Austria has become an increasingly important producer of quality wines and has lead the way in creating signature styles of wine.
The Grüner Veltliner grape is king in Austria producing spicy, aromatic white wines of great quality. Other white grapes used are Riesling, Chardonnay, Welschriesling, Weissburgunder and Sauvignon Blanc.
Red wines are produced from Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, Pinot Noir (sometimes known as Blauburgunder) and Saint-Laurent grape varieties.
Austria has four main regions which are in order of the largest, Niederösterreich, Burgenland, Steiermark and Wien. There are sixteen sub regions within these regions.
Italy offers a larger, more diverse array of wine styles than almost any other nation, most of which are officially named, defined and protected under the Italian wine classification system, which lists more than 330 DOCs, roughly 70 DOCGs and almost 120 IGTs.
Italy is divided into 20 wine regions. The three in the northeast – Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adigeand Friuli-Venezia Giulia – are known collectively as the Tre Venezie.
In the north and northwest there are five wine regions: Lombardy (Lombardia), Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont (Piemonte), Liguria and Aosta Valley (Valle d’Aosta).
The six central regions are Tuscany (Toscana), Lazio and Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo and Molise.
In the south of Italy, including its islands, there are six wine regions which are Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Portugal has undergone something of a wine revolution in the past couple of decades. This Old World country has long been famous for little more than its fortified wines (port and madeira) and tart, light whites (vinho verde), but is now stealing headlines the world over for its new wave of rich, ripe, dry red wines. While it would be simplistic to brand these styles as New World, there is a supple, fruity intensity to many of them which is a key trademark of New World wine regions.
Portugal's complex array of vine varieties (and their many synonyms) is the bane of ampelographers. Some of these are endemic to Portugal (Touriga Nacional), some are shared with neighboring Spain and masquerade under a variety of pseudonyms (Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo)
There are fourteen seperate regions in Portugal and some of the most popular are as follows,
Douro, Dao, Vinho Verde and Alentejo
All 17 of Spain's administrative regions (known as communidades autónomas, or 'autonomous communities') are home to wine-grape vines to some degree, including the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands. The greatest concentration of vineyards is in Castilla-La Mancha, but the finest and most famous wines come from Andalucia (Sherry), Castilla y Leon (Ribera del Duero) and of course Rioja.
Spain has its own system of laws that governs the production of wine and protects the individual DO’s (Denominacion de Origen)
As these laws set out minimum periods of ageing in barrel and bottle and vary from one region to another, the most important thing to remember is the order they come in of increasing age
- Joven (young wine with no oak ageing)
- Crianza (typically aged for 2 years with 6 months in barrel)
- Reserva (typically aged for 3 years with 12 months in barrel)
- Gran Reserva (typically aged for 5 years with 18 months in barrel)
There are seven primary wine-producing regions in France. Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire, Provence and the Rhone Valley comprise the dominant French wine regions. These regions, are known for particular grape varietals as dictated by the district's indigenous terroir.
Each region has many sub regions known as Appelations.
French laws covering the AC (Appellation Controlee) names rarely permit the naming of grape varieties on labels. This can mean, for example, fans of Chardonnay may not realise that some of the finest expressions of this variety come in bottles labelled as Chablis or Meursault.
Each wine region is closely associated with particular grape types and once that is made clear, it will be easier to understand French wine.