Portugal is the birthplace of Port wine and Madera, unusual green wines, fine white dry, and high-acid red wines. The Portuguese boast a rich range of autochthonous varieties: Baga, Trincadeira, Aragonez, Jaen, Ramisco, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Francesa, and many others. Vineyards in Portugal occupy over 300 thousand hectares of land. Wine-producing regions include Vinho Verde, Algarve, Bairrada, Alentejo, Dão, Bucelas, Douro, Colares, Madeira, Tejo and Lisbon. As for classification, Portuguese wines were until recently labeled according to age: young and mature. Today’s appellation system is close to French and is based on the terroir principle. Labeling tiers include: DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada), the supreme category that includes 29 labels, followed by IPR (Indicação de Proveniência Regulamentada, similar to French VDQS), Vinho Regional (the same as French VDP regional wines), and finally Vinho de Mesa (table wine).
Systematic cultivation of grape in Spain began in the 8th century BC when Greeks first colonized this area. Today, Spain, along with France and Italy, is ranked among the top three wine producers in Europe and first in terms of the total vineyard area (1.1 million ha). Spain has the total of 17 wine-producing regions, with Andalucía, Catalonia, Rioja, La Mancha and Castile and León being the most famous. Native Spanish grape varieties are little known and not among the most widely planted. The only exceptions are Albariño, a white grape variety also cultivated in Portugal, and Macabeo, which can also be found in California, Italy, and Morocco. Garnacha enjoys certain respect among French winemakers, but the most commonly known and cultivated Spanish variety outside the country is red Tempranillo. In total, over 300 grape varieties are grown in Spain. Spanish wines are labeled according to a two-tier classification: VdM (Vinos de Mesa, or table wines) and VCPRD (Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinad, or Quality Wine Produced in a Specific Region; this tier also includes DO (Denominación de Origen) and DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada)); in turn, each of the two labeling groups has several quality levels.
France gave the world some of the most important winemaking terms: ‘terroir’ and ‘appellation’, famous grape varieties (Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot varieties), and exemplary wines. The origins of winemaking in France date back to the 6th century BC, and today, it became one of the country’s calling cards. France’s vineyards occupy almost 900 thousand hectares of land, and every year, French winemakers produce some 8 billion bottles of wine. France is legislatively divided into 16 winemaking regions (including Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados), and the best known of them are: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone Valley, Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Champagne, and Alsace. Each of these regions has an unparalleled terroir and unique varieties. That explains the great diversity of French wines. France has the most complex wine classification system in the world and was the first to introduce standardization, which subsequently was borrowed by other winemaking countries. Moreover, the French approach to classification of wines and vineyards provided the basis for the universal classification system approved by the European Union.
In Germany, vineyards are planted along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers on the sun-drenched banks rich in shale and basalt, two minerals that excellently retain the warmth. Local climate is favorable for the production of high-quality white wines notable for the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. Therefore, not surprisingly, white varieties are grown on over 80% of the total area of Germany’s vineyards (occupying over 100 thousand hectares of land). Among the most cultivated varieties are, first of all, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Silvaner, while Spätburgunder (German for Pinot noir) is the most popular among red varieties. Germany has 13 legislatively designated winemaking regions, including Mosel, Palatinate, Baden, Ahr, Rheingau, and others. The German wine classification is based not on the terroir but on the sugar content due to climate considerations. The QmP (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, or quality wine with specific attributes) level includes 6 categories depending on the grape ripening level (in order of increasing sugar levels in the must): Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, and Trockenbeerenauslese.
Italy has centuries-old winemaking history. Today’s winemaking Italy is comprised of 20 regions and 521 wine-producing areas. The country produces over 2500 brand names of wine, so almost every city and town in Italy has something to be proud of. As for the grape varieties - Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Nero d’Avola are considered the most famous autochthonous Italian varieties in the world. In addition, experts praise a number of other varieties, including Corvina, Cortese, Molinara, Rondinella, Glera, Canaiolo, Trebbiano, Malvasia Nera, and others. Italy has a four-tier classification system: DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (controlled designation of origin guaranteed), DOC – Denominazione di Origine Controllata (controlled designation of origin), IGT – Indicazione Geografica Tipica (typical geographical indication) used to label high-quality local wines, and VdT – Vino da Tavola (table wine) used to label the simplest table wines.
We still have little knowledge of winemaking Austria, even though the country’s wine production history dates back to the 7th century BC. Over the centuries of turbulence, which saw scandals and declining reputation, today’s Austria shows excellent results. Yes, it isn’t the largest point on the wine map, but that cannot diminish its merits. Austria has four wine-producing regions: Vienna, Burgenland, Styria, and Lower Austria (Weinviertel, Kamptal, Kremstal, Wachau and Traisental). Overall, wine production is concentrated in the country’s eastern and southeastern parts where white Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling and Müller-Thurgau and red Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent and Zweigelt are the leading grape varieties. In total, Austrians cultivate 22 white and 13 red grape varieties grown on some 51 thousand hectares of land. Climate in Austria is not unlike in Burgundy, so grape varieties resemble Slovakian and quality labels are similar to Germany’s where sugar content is the determining criterion. In 2014, Austria has introduced a three-tier quality designation scheme for sparkling wines.
For decades, winemaking has been one of Moldova’s priority sectors of economy, and today, 95% of the country’s wine production output is exported. In the past, the key sales market was Russia, but today, the country is reorienting itself toward Europe and Asia. Moldova has four wine-producing regions: Northern (Balti), Central (Codru), Southern (Cahul), and Southeastern (Nistreana). The winemaking potential of this area has been fully revealed since the early 19th century by French and German colonists. Vineyards occupy the total of 147 thousand hectares of land where, in addition to traditional international varieties, Moldova’s autochthonous varieties, such as Fetească Albă, Fetească Regală, and Rara Neagră, are cultivated. The country’s largest region is Codru (87 thousand ha), where vineyards are planted among wooded hills. The southern region supplies base wine for sparkling, dessert and red dry wines, while Balti specializes in fortified wines.
Winemaking in Ukraine has been historically predetermined: our country has advantageous geographical location, and its climate favors grape growing. Not surprisingly, during the Soviet era Ukraine was the main wine producer. The origins of winemaking in our country date back to the 4th century BC (in Crimea), going 2500 years back in the present-day Odesa Region. Ukraine’s main wine-producing regions include Odesa (52 thousand ha of vineyards), Kherson (20 thousand ha), Mykolaiv (15 thousand ha) and Transcarpathian (8 thousand ha) Oblasts and Crimea Additionally, small vineyards are planted in other regions of Ukraine. The varietal diversity of grapes in Ukraine is represented by the internationally selected and also several autochthonous varieties. The most renowned autochthonous variety is Telti Kuyruk cultivated on in Shabo terroir. The most widely planted selected variety is Odesa Black and Sukhyi Liman White, while Saperavi, Aligote, Rkatsiteli, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling are the most popular international varieties.
The history of winemaking in China is 5 thousand years old. However, the modern breakthrough has occurred only in the late 20th century, and today, China is considered one of the world’s leading wine producers. Thus, in 2012 the industry has generated $1.55 billion in revenues. The seriousness of intentions and processes are best manifested in the names of companies investing in China’s wine production industry: Rémy Martin was the first, soon followed by the Torres family and Beijing Friendship, which includes Pernod Ricard. Today, Europeans continue to develop Chinese land where, in addition to native varieties, they successfully cultivate European varieties including Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet-Sauvignon, and others. The best grape growing location is Shandong peninsula in southern China. Nevertheless, the main flow of table wines comes from Xinjiang, an autonomous region in the northwest of the country, but the winters there are so cold that the vineyards have to be blanketed. Overall, China has the so-called ‘wine belt’, which includes five main wine-producing regions: Hebei, Shanxi, Yantai-Penglai, Helan Mountains and Xinjiang Tian Shan.