Where Wine Comes From: North, South, East or West
The world’s vineyard acreage today is greater than ever it has been since the first vines flourished. The top map gives some of the major wine-producing areas of Europe, the other shows where wine comes from around the globe.
There is some evidence that wine-making was practised in Mesozoic times, perhaps ten or even twelve thousand years ago. Earlier than 5000 BC wine was being made and drunk in Egypt and Mesopotamia. And part of the décor of the tomb of Phtah-Hotep, who died about 4000 BC shows the harvesting and pressing of grapes.
France is one of the oldest of all wine-growing areas. Fossils found at Cezanne, in the Marne Valley, have upon them impressions of wild vines. And when the Phoenicians started to build Marseilles in 600 BC there were vines already flourishing. France today has some four million acres of vineyards and it is true to say that her products set the standards by which all the world’s wines are liable to be judged. Climate and soil play a vital part — from Burgundy’s clay and gravel; the stony granite dust and sun-reflecting red-brown boulders of the Rhone Valley; the gravel and sand of the Bordeaux region; the gentle, right-way-facing slopes of the Champagne area; and from the verdant Loire.
Italy, the biggest wine producer, has vineyards scattered from the great growing area among the lakes in the North to below Naples, with Piedmont perhaps the most illustrious region and source of Barolo, the finest of all Italian red wines, as Julius Caesar decided. Austria’s best wines, mostly white, come from the neighbourhood of Krems and of Durnstein, and the best Swiss wines are grown upon the banks of Lakes Neuchatel and Geneva.
Spain produces a great quantity of table wines, but the best are the wines of the Rioja (both red and white). Much wine comes, too, from Valdepenas in the Don Quixote province of La Mancha — wines of high alcoholic strength — and also from Tarragona and Alicante.
Portugal produces, from the Minho province in the North, the dry, slightly spritzig and refreshing Vinhos Verdes, full-bodied Burgundian-style reds from the slopes above the Dao and Mondego Rivers, and a dessert wine of some merit from Setubal, south of Lisbon.
Germany’s wine production is relatively small but some of the greatest of all white wines come from the grapes, chiefly Riesling, grown on the steep, often almost sheer slate and flinty slopes above the Rivers Rhine, Moselle, Nahe, Neckar, Main, Saar and Ruwer.
Yugoslavia’s white wines from the Riesling, Sylvaner and Traminer grapes mostly emanate from Slovenia, near the Austrian border, with Lutomer Riesling from the north, far the best known abroad, though there are Macedonian wines equally good. Palatable reds come from Central Europe (also whites), the Balkans, North Africa and South America.
Australia produces a wide variety of attractive and sound wines, mainly from New South Wales, where vines were planted in the 18th century, and South Australia, now by far the biggest producing area — especially the Barossa Valley — and also in Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
South Africa’s wine industry is a good deal older; first vines were planted in the Cape in 1655. Paarl and Stellenbosch yield some of the best white wines. Canada’s wine production is small and mainly restricted to Ontario and British Columbia.
But the United States makes very considerable quantities of wine of many types, mainly in California but also in Upper New York State, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Many grape varieties were imported from Europe in the last century.
Lastly, England is a minor wine producer commercially, mainly at Horam, Sussex and Hambledon, Hampshire.