Wine Growing Regions of the World
Vines grow all over the place, even in British gardens. Anyone whose house is festooned with Virginia creeper can see that the vine family is a large and varied one. Wild vines flourish throughout the world but are grown specifically to produce wine only in the temperate regions shown below.
If a vine is planted too close to the equator it will, as in some South American vineyards, produce two crops of mediocre quality a year rather than one good one. However, some spots cool enough to allow the vine a restorative winter dormancy will be so inhospitable that there is too little sunshine to ripen the grapes. This is evident in parts of the UK as some British vine-growers know to their cost.
The vine is most at home, therefore, in a climate that has cool winters and relatively warm summers with some rain to swell the grapes. During the winter the only disaster that weather can bring is an exceptional frost so severe that it affects the next year’s growth below the ground. A much gentler frost in spring can freeze off the year’s potential fruit if the vine has already flowered. A really dull summer and autumn may leave the grapes unripe, while hail on ripe grapes can shatter them, and too much rain in the weeks before the harvest can, literally, dilute the quality of the crop.
More than 50 countries produce wine in some quantity. Some of them, such as Belgium and India, are at the climatological limits of cultivation and produce a small amount that is exported only by mistake. The most important wine-producing countries in terms of quantity produced are Italy, France, the USSR, Spain and Argentina. Of these, France produces by far the widest range.
Within France alone there is enormous variation in climate. The wines of the north, such as Muscadet and Vouvray made along the Loire, show that when the vine is raised relatively far from the equator the resultant wines are light in body and high in acidity. In the south, however, around Avignon in Cotes-du-Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape country, the wines show how much more body and less acidity a little more sunshine brings. The amount of acidity and body in a wine should be enough to give strong clues as to the sort of climate from which it came.
Although each wine region has its own sort of climate, each vineyard has its own special weather conditions, shaped by factors such as altitude, elevation, proximity to woods and exposure to winds. This is known as its ‘microclimate’, an impressive name to drop in wine circles.