Europe is the most famous continent in the world for wine production. Not only does Europe have the longest history of winemaking, but the countries of Europe produce some of the finest wines in the world.
There is a surprising degree of versatility in European wines, which vary from country to country, and within each country from region to region, producer to producer. Europe has a reputation for classical wines, yet some of the most cutting-edge, modern wines are being made in Europe at this time.
The major winemaking countries are France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. However, there are a number of other countries in Europe that produce some excellent and interesting wines.
- France: This site will introduce you to the wines of France from region to region, grape to grape, château to château. Whether the choice is red or white, wines in France are top notch. For reds, you'll need to try Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux, Pinot Noir in Burgundy, Syrah in the Rhône, and Merlot from one of a number of regions in France. For whites, the Chardonnay is terrific in Burgundy, the Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon make up the sweet wines of Bordeaux, while Marsanne and Roussanne are among the best Rhône grapes. And that's just the beginning.
- Italy: One of the foremost wine regions in Europe, Italy is famous for its hearty wines. The hills of Piedmont yield some of the best wines including Barolo and Barbaresco, singularly scented, unusually light-colored reds derived from the Nebbiolo grape. In Tuscany, Sangiovese grapes make more full-bodied wines, notably the aptly named Super Tuscans, Chianti and Brunello. Other excellent reds and whites are produced around the country.
- Spain: With a long history of fine winemaking, Spain is world-renowned for its excellent wines. Tempranillo wines from the regions of Rioja and Ribera are especially distinctive. Other great reds and whites are produced around the country and are definitely worth exploring.
- Portugal: Known for inventing and producing Port, Portugal is famous for this distinctive sweet wine. The same growing areas are utilized to produce a variety of excellent dry red wines, as well as other notable styles.
- Belgium: Winemaking here relies on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the principal grape varieties. Growth is modest, but increased plantings are a sign of heightened emphasis on the winemaking industry.
- Bulgaria: Numerous grapes, both white and red, are grown here. International grapes are primary, but the local grapes are also good. Reds are generally better than whites. This region has a long history of winemaking and the industry may develop more fully in the future.
- Croatia: Despite this region's long wine history, the Soviet regime did damage to the quality of the vineyards. White grapes like Welschriesling are common, but rapidly changing production makes for uncertainty. If more money is devoted to the wine industry, this region could become quite promising again.
- Cyprus: Cabernet and Syrah rank high, but local grapes make up the majority of wine production. Reds are usually better than whites. Progress is slow in this country, but plenty of good wine is there for the drinking.
- England: England's cold climate is great for certain varieties, like Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, and all the Pinots. White wine, cold like the climate and often austere, rivals some of the whites from more established countries. Quality here is improving.
- Georgia: This region has a long history and some outstanding wines, but a failure to modernize has left Georgia behind other winemaking regions. Mostly local grapes are grown here, which is frustrating since some internationals could thrive in Georgia's good soil. This is a region to watch.
- Greece: Sweet Muscats are at their very peak in Samos, but that's not all that can be found in Greece. International varieties and local varieties are growing with delectable success.
- Hungary: Sweet botrytized wines called Tokaji abound in Hungary, and their fine quality is improving this country's reputation in the wine world. Golden yellow at first, these wines become more red-orange with age. Creating Tokaji is a laborious, fascinating process, involving hand-picked botrytized grapes, slow fermentation, and very careful bottling. Yellow Muscat is among the permitted grapes. These wines should be purchased while prices are low, then properly aged. Hungary produces some dry examples of both reds and whites that are rising in quality faster than they are rising in price. All in all, Hungary is one of the best wine countries in central Europe and promises to attract more attention in the future. The wine industry there offers some great values.
- Luxembourg: With a great climate for grape-growing, this country has promise as a winemaking region. Müller-Thurgau is the top grape here, but plantings are being replaced by international varieties. The limestone soil makes Auxerrois Blanc (a grape similar to Pinot Blanc) at its peak in this country.
- Malta: Despite its long winemaking history, Malta is still struggling to produce good wine. The sunny climate and limestone soil make for uncompromising wines, most of which are made from local grapes. International variety plantings are gradually increasing.
- Moldova: A long history includes years of excellent wines, and for the esoteric wine drinker, Moldova provides one of the best-kept secret places to get quality wine. Modernization has been fairly quick; many local varieties have been replaced with international varieties. Chardonnay is one of the best of these.
- Romania: Another country with a long wine history, Romania is a promising, if undeveloped, wine region. Pinot Noir can do well in this climate.
- Russia: Despite the size of the terrain, wines from Russia are rarely reputable. Most are made from a grape called Rkatsiteli, but international varieties do exist. This country is probably not using their full winemaking potential.
- Slovakia: Allowed to make Tokaji wine, Slovakia must adhere to regulations determined by the Hungarian government. This has been a matter of great controversy, but the fact remains that Slovakian Tokajis often rival the more well-known Hungarian products. Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling are the prominent white varieties. Red varieties are much less common, with Blâufrankisch the primary product. Except for the Tokaji, Slovakian wines are not well-known.
- Slovenia: A variety of wines are produced here from Blâufrankisch to sweet dessert wines from local grapes. Slovenia's long history has resulted in versatility in wine. Because the wine is so popular, relatively little is exported. Whites remain more promising than reds. This is a region to watch.
- Switzerland: The scenic hills here can be used for winemaking when the climate is not too cold. The Valais is the prominent place for growth; in white wines, varieties like Amigne, Chasselas, and Petite Arvine, are often blended together. International wine drinkers may find that they favor these native grapes, which is why international grapes are not gaining as much traction as they are in other areas of Europe. A notable exception is Pinot Noir, which thrives in the Swiss terrain. Swiss wine is worth exploring.
- Turkey: Although the terroir is perfect and results in excellent products, wine is unpopular in Turkey and few people are motivated to produce it. All kinds of international and local varieties have been planted here, with reds that are full-bodied and quite good. Expansion could catapult Turkey into a top winemaking region.
- Ukraine: Aligoté is particularly popular here, and Muscat is used to make all kinds of wines from sparkling to dessert. The wine industry is rebounding here, and shows great potential.