A great way to explore wine is to look at a wine map. Wine maps point out vineyard areas and tell you what grapes grow there best. Seeing a wine map can help identify famous regions as well as point out neighboring regions that usually fly under the radar. By observing the clues, you’ll be more adept at buying wine.
For instance, let’s say that you really like Chianti from Tuscany. Tuscany happens to be right next door to a lessor known region called Umbria. While Umbria is a much smaller region, they make several amazing (and great valued) Sangiovese-based wines.
Wine Maps Improved!
We recently improved the wine maps offered on Wine Folly… please enjoy!
Italy is perhaps most famous for the red wines of Tuscany, known most commonly as Chianti, a region that produces Sangiovese wine. However, Italy is very diverse. There are 20 unique regions with over 350 different grape varieties ranging from light and bubbly Prosecco to nearly opaque red Sagrantino.
Learn more about Italy’s wine regions
Spain is the third largest wine producing nation in the world. It is perhaps most famous for its red wines of Rioja using the countries champion Tempranillo grape. Spain produces a diverse range of wine styles from the refreshing sparkling Cava that come from around Barcelona to the nutty and sweet dessert wines from Andalucía in the South.
Learn more about Spain’s wine regions
Despite the fact that South America is considered a New World wine region, winemaking has been happening in South America since the 1500’s. Today you’ll find excellent Chardonnay from Chile and Malbec in Argentina but there’s much more in South America than the two largest producers.
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Australia renamed Syrah to Shiraz in the 1980’s in order to differentiate themselves from the US and France. Shiraz is often made in a way that’s richer and darker than most Syrah so the new name changed people’s perception of the wine. Today, Australia is diversifying its grape varieties and wine styles and there are also an increasing number of small producers.
Learn more about Australia’s wine regions
The entire country of South Africa started as a pit-stop for the Dutch East India Company en route to India. The South African region built their industry on wines and brandies made with the Chenin Blanc grape. In just the last ten years, South Africa has become more well known for their red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The country has prehistoric soils which add a unique rustic flavor to their fruity wines.
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USA: NAPA VALLEY
Napa Vally is the centerpiece to California wine. Napa was the first region to prove that American wines were good, if not better, than the best wines of the world. Since their fame in the 1970’s, Napa has evolved from a sunny grass-covered valley to a mecca of chi-chi wine estates. The prized possession of Napa is Cabernet Sauvignon, but if you dig deeper you’ll find ardent support for historic Zinfandel vineyards and Sauvignon Blanc.
Learn more about Napa Valley Wine
USA: SONOMA VALLEY
Despite the importance of Napa Valley in California’s wine history, Sonoma actually has more vineyards. The region is larger and more diverse in terms of styles from elegant sparkling wines to rich and lusty Merlot wine. There are a few new sub-regions of Sonoma that are making waves with their Pinot Noir.
Learn more about Sonoma Valley Wine
Washington State focuses its efforts on red blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot even though the region makes terrific dry Riesling. Most people think of gray weather and rain in Seattle, but grapes are grown on the sunny side of Washington in the east. Washington has expanded by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years and will become a much larger US region in the years to come.
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Bordeaux is over 3 times the size in terms of wine production as Burgundy. The location of Bordeaux on a wide estuary and two rivers has created a separation between winemaking styles on either bank. On one side of the river, producers focus on Cabernet-based blends and on the other (the right bank) producers make Merlot-based wines. Of course, this is just the beginning of getting to know Bordeaux.
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Burgundy France is the birthplace of the some of the world’s most planted grapes, including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The region was developed by Cistercian Monks who walled their estates and plots of land for disease protection. Burgundy is sliced into 5 unique wine growing areas with unique wine styles. Some of the walled plots are the most valuable wine estates in the world.
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Champagne is a frigid area that wouldn’t normally be suited for wine growing. Fortunately, the Champenoise saw this as an opportunity with the invention of sparkling wine that they simply called ‘Champagne’. The best sparkling wines of the region are from warmer vintages that age for around 7 years prior to release. Aged Champagne are noted for their nutty biscuity aromas.
Learn more about Champagne wine
Other regions worth mentioning
We’ve covered several regions, but haven’t produced maps for them yet. What do you think?