If you’re thinking of a wine vacation to any of the top 10 wine-producing countries, here is a brief summary of what each is known for.
Argentina is the largest wine-producing country in South America, with Chile close behind. Italy is still the largest producer of wine in the world.
Italy produced four and half million liters of wine, which is about five and half bottles of wine.
Argentina and Chile are the top producers in South America, whereas Italy, France and Spain are the top producers in Europe.
Wine Consumption by Country
As for worldwide wine consumption by country, here’s the data from prior years. The United States drank more than three billion bottles of wine in 2017. France, Italy and Germany were close behind drinking more than two billion bottles of wine.
If you look at the per capita wine consumption by country, it’s a different story. The United States falls to 34th. Both Argentina and Chile beat the United States in this statistic.
When we visited Chile, we toured vineyards in the Casablanca Valley, which is known for wine production. We also toured the Mendoza region in Argentina. The Mendoza valley is a top producer of Argentinean wine, particularly known for its Malbec. We visited the three primary areas: Uco Valley, Maipu and Lujan. We saw all of them because there are major differences in altitude, soil and climate.
We’ve also visited France, Italy, Australia, Germany and South Africa, all of which are noted for wine production. China was surprising as a wine producer, though we’ve enjoyed wine while in China. We will be visiting Portugal and Spain soon and that rounds off our list.
Here are the varietals for each of the top 10 producing countries.
Italy and France regularly go head to head for the number one and two spots depending on the year. Like France, Italy’s growing regions are all over. Piedmont is one of the many classic wine regions. Its magnificent vineyards produce two of the world’s finest red wines: Barolo and Barbaresco. Italy’s more known for grapes like Sangiovese, Montepulciano, merlot, Trebbiano Toscano, Nero d’Avola, Barbera, pinot grigio and, of course, prosecco, which is a sparkling wine.
France has many regions for grapes. Just about any region is known for some varietal. Think: Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux. The major grapes harvested in France include: suvignon blanc, merlot, Grenache, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, Carignan, chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, pinot noir, Gamay and Trebbiano Toscano.
Although Spain has one of the largest vineyard acreages in the world, it has lower wine yields than either Spain or France. Probably the most famous wine area is La Rioja. Ancient Romans introduced wine to the area and the tradition of wine making has been woven into the cultural fabric of La Rioja ever since. In Spain you’ll find Tempranillo, Airen, Garnacha, Monastrell, and Bobal as the primary grapes. And Spain also makes cava, a sparkling wine.
If you live in the United States, you might be surprised that it regularly comes in fourth place. Although the land mass of the United States is huge, the viable growing area is smaller. More than 90 percent of wine from the United States comes from California. Grapes popular in the Napa and Sonoma areas include cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, Zinfandel and sauvignon blanc.
Chile is proud of their Carmenere. Madeline and I hadn’t tasted this red varietal until we went to Chile. The grape is known as the lost varietal of Bordeaux. Chile is increasing their wine production annually, like Argentina. Chile’s primary grapes include cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, Carmenere, merlot and sauvignon blanc.
We loved our visit to Argentina, particularly when we stayed in Mendoza. Argentina continues to grow their wine production year after year resulting in one of the highest growth rates of the top 5 wine producers in the world. We may see them move up on the leaderboard over time. Argentina, and particularly Mendoza, are known for Malbec, Bonarda, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.
The Land Down Under can be quite hot. If you’ve been to Australia, you know most of the population (and the grapes) are in the coastal areas. The interior of Australia is a hot and dry desert. The United States is one of Australia’s primary export markets. But the country is now expanding their wine marketing to Hong Kong and the rest of Asia. Australia concentrates on syrah, shiraz and chardonnay.
German wineries are known for their aromatic white wines. Most people think of a sweet wine when they think of German wine. Rhine wine, like Riesling, was the most popular export, but now Germany exports a nice variety from both the Rhine and Mosel river valleys. The most popular grape is still riesling, but the Muller-Thurgau also is quite popular.
The Constanita Valley, near Cape Town, is one of the oldest wine-making regions in the southern hemisphere. It’s said that Napoleon Bonaparte enjoyed wine produced from the valley. South Africa is more known for chardonnay and Chenin Blanc varietals. A lesser known fact: South Africa produces the largest volume of brandy in the world.
Portugal is known for port wine. This wine has a higher alcohol than regular wine. It comes from northern Portugal and blends several grape varieties. Port is not the only wine made in Portugal. You’ll also find Tempranillo, Castelao, Touriga Nacional, Arinto Avarinho, Touriga Franca and Alicante Couschet.
Note: You might have noted that I left China out of the top 10 and scooted Portugal into the list. No disrespect toward China, but almost all of the wine produced in China is consumed in China. Madeline and I never tasted Chinese wine until we visited China. It has a massive population, and Chinese interest in wine is increasing. If you visit China, we highly recommend try their wine.
So, that winds up our post on wine production and consumption. If you like wine, there are plenty of places in the world to visit. We’ve been to most of them with the exception of Spain and Portugal. We’ll be going there next year. Cheers!