If you don’t know much about wine, it can be a bit intimidating to sit down and enjoy wine with people well versed in the subject. One subject that often comes up is what region a wine comes from. However, unless you are familiar with the many different wine-producing regions and the huge variety of taste profiles available, it can be difficult to join in these types of conversations.
To gain at least a cursory knowledge of the subject, you should learn about the wine regions in three of the top wine-producing countries in the world: France, Italy, and Spain. These countries are steeped in wine-making history and produce rich, sumptuous wines that appeal to a wide range of palates. By reading about the following regions, you’ll be able to join the conversation next time wine is the topic of discussion at the dinner table:
France’s most well-known wine region, Bordeaux is situated near the Atlantic Coast along the along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. The region’s 7,375 wineries produce over 10,000 varieties of Bordeaux wine worth more than 2 billion euros per year.
The region’s Left Bank (of the Garonne River) produces dark red wines made mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon combined with Merlot and other grapes. The Right Bank also produces dark red wines, but they are mostly composed of Merlot grapes.
The only place in the world where true Champagne comes from, this region located northeast of Paris has strict regulations about the production of Champagne. This sparkling white wine undergoes two fermentation processes, and only vineyards that source grapes from specific areas within the region can call their wine Champagne.
With a history of wine-making reaching back to the 1300s, Burgundy has become one of the most well-known wine regions in France. Burgundy is located in eastern France, with most of its red wines grown in the Cote de Nuits area and most of its white wines coming from the Cote de Beaune district. The region’s reds are mostly made from Pinot Noir grapes, while its white wines are composed of Chardonnay grapes.
A historic wine-producing region, Tuscany is home to the famous Chianti red wine, which is produced from the Sangiovese grape. Many wines in this region bear the labels Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), which are government guarantees that a wine comes from the region designated on the bottle. However, Tuscany is home to a number of great wines that don’t have either label. Among these are the Super Tuscans, which feature blends of grapes and tend to be expensive.
The tall Dolomite Mountains that line the top edge of this northern Italian region help protect the area from the cold temperatures of central Europe, thus making this region ideal for making a large variety of wines. Veneto is perhaps most widely known for Prosecco, Italy’s acclaimed sparkling white wine, which features the Glera grape. Another popular wine the region produces is Amarone, which derives most of its flavor from the Corvina grape. Corvina is a large grape with a thick skin that can withstand the Appassimento, a process that partially dries out the grapes before they are slowly pressed and fermented.
La Rioja, Spain
One of the most well-known Spanish wine regions, La Rioja is situated in the north of the country, close to the Ebro River. You can find various labels to describe wines from this region according to the time they spend aging. Three of the main categories for red wines are Crianza (aged for two years, one of these in oak barrels), Reserva (aged for at least three years, with one year in barrels), and Gran Reserva (aged at least five years, with two years in oak barrels).
Ribera del Duero, Spain
Now just as popular as La Rioja, Spain’s Ribera del Duero wine region lies along the Doero river in Castilla y Leon. The region’s red wines have become so popular that the region has earned a denominación de origen (DO), a label recognizing regions that meet certain quality standards. Having grown considerably since the 1980s, the region now boasts more than 200 wineries producing hearty red wines from grapes capable of withstanding the harsh winters and short growing seasons.
With knowledge of these major wine regions in the top three wine-producing countries in the world, you have a starting point from which to explore different wines and flavors. However, keep in mind that other wine-making regions around the world are also producing high-quality wines with unique regional flavors. By branching out and trying wines from a variety of regions, you don’t have to feel left out the next time wine comes up as a topic at a dinner party.