Just 10% of countries produce a staggering 80% of the world’s wine. And just four countries produce over half that amount. France is of course top of the leaderboard when it comes to considering the best wine regions in the world, despite it not being the most prolific. Personal taste aside, we detail the top ten best wine regions in the world, so you can understand the difference between a Malbec and a Merlot. (Psst… and maybe use this knowledge to invest in wine online through a wine investment app)
Here are the 10 best wine regions of the world:
- The United States
- South Africa
Italian Wine Regions
With over 700,000 hectares of land under vine, Italian wine regions hold the first place when it comes to produced wine. Italy produces an astonishing 48.3 million hl (that’s almost 630 billion bottles) per year. But is it also the best? As wine regions go, it is pretty high up the list – the Super Tuscan Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is sold on average for €800 euros a bottle, while one special edition vintage recently sold for almost €7,000. This makes it by far the most expensive Italian wine on the market, although this is still a drop in the ocean compared to some of the big French producers. But with the country’s penchant for producing top-class Sangioveses, Barberas, and Nebbiolos, coupled with the soft palette of amber and burnt umber and the rolling Tuscan hills that are oh so easy on the eye, even in Italy isn’t the world’s best wine region in the world, it’s certainly one of our favorites. And it is definitely one of the places for a great wine vacation!
French Wine Regions
Where would any list of the best wine regions in the world be without French wine regions? Without a doubt, it’s the world’s most famous, even if not the best, wine region on the planet. Nine of the world’s top 10 most expensive wines are French, with interestingly Burgundy, not Bordeaux, coming out top of the price chart. There can be no question that France’s vast winemaking heritage, its years and years of viticultural savoir-faire and its superlative terroir give us mind-blowing wines year after year. The country has some of the strictest guidelines there are regarding its wine production. Its fabled (some say outdated) 1855 classification system makes sure that the full-bodied Merlots and the complex Cabernet Sauvignons produced in Bordeaux remain some of the world’s best. Sexy, velvety Pinot Noirs from Burgundy and playful Champagnes rank incredibly high on our list too.
You can also check out our list of best French wines.
The United States
Not a lot of people know that nearly every state in America produces wine. No one would associate the high hills and plunging valleys of Ohio with winemaking but it does, as does Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada. But it is California that interests us here, home of among others, Screaming Eagle, a methuselah of which was sold for a whopping half a million bucks (that’s right, folks, $500,000) in 2000 at a Napa Valley charity auction! The golden state grows almost 90% of the country’s wine grapes and is the leader of the New World Wine pack. Expect graceful Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa, 100-point Chardonnays from Sonoma, and surprisingly affordable Zinfandels from Russian River Valley.
Viva Espagna. With over 1.2 million hectares under vine, Spain has the largest surface area in Europe, yet comes in at a fourth place in regards to world production. It falls behind France and Italy in terms of prestige, despite exporting more or less the same amount. Around 2.1 billion liters of Spanish wine were exported in 2019, roughly the same amount as Italy and two-thirds the amount of France. Yet Spain’s export market amounts to “just” €2.5 billion, versus Italy’s €6 billion and France’s €6 billion industries. Wine is grown all over the country but perhaps the best region is the Penedès. Located around 60 km inland from Barcelona, Penedès is one of the country’s oldest wine regions and is where you’ll find Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo vines used to make Cava or Spain’s answer to champagne. Despite the country’s reputation for making good value, cheap plonk, there are some savvy producers who are doing their best to change oenological minds. Examples such as Dominio de Pingus, a rich and intense Tempranillo, are considered among the best wines in the world.
Australian wine has come on in leaps and bounds since its breakthrough into Europe in the mid-1980. The country produces world-class Chardonnay that would give the Chablis’ and Cote de Baunes of France a run for their money! The Hunter Valley in New South Wales and the Barossa Valley in South Australia are today producing exquisite Shiraz (Syrah) that are regularly awarded the perfect 100-point score. Look out for producers and vintages such as Torbrek’s The Laird, Penfolds Grange’s Bin 95 (both from Barossa), while Henschke’s Hill of Grace comes from the next door Eden Valley. And who said the Aussies didn’t do fine wine?
Argentina is currently one of the most undervalued countries when it comes to fine wine. Although investors have been slow to add Argentine wines to their portfolios (or cellars), experts believe the future is bright for the South American country. However, creative producers such as the estates of Volturno in Mendoza and Noemia in Patagonia (yes, really) are doing their best to change that, by producing exceptional Malbecs that banish tired old cliché that Argentina was only capable of producing a fruit bomb. And it seems the rest of the world is taking notice: with mega names such as Cheval Blanc opening their Cheval des Andes vineyard in 1999, there is a clear message that the Argentina wine region is fast becoming one of the best in the world.
Even though China has been making wine for over 1,500 years, it is perhaps not the first country you think of when it comes to the world’s best wine regions. However, as China is the world’s fifth-largest wine consumer, it is only natural that the country would try its hand at modernising its techniques and attempt to enter the world winemaking stage. The regions are located mostly in the north of the country, although the word “regions” is stretching it a bit – they are divided by their administrative provinces rather than by their terroir. Two regions in the east are responsible for over half the country’s production: Shandong Peninsula (including Yantai Province) and Hebei Province. Both provinces grow the red wine grape Cabernet Gernischt. The quality is improving but it has yet to equal French and Italian standards.
Because of South Africa’s long winemaking history (it goes back to the 17th century), the country’s terroir is mature and has been properly farmed for centuries. Thus South African Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons are some of the world’s finest: both wonderfully self-confident and fruity. While South Africa’s own grape, Pinotage, remains popular in the country, it is the smoother Bordeaux style red blends that have the most success overseas – investors should look out for producers such as Eben Sadie if they want to add something exciting to their portfolio.
Chile is the envy of the world when it comes to winemaking. Low labour costs, low land costs but long hours of sunlight, and – most importantly – high altitude provide the perfect storm for oenologists. The country hosts five main wine-producing regions: Colchagua, about 110 miles south of Santiago and known for its full-bodied Carménères, Syrahs, and Malbecs. Maipo, home to two of the most famous Chilean fine wines; the Cabernet-based wines Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor and Santa Rita’s Casa Real. Limari in the north whose proximity to both the Atacama Desert and the Andes makes for a very interesting, mineral-rich terroir. Aconcagua with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah all finding homes in the distinctive microclimate and Casablanca, around 100 km north of Santiago and the newest of the five regions. Despite the first vines only being planted in 1980, Casablanca is perhaps Chile’s most exciting wine region, and definitely on our watch list.
As a producer of high-quality wines, Germany, is a well-oiled machine. It is, of course, the Riesling grape that is destined for greatness in Germany. Its naturally high acidity allows for practically limitless aging (up to 100 years in some cases if properly cellared), while its delicate floral, fruity aroma makes it a favourite for drinking. The only wine in the top ten of the world’s most expensive wines that aren’t French is a German Riesling made by Egon Muller in Mosel. The other variety that finds its home here is the lesser-known Müller-Thurgau white wine grape. Few experts could call this a fine wine grape – it is the Quasimodo to Riesling’s Phoebus. German Müller-Thurgau wines should be drunk young, or better yet, not at all.
Now that you are more aware of the top wine regions, you can explore the opportunities to invest in wines from new emerging wine regions.