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Top Wine Regions

Take a tour of the top wine regions. From the local Texas Hill Country Vineyards to the legendary regions of France, get to know the birthplace of your favorite wines.

Australia and New Zealand
All six states in Australia produce wine in approximately 40 wine-growing districts throughout the country. The majority of these districts are located in the southeastern and far southwestern parts of the country which include:

South Wales - Hunter Valley, Mudgee and Orange

South Australia - Barossa Valley, Eden Valley, Padthaway, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra and Clare Valley

Victoria - Yarra Valley, Goulburn Valley, Rutherglen and Mornington Peninsula

Western Australia - Margaret River, Swan District and Perth Hills

Top Australian Whites: Chardonnay, Sémillon, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer

Top Australian Reds: Shiraz/Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir

New Zealand is composed of the North Island and the South Island and is only 800 miles long and 150 miles wide. The largest and most notable growing region is Marlborough, located on the South Island. Other growing regions include:

North Island - Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, Northland, Waikato and Wellington

South Island - Canterbury, Central Otago, Marlborough and Nelson

Top New Zealand Whites: Chardonnay, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc

Top New Zealand Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir

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The Golden State has made a name for itself as a winemaking leader in the United States. In fact, if California was a nation, it would rank as the sixth largest producer of wine. Among the most notable regions is Napa County. There are almost 200 wineries and 34,000 acres of vineyards in Napa County alone. Other top regions and subregions include: Mendocino County, Sonoma County, Lake County, Monterey County, the Sierra Foothills and Santa Barbara County.

Top California Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Viognier

Top California Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Sirah

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It's said that for every palette there is a style of French wine. Classic regions include Burgundy, Rhône and the always popular Champagne. However, the largest producer of fine wine is Bordeaux, which boasts an impressive 284,320 acres of vines under production. More than 9,000 châteaus produce five wine grape varieties in the Bordeaux region: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. In order to maintain strict quality control, France has strict rules on what varietals can grow in which region:

Burgundy Region - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Northern Rhône Valley - Syrah and Viognier

Southern Rhône Valley - Syrah, Muscat, and Viognier

Loire Valley - Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc

Alsace - Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Noir

Champagne - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wine

Southern France - Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay

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Wines from Germany are grown in 13 separate regions located around the Rhine and Moselle rivers. The slope and sunlight in the region offer the grapes protection from frost. The most notable regions are the Rheinhessen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Pfalz and Ahr. Other German regions include: Baden, Franken, Hessische Bergstrasse, Mittelrhein, Nahe, Rheingau, Sachsen, Saale-Unstrut and Württemberg.

Wines from Germany range from dry to sweet and are classified as:

Tafelwein - Table Wine

Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) - Wine from one of the 13 specified regions with a low level of ripeness

Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP): Quality wine predicated by ripeness, which is defined as:

  • Kabinett (Kah-bee-NET) - made from riper grapes than QbA
  • Spätlese (SHPAYT-lay-zuh) - made from late-harvested grapes, yet not fully ripened
  • Auslese (Al-zahss) - left on the vine after Spätlese harvest, a true late-harvest wine
  • Beerenauslese (BARE-ehn-OWS-lay-zeh)- rare wine made from overripe grapes affected by botrytis (noble rot) that sweetens the insides of the grape to a jam quality
  • Eiswein (ICE-wine) - the result of a frozen Beerenauslese harvest
  • Trockenbeerenauslese (TROCK-en-BEHR-en-OWS-lay-zeh) - made from heavily botrytis-affected grapes that resemble raisin-like berries

Top German Whites: Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner

Top German Reds: Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) and Portuguieser

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Similar to France, Italy has strict rules (DOC laws) that govern which wine varietal is grown in which region, the grape variety and the percentage used in wine, viticulture methods, minimum alcohol, harvesting and aging requirements. Italy went a step further in quality control when it issued new DOCG rules that guarantee the style authenticity of the wine. Italian wines can be named by the varietal, region or proprietary. Top regions include:

Piedmont - Chardonnay, Moscato, Dolcetto, and Arneis

Tuscany - Chianti, Merlot and Syrah

Veneto - Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Amarone

Trentino/Alto Adige - Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet and Merlot

Friuli-Venezia Giulia - Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friulano and Merlot

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Spain has the largest amount of acres under vine, second highest elevation and is the third largest producer of wine. The DOC classification system in Spain is Denominación de Origen or DO. The highest classification of regions is DOCa and the only region to receive this status is Rioja. The growing regions of Spain include:

Rioja - Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano and Garnacha

Ribera del Duero - Cabernet, Garnacha, Malbec, Merlot and Tempranillo

Penedès - Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Cariñena, Garnacha and Cabernet

Rueda - Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo and Viura

La Mancha - Tempranillo

Jerez - Sherry

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South America
Chile and Argentina are the top wine producers in South America. With more than 490,000 acres of vineyards, Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world and has been producing wine for 400 years. All varietal wines are 100% of the grape named. The bulk of wine production takes place in the Mendoza region. With more than 350,000 acres of vineyards, this area produces 75% of all Argentinian wines.

La Rioja - Torrontés

Salta - Torrontés, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon

San Juan - Tempranillo, Dolcetto and Sangiovese

Top Argentina Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontés

Top Argentina Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Syrah

Chile produces 40 million cases annually from more than 210,000 acres of vineyards. The rules for wine production in Chile state that a wine from a region must contain 75% fruit from that region. Likewise, if a wine claims to be a varietal, it must contain 75% or more of that varietal. Top regions include: Aconcagua, Maule Valley, Valle Central, Casablanca Valley, Maipo Valley, Rapel Valley and Colchagua.

Top Chile White Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat

Top Chile Red Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère and Pais

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According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, there are more than 220 Texas Wineries. Texas wine history dates as far back as the 1600s, when Spanish missionaries began cultivating grapes near El Paso. The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association breaks the Texas wine regions into the following: Hill Country, Southeast, Texas Panhandle, North Texas and West Texas. Texas is America's fifth largest grape and wine producer.

Top Texas Whites: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Muscat Canelli and Gewürztraminer

Top Texas Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah and Tempranillo

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