A glass of fine wine is one of life’s pleasures. Nothing beats relaxing in an evening with a chilled glass of Chardonnay, or if you prefer, a fruity red. But unless you are a trained vintner, the choice of wines available from supermarkets and stores can sometimes be a little overwhelming. You could embark on a wine tasting program, but sampling every single bottle of wine from your local store might lead to accusations of alcoholism. Therefore it is useful to have a good understanding of the differences between wines from different countries before you buy.
The Difference between Old World and New World Wines
Old world wines come from Europe where the wine making tradition dates back more than two thousand years. New world wines are those produced in countries such as Australia, Chile, the US and South Africa, where wine only really started being produced a few hundred years ago. Generally speaking, old world wines are more complex in structure whereas new world wines are lighter, fruitier and more modern in flavour. But everyone’s taste is different and in order to develop a sophisticated palate, you need to try different wines from a wide variety of different countries. Below is a list of the top wine producing countries and the top cheap, fine and rare wines you can expect to find there.
France produces some of the best-known grape varieties in the world. The Bordeaux region of France predominantly produces red wines to suit all budgets, but there is also an excellent sweet white wine made in Bordeaux, which is perfect for serving with a dessert course. Cheap French table wines originate from the Rhone Valley and are made from Grenache, Viognier and Syrah grapes. These are the wines to buy in bulk for parties and barbeques. The Loire Valley produces some excellent white wines such as Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and Muscadet. These wines tend to be lighter on the palate thanks to the slightly cooler climate in the region.
Italy produces some excellent quality wines, some of which are very distinctive, thanks to very specific soil types generating some unique grape varieties found only in Italy. Italian vineyards produce a wide variety of different wines: sparkling, still, sweet and dry. Two of the most famous wines made in Italy are Chianti and Barolo, but there are many more worth trying.
Spain has a reputation for producing cheap table wine of inferior quality, but if you are a more discerning drinker, you will soon discover a few superior quality wines that originate from Spanish vineyards. The Tempranillo grape grown on Spanish soil produces some excellent wines; Rioja is another fine wine from Spain. Lastly, Spain also produces some excellent Cava sparkling wines, many of which are good enough to rival famous brands of French champagne.
Australia is one of the largest exporters of wine in the world and it was one of the first ‘new world’ countries to attain mainstream popularity amongst modern wine drinkers. The main reason for this is that Australian wines are fruity and easy to drink. They are also relatively inexpensive and full of character, which makes them the perfect choice for any occasion.
South African Wines
The South African wine producing industry has seen significant investment in recent years and the quality of wine produced in the country has vastly improved as a result. This, in conjunction with almost perfect growing conditions, has led to the creation of some fine fruity and full bodied reds, plus some lightly refreshing and vibrant whites.
North American Wines
Wines from North America can easily hold their own against some of the very best French wines. Many of the best examples are produced from grape varieties originating in Europe. Californian wines (try a full bodied chardonnay from the Napa Valley) are perhaps the best known examples of wines from this region, but good quality wine is also produced in the Washington and Oregon states.
Charlotte Rivington is a passionate at writing about Recipes, Food & Drink. She is also classified as a bit of a wine geek, red wine being her favourite.