What are the countries you instinctively tend to gravitate towards when buying wine? What dominates your cellar or what you’ve got in storage?
Here are my top three:
France. The variety from this one country is incredible. I love the heritage which has enabled regions to perfect their winemaking craft over centuries. Wine from certain distinctive places like Burgundy and Alsace are almost inimitable, no matter how much talented winemakers in other countries try. And I love how the AOC system means you can buy such a strong sense of place while still allowing for considerable variety from different growers, vintages etc.
Spain. I absolutely love mature Rioja and think £20 takes you far further into fine wine territory there than anywhere else I can think of. Sherry is totally unique and offers so much varied drinking pleasure for very little cost. And when I think of the white wines I’ve most enjoyed recently, a large proportion of them have been from diverse regions of Spain - lots of exciting Spanish white wine producers at the moment it seems.
South Africa. A slightly more hit and miss experience maybe, but I love the syrahs and Bordeaux blends which have genuine class but are often more affordable and accessible at an earlier age than many of their old world counterparts. Many whites (especially chenin) are also excellent. And although it’s not my main reason for drinking it by any means, I like to think that SA wine exports contribute to some extent to the economy of an often-troubled country still on the very long road to recovery from the last century.
Even as I write this I’m conscious of how much I’ve enjoyed wines from Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand. I think I just need to drink more of them to really understand the full extent of what they can offer. That’s a mouthwatering prospect in itself.
What’s your top 3 and why?
France for much the same reasons as you - wines from the Rhone form a solid part of my cellar. I am yet to fall in love with Burgundy but this is probably a good thing financially.
Germany just because I love Riesling and all the different styles that can be made from it. In my opinion no where does Riesling like the Mosel.
Italy because I love being able to walk into any bar, cafe or restaurant when over there and order the house wine knowing I will not be disappointed. Amarone is probably my favourite style of wine, but I also love a glass/bottle of Valpolicella, Barberesco, Dolcetto, Brachetto, or even Prosecco (providing it is one I have seen for sale in the shops around Conegliano as well!)
France. Partly tradition, partly variety, partly availability.
Italy - for variety, above all else. Discovering wines from across this country has been a revelation.
A tie, probably, between Austria and New Zealand. Neither of which I buy in any great volume but if looking for something special NZ has an emotional connection and I’ve had some stunning Austrian reds.
Honourable mentions to South Africa, the US, and Australia. Actually, writing this answer reminds me that I’ve bought little Australian wine over the last few years and I’m now missing it…
Greece. Such a big part of my life, and the place where I first got into wine [not that I really knew much about or kept any notes on what I was drinking!] From wine-by-the-jug at tavernas to lovely bottles of Xinomavro & Assyrtiko & Liatiko etc, I loved it all. And still do.
Italy. Very similar reasons to Greece above - I used to work there a lot, particularly in the South and in Sicily, and my work saw me spending a lot of time in “ordinary places” as well as the more obvious & well-known places. So many happy memories of lovely wines from the simple & produced-out-the-back to the utterly extraordinary. In particular in Sicily. Sadly, I never took any notes or photos of some of those amazing wines, and they are but memories in the wind. Great memories though :~}
Austria. Gruners & Rieslings to take a person to paradise. I love my minerally chiseled whites - Assyrtiko anyone? - and Austria does them to utter perfection in my book.
I love Alsace wines too, especially the Rieslings; and South Africa is right up there for me too.
A major common factor is memories from enjoyable trips/holidays to these places, so take that as read in what follows
I am just instinctively attracted to the wines, from Piedmonte to Sicily. Not sure what it is. The acidity perhaps? The slightly bitter edge on the finish?
I mentioned elsewhere that I’m mainly attracted to Xinomavro and Assyrtiko. Perhaps it it the acidity again? Whatever, I buy wines of these varities in disproportionate quantities.
I’m just fascinated by the country, and its 8,000 yo wine culture in particular. I must admit that the quality of wines is not consistently good, but I’m happy to explore to find the wines that really hit the spot.
Edit: incidentally, my answers are “what I’m instinctively drawn to” - it’s my gut feeling, and could well be what I buy most of now. If I answered by volume in my cellar, German Riesling is probably up there. That’s fine - it stays there a long time maturing. Also, if I find a cheap wine I really like, and it is only available online, I tend to buy large quantities at the same time, which distorts the picture. These things aren’t easy for me to answer!
France. It would be silly of me to claim otherwise, as around 50% of my current cellar is from there, and moreover, most corners of the country are represented, even if some are only in small quantities. Other countries also have big numbers, but nowhere comes close to the widespread variety. I think it is something intrinsic to France, and not me, that enables that. Quality and quantity. World champion par excellence.
/3 tied several ways. This is where it gets complicated. The single biggest appellation represented in my cellar is Rioja*, and the single variety most represented is Nebbiolo. So it’s Italy and Spain then, surely? But what else do I have from Italy and Spain? Well, to be honest, not a great deal. A paucity of variety. On that basis, Greece beats them hands down, because whilst I major in Xinomavro, I also have plenty of others besides. And the quality is commensurate. (I think basically what I’m dancing around here is that France is incredible, whereas many others are merely great )
*I really don’t like the use of the word ‘underrated’, I’ve always felt underappreciated or overlooked is a better descriptor, but nevertheless I firmly believe that traditional Rioja is one the world’s truly great, one might say world class, wine styles, yet is somewhat looked down on. I think that is solely to do with the runaway value it represents, nothing more.
I’m sort of with @Tannatastic here, in that France is indisputably number 1 both for the quantity and variety in my cellar.
Beyond that…I think that Greece, Spain, Italy probably fighting it out. For all the reasons that he says. Maybe in that order too.
Austria gets an honourable mention as does New Zealand.
This was directed to @UisceBeatha
For a moment I thought I’d maybe found a fellow lover of Georgia - admittedly strange for someone called Claret1961
I probably buy more French than I’m thinking I do but my 3 favourite wine producing countries, for reds at least, are in order:
So under rated, such interesting and often unique grape varieties and fantastic value for money. And they make really good dessert wines too (not just port)
Similar to Portugal in having so many unusual grape varieties and a truly vast array of regions, many of which were undiscovered for me until recent.
Mainly for Rioja, which I buy a fair amount of, but I’ve also slowly but surely been exploring other less well known regions.
Outside the above, I’ve decided that S Africa may offer the best value of all in the £15-30 range and I intend to extend my knowledge of these.
1= France 2= Itay 3= Varies
France because The Lady Lapin is from Brittany, inevitably I have bought back many car loads of AOC. The French have evolved a broad ‘sweet spot’ (around 12 to 18 Euro?) for VERY decent ‘food wine’. Huge variety of familiar styles to explore. Beaujolais & Chablis.
Italy however, has a narrower ‘sweet spot’ & can get VERY expensive if you want something special. The range of styles is astonishing if one looks beyond the usual suspects, which regretably most UK wine merchants do not. Valtellina Superiore, Soave Classico.
Varies = I’m fickle and go through phases exploring differant regions. This summer it was German Spatburgunder, a couple of years ago Tasmania (before it got exhorbitant), currently exploring S.A. chenin blanc. It’s a big world, I’d hope to see more from Brazil & Moldovia
Disinterested: Barolo, Rioja, Bordeaux typically disapoint - sold MUCH too young, and one has to pay a lot for something exciting. I’ve given up on USA over-oaked fruit juice (although I wouldnt turn down an Oregan P.N.).
I realise now I undersold the whites of Italy - who doesn’t love a glass of Gavi, Vermentino or Frascati!
In order of percentage of bottles in my cellar:
- France. My first wine love and still up there. The sheer variety and excellence of wines across the spectrum. My two favourite white grapes, Riesling and Chardonnay, reach their pinnacle in Alsace and Burgundy. As for the reds: cab sauv, syrah, pinot noir and gamay from Bordeaux, northern Rhone, Burgundy and Beaujolais take some beating. The Exhibition Pauillac, 2011 I had at the weekend was outstanding. Not to mention the wonderful wines of the Midi and great dessert wines from Bordeaux, the Loire and the SW. And - just to cap it all, where would we be without Champagne?
- Italy. Catching up rapidly in my affections: Piedmont and Tuscany, obviously but also the Veneto, Friuli and the Mezzogiorno are all much improved from where they were 20 years ago. Some decent (non Prosecco) sparklers and sweets, such as Vin Santo, to add to the variety.
- Spain. I am drinking more and more Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat in recent years. I also love sherry in all its various forms.
Sorry to miss out Portugal as I would put Port and Madeira near the top of my desert island wines but rules is rules.
The reason there are no new world wines is simply that I have little knowledge and very few in my cellar.
Great to see everyone’s replies - thank you.
I’m ashamed I missed Greece off my next-best list as I think it produces some incredibly exciting and distinctive wines.
- France (I won’t disclose which region would top the list even on its own)
- Germany (Kabinett forever)
- Italy (mostly NW)
More surprisingly, then it is South Africa and Greece=Hungary
France - the sheer variety and quality, at all price points. Hooray for overlooked French country wines and southern Rhone. Easily number 1 in my cellar, partly because a lot of it is so long lived
Italy - as above, to a large extent. But the best bit is the indigenous/local varieties, particularly in the south.
Genuinely struggling between Spain, Greece and Austria. But I’ll go with Spain because of the quality of northern Spanish reds.
Bottom of the list is California (not a country, at least not yet) - over-priced, over-oaked, over-done, but not over here in my cellar!
Top 3 countries…
Quite a hard question for me! I think it has to be the following though:
1/ Germany. Massive fan of Riesling - not only from the Mosel, but from the lesser known regions such as Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen. Not only Riesling though, the Weißburgunder and Spätburgunder can secretly challenge for some of the best examples out there. Also Kabinett, Auslese, Spätlese. And who can forget Eiswein??
2/ Spain. Surprise or not, but I’m a massive fool for a Rioja. Beautiful, dense, tight reds - such variety and intensity. But not only that… so many stunning regions, so much stunning wine!
3/ This is the hard one for me. I could state Austria, or even Hungary. Or even Croatia or the United States. But the winner for me is France. I love a Gigondas - and naturally a Chateauneuf Du Pape. But also, into the Languedoc and AOCs such as Pays D’Herault, Cotes D’Aix and Terrases Du Larzac. I’m also a secret sucker for a fine Beaujolais. Such amazing variety over a country and you can almost always find a wine that suits your mood. No matter what your mood is!
Anyway, tough to name just 3 in the world!! So much wine and not enough time! Better open another bottle of red now!
I cannot claim to be any different to everyone else who’s posted….
- France especially Burgundy but increasingly Rhône
- Spain for Rioja
But I could also include SA & USA (Oregon especially).
France. Unbelievable variety, easy enough to visit and a huge part of the cultural identity.
New Zealand. Largely for the interesting pinot noir, with different regions producing distinctive styles across the price range.
USA / Germany / Italy.
USA for the pinot noir and Chardonnay, again produced in a range of styles. Germany for the best rieslings in the world (and to a much lesser degree spätburgunder). Italy for the country whites and amarone!