The wines we drink can be said in some ways to be a representation of our personalities and our tastes. If you were to gather together a room full of wine connoisseurs and experts to discuss the various wine varieties, each one will tell you that he favor a wine from one particular country over all others, despite the fact that exceptional quality wines come from all regions of the world.
Of the various wine producing regions in Europe, France, Spain and Portugal are all considered a part of the old world wine producing terroirs. This means that each of them has a long and glorious history of producing wines that dates back many centuries. Those areas that are considered a part of the new world when it comes to wine, like the US have a history that is far more recent covering only two or three centuries and in most cases less.
French Wine Varieties Are Considered by Most the Undisputed King
No matter what a person's tastes, it seems that French wine varieties are for the most part still considered to be the undisputed king. However, in recent years they have been challenged by new varieties coming in from all over the world. There are a number of reasons why France still holds this title, despite a number of years when the wine produced in France is not quite as good as others and when production levels are below normal.
France has long been considered the very first country in the world to have the capacity to export their wines in commercial quantities. Since the French were the first to export such large quantities of their various varieties of wine, French wines were the first ones to become easily recognized around the world. Over the course of history France has always been considered the leader when it comes to producing the finest quality wine. Even today the number of highly prized and collectible vintage wines coming from France outnumbers all others.
When it comes to wine varieties and style, many of the finest wines from around the world have their basis in the wines and wine grapes of France. The vast majority of the appellation laws that are now being used in many wine producing countries are based on those governing French Wines and by the numbers there are far more wine regions or terroirs in France than in any other country in the world.
Whether you are sipping a gentle white wine from the sunny vineyards of Provence or a deep, dry red wine from Burgundy, the wines of France go well with many meals or with nothing more than a wedge of your favorite cheese and a baguette. You can always find the time to relax with a glass of your favorite French wine, at lunch, over dinner, or even sitting on the banks of the Seine on a warm sunny day.
The Wines of Spain Have Become Darker with Age
Although Spain has a history that dates back many thousands of years when it comes to wine, it has not always been known for producing Grand Cru class wines. In fact it is often said that for most of its history in winemaking, that the average Spanish wine was rather light in color and for the most part offered very little in the way of excitement. For the better part of its history most of wine varieties produced in Spain were for local consumption only, those who could afford to buy wine produced in other countries shunned their domestic wine vintages.
This tradition continued up into the 1960s when the wineries in Spain began to take a fresh look at the way they were making wine. The intention was to make changes that would significantly improve the quality of the numerous wine varieties produced across the country. Of significant help in this process was the fact that Spain joined the European Union bringing a number of new laws regarding the cultivation and production of wine.
In essence, in accordance with the new laws, many of the smaller and more ancient wine toreros that had been all but forgotten over the course of time began to reemerge and produce a number of superior quality wines. For the first time in more decades than most can remember, Spanish wine was finally being awarded high marks in reviews. The first such review in 1986 was written by Robert Parker Jr. as he reviewed wines from Vega Sicilia and Pesquera, giving both of these wine varieties exceptionally high marks and stating that the wineries showed significant promise for the future.
Today there are more than 70 toreros or wine growing regions in Spain that have met with the necessary standard to be considered Quality Approved. By square acreage, Spain now has the highest number of vineyards in the world and is third in the total volume of wine produced. The only countries that produce more wines are Italy in the number two position and France, still the undisputed king.
In what might be a complete turnaround for Spain, the country now produces such high volumes of wine and so many wine varieties, that once again a large number of them are not exported. The difference is that where once the wines were kept in country because no one wanted them, many of the wines staying in country are made by smaller vineyards, and are of exceptional taste and quality.
Portuguese Wines Are No Longer Stagnant
The Portuguese first began making wine around 2000 BC according to historical findings. Many of the wine grapes came from distant lands such as Phoenicia, Carthage and from much closer to home, Greece. The Romans are credited with bringing the highest number of wine varieties into Portugal and once the vines were fully cultivated, many of the wines produced were exported back to Rome.
Most of us associate Portugal with Port wine and quite rightly so, as this thick red wine has long been one of the most common and heavily exported wines from this country. With the Douro region producing mostly bitter wines that many considered unfit to drink, many otherwise perfectly good wine varieties from Portugal went unnoticed as they were produced in such small volumes they were seldom exported.
While the 18th century began to see more interest in Portuguese wines in countries such as England, specifically in port wine, the export market for these wines was still considered to be flat. In fact the chances of your being able to buy wine other than port and perhaps merlot from Portugal in your local wine shop until recently were very slim. If you were purchasing wine online, you might have been able to find the odd vintage or two of the more well-known varieties.
As with their Spanish neighbors to the east, Portugal did not really come into their own when it comes to wine making until they joined the European Union. The changes in appellation laws allowed many of the older wineries to experience a rebirth and for a number of new vineyards and wineries to come into existence.
New wines, new wineries, and a completely new outlook for Portuguese wines have finally put a number of these wine varieties on the map. Along with Port wine, you can now find a number of white wines that are often described as being acid and refreshing, with low alcohol levels and high flavor and aroma levels.
Though long known for its red wines, the new varieties of red wine being vinified in Portugal are lighter and tangier in taste. These wines typically sport an alcohol content of approximately 11% a deep red color. Low in tannins these wines are an excellent choice to pair with a number of foods that have bold tastes of their own.
Europe Has a Long History of Wine Production
While there are other areas of the world including Egypt that have a history of making wine, countries like France, Portugal, and Spain have been continuously producing wines, many of them superior in every aspect for thousands of years. In many areas of Europe you will find that not even the two world wars managed to stop the production of these fine wines.
Today when you are buying wine in your local wine shop or purchasing wine online, you have access to more wine varieties than our forefathers ever dreamed existed. Whether you prefer a semi sweet white wine to enjoy on the banks of the River Seine on a sunny day, or are looking for a ruby red dry vintage wine from Portugal, you can find a number of vintages to choose from made in the finest wineries in the world. For those of you who have yet to become more adventurous in your choice of wine, there has never been a better time to taste these amazing wines.