only about 10% of grapes are European varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Welshriesling and Chardonnay. The dominant style of red is, according to Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, “…not unlike a very pale imitation of red Bordeaux” (‘The World Atlas of Wine’, Mitchell Beazley, 2007).

The climates of China vary but they are often extreme (including monsoons). The most notable regions are Xinjiang, Hebei, Beijing, Yantai, Ningxia, Shandong Peninsula.

 

Cyprus

The most common grapes found in Cyprus are Mavro (red) and Xynisteri (white). However, much of these produce poor quality wines, so are instead used to produce liqueurs, brandy, etc.

However, Cyprus’ most famous wine, Commandaria (or Commanderia), from the Commandaria region in western Cyprus, is made from these two grapes – but after the grapes have been dried in the sun. It is an amber-coloured dessert wine, which has spirit added to the must before fermentation, and is then aged using the solera system (used in sherry). Commandaria dates back to 1100 (the time of the crusades).

 

Georgia

Georgia produces a reasonable amount of wine (around 50 million bottles per year). Formerly considered the best region within the Soviet Union for producing wine, it is unsurprising that this now independent region still exports 80% of its wines to Russia. However, the continued tension with Russia means that this is a rocky relationship, and Georgia is keen to promote its wines to Europe and beyond.

It also claims to be the oldest wine producing country in the world: going back to 7000BC in some accounts! Many traditional methods are still used, including fermenting wines in clay pots buried in the ground. As if that isn’t enough, Georgia also claims that it is a Georgian word, “Ghvino”, which is the source of our modern-era words ‘vino’ and ‘wine’.

Most of Georgia’s vineyards are situated near the Black Sea, with many interesting wines being made from the large number of local grape varieties. Look out for Saperavi, Mtsvane and Rkatsiteli.

 

Greece

A lot of grapes are grown in Greece, but only a few of them are used to make wine (the majority being used as fruit or raisins).

The climate is reliably hot, producing ripe, healthy grapes and fruity wines.

The best vineyards tend to be near the sea, as this provides cool winds which helps retain wines’ acidity. The most notable regions are Nemea, Santorini, Cephalonia, Mantinia and Naousa. The latter produces some great Barolo-like wines from the Xinomavro grape.

Retsina is a speciality of Greece, where pine resin is added to a white wine when young. This gives the wine a distinctive aroma and one that is an acquired taste.

Categories of Greece

  • OPAP (Onomasía Proeléfseos Anotéras Piótitos) - similar to France's AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée), but only covers dry white and red wines (no sweet wines allowed). This category has strict guidelines for produces regarding grape types, methods of production, etc. There are 25 regions within this category.
  • OPE (Onomasía Proeléfseos Eleghoméni) - similar to France's AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée), but only covers sweet wines. As with OPAP, this category has strict guidelines for produces regarding grape types, methods of production, etc. There are 7 regions within this category.
  • Topikos Inos (meaning “Local wine”) - similiar to France's Vin de Pays. 139 areas qualify for this category. These have a lot less rules than OPAP and OPE wines, and does not include information about region, grape type or vintage. A sub-category of TI is “Appellation by Tradition”, which covers Retsina and Verdea.
  • Epitrapezios Inos (“Table wine”) - similar to France's table wine. This category is used by an increasing number of Greek winemakers who do not want to abide by the strict guidelines enforced for OPAP, OPE and TI wines.

 

Other terms

"Reserve" and "Grande Reserve": OPAP and OPE wines can use these terms if they wish. “Reserve” must have been aged for a minimum of 2 years (whites) or 3 years (reds). “Grand Reserve” must have been aged for at least 3 years (whites) or 4 years (reds).

"Kava": Table Wines may have the word “Kava” on them. This refers to wines that have been aged for 2 years (whites) or 3 years (reds) – a minimum of 6 months must have been in barrel.

 

Israel

Israeli wine is produced in five regions: Galilee, the Judean Hills, Samson, Negev desert, Shomron (or Samaria). It is the latter that is the most important in terms of export.

Wines labeled as Kosher wines must:

  • be over 3 years old
  • leave the vineyard fallow every 7 years
  • not have shared land with other crops
  • be made from grapes that, after harvest, have only been handled by Sabbath-observing Jews
  • be made with kosher equipment

Additional terms

“Kosher for Passover”: refers to wines that have had no contact with bread or dough.
“Meshuval”: refers to wines that have been pasteurized or boiled. Apparently, despite this aggressive technique, modern production methods mean that Meshuval wines are still perfectly drinkable and are not ruined by the process.

 

Lebanon

Lebanon is a very small wine producing country in terms of volume. However, it is gaining popularity, mainly due to its most famous wine: Château Musar. These wines are made from a blend of grapes grown at an altitude of 1000m in the Beqaa (or Bekaa) Valley, east of Beirut. Despite the altitude, the region is very hot, and the resultant wine has flavors of cooked fruit. The actual blend varies each year, meaning that one year’s Musar can be very different from other years’ – grapes used include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan. Musar is aged for 12 to 15 months in oak, blended in its third year, before being bottled and aged in the cellar for four years.

 

Luxembourg

Luxembourg has a healthy domestic market, but 70% of its wines are exported (over 57% to Belgium alone).

The wines are mainly produced in southern Luxembourg, along the Moselle river, on the border with Germany. It mainly produces white and sparkling wines, which are similar in style to German wines, but with more weight.

Main grapes found in Luxembourg are Müller-Thurgau, Auxerrois Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and a small amount of Pinot Noir – the only significant red grape grown.

 

Mexico

Most of Mexico’s grapes are used for products other than wine: raisins, table grapes, brandy. The climate is extremely hot, which helps produce healthy, plump grapes. However, these conditions do not allow grapes to develop aromas and flavours required for decent wine. Therefore, it is in regions which have cooling sea breezes, such as Baja California, where wines are produced. 90% of all Mexican wines are produced here, with the most notable sub-region being Guadelupe Valley.

The best wines are full-bodied reds, with the most common grape varieties being Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Grenache (reds), Chenin Blanc, Palomino, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon (whites).

Sometimes, imported grapes are used to produce wines in Mexico. “Hecho en Mexico” denotes wines which are made from 100% Mexican grapes.

 

Romania

Romania is a large producer of wine (the 8th largest in the world), but most people don’t know this because the majority of their wines are not exported – they have a healthy domestic market.

The most famous Romanian wine is Gras? de Cotnari, as sweet dessert wine from the northern region of Moldavia, made from grapes that have been affected by noble rot, and are thus high in sugar. Little of this wine is exported.

Other wines grown in Romania are made for easy drinking. There are 8 basic regions, the most important being:

Dealu Mare

produces fruity and soft wines from Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other local grapes.

Murfatlar

An important region in eastern Romania (near the Black Sea). The sun shines most of the year, but the Black Sea provides freshness and humidity to produce wines affected by noble rot. The wines produced are sweet dessert wines, as well as still wines produced from Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and local grape varieties.

 

Slovenia

Slovenia produces mostly white wines which are consumed by their domestic market. About 10% is exported to the US and its neighbours (such as Croatia, Germany and Italy). Like most European countries, there are 4 quality levels, but Slovenian wine bottles also declare the level of sweetness (under 4 categories). Look out for sparkling Cvicek which is a low alcohol wine, but is susrpisingly good.

 

United Kingdom

England and Wales are countries within the United Kingdom, which is in northern Europe. Their geography is similar to that of Champagne (France) and Germany. As you’d expect, this means that the most important wines are sparkling or German-style wines (that is, wines that are light, unoaked, high acidity, low alcohol white wines made from grapes that ripen early even in cool climates – such as Muller-Thurgau, Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Seyval Blanc, Dornfelder, and even Pinot Noir).

Classifications

There is some geographical hierarchy (under United Kingdom Vineyards Association or UKVA):

  • English Quality Wine - similar to France's AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) in that it restricts grape types used and yields;
  • Regional Wine - similiar to France's Vin de Pays, it allows more flexibility than English Quality wine;
  • UK Table Wine similar to France's table wine, they are not allowed to display name, vintage, grape type or vineyard on the label.

 

Uruguay

With a similar climate to Bordeaux, Uruguay has the potential to produce decent wines. However, its annual production is less than New Zealand’s.

The most common grape grown is Tannat, which is used to produce a variety of styles (including roses and fortified wines) but is most commonly made into full-bodied, but velvety, red wines – ready to drink after about 2 years. Tannat is originally from South-West France (in a place called Madiran), but are much less drinkable in youth than those of Uruguay. Merlot is sometimes blended with Tannat in order to soften it further; similar to Merlot being added to Cabernet Sauvignon.