Countries

Australia

Australia is the most important winemaking region for Irish consumers with approximately 1 out every 4 bottles consumed in Ireland being of Australian origin. The general impression people have of Australia is of a hot dry country. This is generally true, however, Australia has some unique climate conditions where some of the world’s best wines are produced.  Australia is a highly irrigated winemaking region due to the extreme heat and arid conditions and so irrigation is essential to producing any type of wine there.  Many of the wines sold in Ireland are labelled “South-Eastern Australia” and are either  Shiraz, Cabernet or Chardonnay. These tend to be rich, fruity and easy to drink.

There are some exceptional wine regions within Australia, such as those from The Hunter Valley Wine Region in New South Wales, home of McGuigan  Wines which is famous for making sweet style Semillion based wines. The Borossa Valley in South Australia is famous for super rich red wines, quite often Shiraz and benefits from unique soil conditions.

Western Australia, especially in areas around Perth, tends to have a more varied climate and produce more European style wines. Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc have a lot of success in areas such as the Margaret River.  
The main wine making regions in Australia are

New South Wales

  • Hastings River
  • Hunter
  • Mudgee
  • Orange
  • Cowra
  • Southern Highlands
  • Shoalhaven Coast
  • Hilltops
  • Riverina
  • Perricoota
  • Gundagai
  • Tumbarumba
  • Canberra District
  • New England Australia

Queensland

  • South Burnett
  • Granite Belt

South Australia

  • Clare Valley
  • Southern Flinders Ranges
  • Barossa Valley
  • Eden Valley
  • Riverland
  • Adelaide Plains
  • McLaren Vale
  • Kangaroo Islan
  • Southern Fleurieu
  • Currency Creek
  • Langhorne Creek
  • Padthaway
  • Mount Benson
  • Wrattonbully
  • Coonawarra
  • Robe

Tasmania

  • Victoria
  • Murray Darling
  • Swan Hill
  • Rutherglen
  • Beechworth
  • Alpine Valleys
  • King Valley
  • Glenrowan
  • Upper Goulburn
  • Strathbogie Ranges
  • Goulburn  Valley
  • Heathcote
  • Bendigo
  • Macedon Ranges
  • Sunbury
  • Pyrenees
  • Grampians
  • Henty
  • Geelong
  • Mornington Peninsula
  • Yarra Valley
  • Gippsland

Western Australia

  • Swan District
  • Perth Hills
  • Geographe
  • Margaret River
  • Blackwood Valley
  • Pemberton
  • Manjimup
  • Great Southern

 

Argentina 

Geographically Argentina is in the same part of the world as Chile and the principle winemaking region is Mendoza. Over 80% of all wine produced in Argentina is done so in the Mendoza region. Within the Mendoza region, there are five oases, namely, Northern Mendoza, Eastern Mendoza, Mendoza River Area, Uco Valley and Southern Mendoza, which all have different characteristics in terms of location, altitude and soil composition. This region is on the same latitude as the Maipo Valley in Chile however there are a number of significant differences between the wines of Chile and the wines of Argentina. This is due to a number of factors, including the fact Argentina is on the opposite site of the Andes Mountains to Chile and the vineyards do not benefit from the cooling action of the Pacific ocean.

The vineyards of Argentina tend to be at very high altitudes as much as 1000m above sea level. The high altitude has a significant affect on the vineyard cycle and even though the daytime temperatures can be quite high, at nightime the temperatures fall very sharply. This means that the grapes can stay longer on the vine and can retain more acidity. The resulting wines can be richly fruity yet are balanced and often very elegant.  This is typically the case for Argentina’s adopted grape variety, Malbec , of which Argentina produces probably the best examples, as the environmental conditions and Argentine soil, is ideal for this red variety.

Other wine producing regions in Argentina include, San Juan, the second biggest wine producing area in Argentina, La Rioja, Salta, Catamarca, Neuquén and Río Negro.

Chile

In winemaking terms Chile is a paradise as it is free from all major vine diseases which means they can go from planting to production in just three years with vines reaching maturity after five to six years compared to 10 years in the rest of the world. The melting snow and ice flowing from the Andes mountain range provide vital irrigation for the vineyard and cooling breezes and ocean fog from the Pacific moderate Chile’s warm climate.


Chile is a country of extremes from the world’s driest desert in the North to the glaciers in the South. It stretches over 2700 miles in length but is no more than 150 miles wide at any point. Flanked to the east by the Andes mountain range and to the west by the Pacific Ocean, it has a unique and ideal climate for winemaking.  The main regions of Chile are around the capital Santiago include the Maipo valley and Casa Blanca Valley. The Maipo valley is home to Chile’s finest reds and the Casa Blanca valley is home to Chile finest whites. Unusually Chile exports over 95% of its wine, mainly to the UK and Ireland and other non wine producing countries.  Chile’s most famous for producing juicy, easy drinking cabernet sauvignon and merlot wines and has championed the minor Bordeaux variety of Carménère which produces exceptional wine in Chile’s unique climate.  Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is statistically the most important variety and a typical Chilean style is a medium bodied abundantly fruity refreshing white wine.

Germany

Germany has a difficult history in terms of wine production with much damage done to its reputation during the 1970’s and 1980’s with mass produced sugary wine such as Liebfraumilch and Hock. Germany has the highest winemaking standards in the world and some of the most confusing and complex wine laws, however, once you get to grips with the difficult pronunciations and gain an understanding of the different levels of quality such as Qva, Kabinet and Spätlese, German wines can be the most rewarding and interesting wines to drink. The principle German grape is Riesling which produces wines that can be light, refreshing and delicate in areas such as the Mosel or rich and full bodied in areas such as Rheinpfalz. These wines can be dry, medium or sweet. For dry wines, look for the term “trocken” or “classic” on the label. The primary regions include Mosel-fahrt-ruwer, Rheingau, Rheinphalz, Baden and Nahe.

Italy

Italy is considered the home of modern winemaking and has more than 2000 recognized regional wine styles designated by DOC or DOCG. A new designation called IGT allows winemakers to produce varietal wines using their regions principle varieties such as Corvina (Valpolicella), Nero D’Avola (Sicilly) and most famously Pinot Grigio (Venetto). Italy’s most famous wine, Chianti, is still its most popular export and is characterised by ripe cherry fruits, medium body and a refreshing bitter twist on the finish.  Like most European wines, Italian wines have been developed over the centuries to accompany local cuisine.

South Africa

South Africa is the oldest of the so called “new World Wine” countries and produces wines that resemble their European cousins in style yet benefit from new world packaging. The principle winemaking areas centre around Cape Town with Stellenbosch producing  South Africa’s top red wine and areas like Walker Bay producing some interesting Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Pinotage is South Africa’s very own grape variety that produces some unique wines that consumers will either love or hate but are well worth experimenting on. Other South African wine worth trying are Sauvignon Blanc which tends to be more full bodied yet retains its freshness; Shiraz which does very well in South Africa’s warm climate yet retains an Earthy mineral character  and Chenin Blanc, also known as “Steen”, which produces mainly basic table wines but can produce some exceptionally worthwhile wines.  The main regions are Stellenbosch, Paarl and Western Cape.

New Zealand

Geographically, the furthest South of the “New World Wine” regions, It has a climate broadly similar to Northern France. The most important grape variety is Sauvignon Blanc, which some would argue achieves its pinnacle in New Zealand’s Marlborough region. New Zealand’s north island, in areas such as Hawks Bay and Gisborne, is where some of New Zealand’s most famous brands are produced, i.e White Cloud, Montana etc., however, it is in the South island, in areas such as Marlborough and Otago where New Zealand’s best Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are produced.

France

France is the birthplace of all modern wine with household grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, all of which originated from the classic regions of Bordeaux, Loire and Burgundy. The following is a brief overview of the French Winemaking Region.

Climatically France is varied, with a cool climate in the northern regions of Loire, Champagne and Northern Burgundy and a more moderate climate in Bordeaux and Southern Burgundy and a warm Mediterranean climate in the Rhône and Languedoc regions. It is fair to say the very best wines in the world are French; however, France does not have a monopoly on good winemaking. Loire There are many famous wines produced along the Loire Valley such as Muscadet, a steely dry, light wine, ideal for fish, Vouvray, often richly flavoured, full bodied white made from Chenin Blanc, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé which are arguably some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the world.

Burgundy
There are only two grape varieties allowed for Burgundy wine namely Chardonnay for white and Pinot Noir for red. Starting in the far North with Chablis and finishing in the South in Macon, the many varied styles of Chardonnay and the impact of climates and soil types are evident in these wines. Pinot Noir is still unrivalled outside of Burgundy. Some exceptional wines are being produced around Dijon, in an area known as the Côtes du Nuits with some famous wines like Nuit-Saint-Georges, Vosnee-Romanee and Gerrey Chambertin. It is important to note that Burgundy’s wine areas are governed by complicated classification systems and the best way to sample Burgundy’s wines is to trust the producers rather than by region.

Beaujolais is technically part of Burgundy. It uses a red variety called Gamet and a unique winemaking process to produce simple white fruity wines, i.e. Fleurie.

Bordeaux
Bordeaux is the most important wine region in the world. Much of the wine produced in Bordeaux is simple, everyday wine called Bordeaux Rouge (Merlot and Cabernet) and Bordeaux Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon), however, Bordeaux is all about the Châteaux. Bordeaux is broadly divided by the rivers Garonne and Dordogne which divides the area into the left bank and the right bank. The left bank is on different soil structures which are more suitable to Cabernet Sauvignon based wines and is home to the great wine regions of Pauillac, St. Estephe and St. Juilan. The right bank has damper soil more suitable for Merlot and Cabernet Franc with the regions of Saint Emilion and Pomerol most notable. It is important to note that Bordeaux wines have a complicated classification system so experimenting with Bordeaux wines is recommended once well researched. Sauternes is a famous region in the Southern area of Bordeaux and produces the world’s most luxurious sweet wines.

Rhône
The Rhône is France’s most popular wine region with Côtes du Rhône being the staple wine of most French households. The Rhône is broadly divided into two areas, North and South. Syrah is the main grape of Northern Rhône with powerful, long lived wines such as “Hermitage” and “Cornas” while in the Southern Rhône, the main grape is Grenache, which produces the famous wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas .

Southern France
The regions of Languedoc-Roussillon, Provance and Gascogny are home to some of France’s most modern wine and vineyards. This is the region where the designation Vin de Pays Doc can be applied and many inexpensive well made varietal style wines, can be found.  

Spain

Spain produces a wide variety of wine ranging from the most basic to the most extravagant. The principle grape variety for Spanish is Tempranillo which is related to Pinot Noir. The most famous Spanish regions of Rioja, Nevarra and Rivera del Duero  are where this grape variety excels. The medium bodied characterful wines of Chardonnay of Rioja are a sharp contrast to the deep, dark rich wines of Rivera del Duero  and show how climate and winemaking style can produce vastly different wines from the same variety. Up and coming regions such as Toro, Somontano and Campo de Bourja, among others, have given a renewed global interest to Spanish wines. Spain is all about red wine and has some interesting varieties notably,  Monastrell ( mourvèdre) which produces some excellent wines in Spain’s southern region,   and Garnacha (Grenache) reaching its winemaking peak in the high altitude vineyard of Priorato near Barcelona. Spain’s most notable white wine, Albarino, comes from the North Western Region of Galicia and is a refreshing, complex wine.

United States

California is responsible for about 85% of all North American Wine. California’s warm climate is moderated in coastal regions by the Pacific ocean which allows for some exceptional Pinot Noir to be produced, however, in our opinion it is Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay that excel in this region. Further inland, is home to the mass produced wine such as the above mentioned but the almost native Zinfandel variety does exceptionally well and makes robust, abundantly fruity, red wine, in the foothills in the sierra Nevada mountain.

Other regions of note are further up the west coast in Oregon and Washington State and where Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are the most notable varieties being produced.