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Red, white or rosé? With increasing diversification, wine is enjoyed by enthusiasts around the world. People love the idea of going out to an actual vineyard and trying wine there, but a lot of people prefer sitting at home and picking out a wine from their IWA cabinet. There’s something quite nice about sipping on a glass of wine at home, but then also there is a lot more excitement that comes to going to a vineyard. Vineyards are emerging in new and surprising places to meet this ever-growing demand. The graph below illustrates the increasing number of wine regions in less conventional locations.
While up-and-coming wine regions are intriguing, around 80 percent of wine comes from just 10 countries. Grapes are most successful in the space between the 30th and 50th degree of latitude, which explains the prevalence across that section in the Northern Hemisphere and the growing popularity of South African and Australian wines.
Choosing a destination for wine tasting can be overwhelming with so many regions, vineyards, and wine varietals to choose from. After pouring through travel guides and wine reviews, we narrowed down a list of the best regions to visit in three of the most established and awarded wine-producing locations: Italy, France, and California.
Use the maps below to explore different wine regions and varietals as well as vineyard suggestions in Italy, France, and California.
The wine regions of Italy are renowned the world over for the caliber and variety of wine they produce. The country is divided by county, each of which align neatly with a wine region. The list below explains more about the regions included in the map above, briefly describing each region, listing popular grapes and offering suggested vineyards.
Halfway up the boot on the eastern coast of Italy is the Abruzzo region. As one of Italy’s poorer regions, wine production dipped for centuries but has seen a rise in the last 50 years thanks to cooperative wineries and importers such as Germany and the U.S.
Grapes: Montepulciano, Trebbiano, and Pecorino
Vineyard recommendation: Emidio Pepe Wines
Located in the northwest corner of Italy, the Aosta Valley is surrounded by the Alps and full of the highest elevated vineyards of Europe. This region is the smallest geographically and produces mostly red wines.
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Picotendro
Vineyard recommendation: Château Feuillet
On the boot of Italy, is the long wine region of Apulia. This area is noted for its olive production as well as its grapes. Known for its reds, Apulia recently had to change from cheap blends following the success of new wine regions like Australia and Chile.
Grapes: Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Malvasia
Vineyard recommendation: Gianfranco Fino
Basilicata is a small area in the southern part of Italy that is just building a reputation in the modern wine-making world. The DOC Aglianico del Vulture is gaining momentum as a full bodied red and has been named one of Italy’s greatest wines.
Grapes: Aglianico, Moscato, and Malvasia
Vineyard recommendation: Cantine del Notaio
Calabria is in the southeastern tip of Italy, only a channel strait away from Sicily. Calabria’s wine production took several hits in the 19th century. First by an epidemic of phylloxera, then by the expansion of increasingly popular French wines, and then by the New World of wine production in the Americas and elsewhere today.
Grapes: Gaglioppo, Greco di Bianco, and Mantonico Bianco
Vineyard recommendation: Librandi
On the lower, western half of the boot lies Campania and its capital city, Naples. This is one of Italy’s oldest wine regions famed for the Aglianico and Greco grapes. Because of its long history, it has many ancient grape varietals which cannot be found elsewhere.
Grapes: Aglianico, Falanghina, and Greco Bianco
Vineyard recommendation: Galardi
As one of Italy’s most fertile and prolific wine regions, it is one of the few to span across the country with both an east and a west coast. Red and white wine comprise an almost equal amount of production and sparkling is popular as well.
Grapes: Sangiovese, Malvasia, and Lambrusco
Vineyard recommendation: Fattoria Zerbina
The northeastern tip of Italy stands out for white wine from non-traditional grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Quintessentially Italian varieties such as Pinot Grigio are popular in the area too.
Grapes: Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, and Friulano
Vineyard recommendation: Jermann
Lazio is home to the Italian capital city, Rome. There was a dark period of wine production between the collapse of the Roman Empire and the renaming of Rome as the capital in 1870. The volcanic soil is particularly well-suited for white grapes.
Grapes: Malvasia, Trebbiano, and Merlot
Vineyard recommendation: Falesco
The Liguria region is home to the popular Cinque Terre coastal towns. The area in the northwest along the Italian Riviera specializes in light, white wines as well as red wines further west.
Grapes: Vermentino, Pigato, and Rossese
Vineyard recommendation: Barone Ricasoli
In north central Italy, the Lombardy wine region is known for sparkling wines. The Milanese area is landlocked and home to beautiful lakes and mountains. Because of the diversity of microclimates, the area produces a wide array of varietals.
Grapes: Valtellina and Franciacorta
Vineyard recommendation: Nino Negri
Situated on the mid-eastern coast, Marche is bordered by the Adriatic sea on the east and mountains on the west. Many different cultures influenced the wine-making of this port-heavy region, resulting in a variety of traditions and styles.
Grapes: Verdicchio, Montepulciano, and Sangiovese
Vineyard recommendation: Oasi degli Angeli
Only awarded its own denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) in the latter half of the 20th century, Molise is still a rather obscure wine-making region. Popularity is growing for reds and white blends produced in the area.
Grapes: Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and Pinot Grigio
Vineyard recommendation: Di Majo Norante
The Piedmont region is popular for red wines with polished tannins and sweet, sparkling wines. Because of its location in the foothills, there is heavy fog in the area. The Piedmontese word for fog, “nebbia,” inspired the name of the Nebbiolo grape, popular in the area.
Grapes: Barolo, Barbaresco, and Moscato d’Asti
Vineyard recommendation: Paolo Manzone
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean and is located 150 miles off the west coast of Italy. Various empires have taken over Sardinia over the course of centuries, which has created a diverse blend of architecture, place names and dialect, as well as a diverse array of grapes.
Grapes: Grenache, Vermentino, and Carignan
Vineyard recommendation: Argiolas
Off of the southern tip of Italy is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily. The classic Mediterranean climate of Sicily is ideal for grape production. While the winemakers briefly switched to low-quality vines, the process is now set to return to the high-quality Sicilian wine of the past.
Grapes: Nero d’Avola, Catarratto, and Nerello Mascalese
Vineyard recommendation: Donnafugata
Thanks to the romantic, rolling hills, Tuscany is the most famous of all Italian wine regions. This reputation is well-deserved thanks to world-class reds including Chianti and Montepulciano.
Grapes: Sangiovese, Chianti, and Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard recommendation: Ornellaia
Located on the border with Austria, South Tyrol is known for its heavy Austrian influences due to the long rule of the Austria-Hungary empire. The Mediterranean climate creates versatility in winemaking.
Grapes: Lagrein, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay
Vineyard recommendation: Cantina Terlan
Umbria is just south of Tuscany in the center of the country. This is the only wine region in Italy that is both completely landlocked and borders no foreign country. Like the other central regions, Umbria is known for its white wine.
Grapes: Sagrantino, Orvieto, and Trebbiano
Vineyard recommendation: Castello della Sala
Home to Venice, this productive region has been out developing powerhouses like Tuscany, Apulia, and Sicily since the 1990s. Veneto’s recent success is due in large part to recognition for increasingly popular wines like Valpolicella, Amarone, and Prosecco.
Grapes: Valpolicella, Amarone, and Prosecco
Vineyard recommendation: Romano Dal Forno
The wine regions of France are famous across the globe for their exquisite and largely specialized wine production. Explore the most popular and high producing regions in greater detail below.
In the northeastern corner of France, bordering both Germany and Switzerland, Alsace has heavy German influences. This is evident in their significant production of traditional German wines like Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Grapes: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris
Vineyard recommendation: Maison Trimbach
In the heart of France, Beaujolais is a region known for fruity red wines made from the Gamay grape. Red wines made from Gamay comprise an enormous 98% of wine produced in this region.
Grapes: Gamay and Chardonnay
Vineyard recommendation: Domaine Marcel Lapierre
Situated in the southwest of France, Bordeaux is one of France’s most prestigious and prolific wine regions. Nearly 90% of wines produced in the region are the dry, full-bodied blends that gave this area its popularity.
Grapes: Bordeaux blends and Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyard recommendation: Chateau Mouton Rothschild
Burgundy is an esteemed wine region in eastern France producing largely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Burgundy produces about a quarter of the total output as Bordeaux, resulting in increasing exclusivity.
Grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Vineyard recommendation: Domaine de la Romanee-Conti
Champagne is home to the world’s most famous sparkling wine. In order to legally bear the name “champagne,” the wine must be produced in the northeastern region of France. While this bubbly drink is the region’s best-known wine, the area also produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Grapes: Champagne blends, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir
Vineyard recommendation: Dom Perignon
This region, covering a large swath of southern France from the Spanish border to Montpellier, merges Spanish and French culture together in the wine they produce. Nearly a quarter of wine-producing vines in France are found in this area.
Grapes: Rhone red, Grenache-Syrah, and Picpoul
Vineyard recommendation: M. Chapoutier
The Loire Valley follows the Loire River through eastern France. This region produces a range of wine styles as well as quality from table wine to more high-end options. Due to the increasing popularity of red wines, Loire has ramped up its output, but still specializes in wide varieties.
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, and Pouilly-Fume
Vineyard recommendation: Clos Rougeard
Provence is a wine region in the southeastern corner of France known for its beauty, comfortable climates and rosé. This area has been combating the modernization prevalent in other regions but is slowly moving towards more commercially-viable grapes.
Grapes: Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah
Vineyard recommendation: Chateau d’Esclans
The Rhône Valley covers a large swath of southeast France as it follows the Rhône River. This region is divided between north and south, the north producing more notable, quality-driven wines and the south producing more common varieties and also the majority of the wine from this area.
Grapes: Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre
Vineyard recommendation: Chateau de Beaucastel
This large region covers areas from the Pyrenees in the southwest corner of France, along the border region with Spain. Several rivers break up this area, bringing in strong external influences. Bordeaux often outshines this region even though there are interesting and complex wine produced.
Grapes: Malbec, Tannat, and Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyard recommendation: Château Montus
The wine region in California has vastly improved in the last several decades and is now competing with its predecessors in Europe. Highly lauded and frequently awarded for the quality of production, California wine is definitely worth exploring.
Running from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, this 300-mile stretch includes popular wine regions like the Santa Cruz mountains and Monterey County. The views are as much of a draw as the vineyards.
Grapes: Burgundy, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay
Santa Cruz Mountains
Grapes: Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay
Vineyard recommendation: Ridge Vineyards
San Luis Obispo
Grapes: Syrah, Viognier, and Zinfandel
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Nebbiolo
Vineyard recommendation: Justin Vineyards
Santa Barbara County
Grapes: Riesling and Syrah
Vineyard recommendations: Santa Barbara Wineries
The interior region of northern California is one of the most fertile places on earth. While the countryside is dominated by farmland, it has two wine regions worth noting.
Grapes: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah
Grapes: Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah
Vineyard recommendation: Todd Taylor Wines
Grapes: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir
The North Coast region put California wines on the map. Encompassing Napa and Sonoma as well as other popular destinations for wine tourism, this area is home to over half of the state’s wineries.
Grapes: Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Noir
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir
Vineyard recommendation: Beaulieu Vineyard
This mountainous region provides an alternative route for those travelling between Los Angeles and San Francisco. National Parks like Yosemite and Sequoia produce more than just beautiful views for visitors.
Grapes: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel
Grapes: Dolcetto, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Sauvignon
El Dorado County
Grapes: Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel
Vineyard recommendation: Edmunds St. John
Wineries in Southern California are stepping up to compete with the established elites in more northern parts of the state.
Grapes: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah
Vineyard recommendation: Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate
Grapes: Merlot and Chardonnay
Vineyard recommendations: Temecula Wineries
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