California is the best-known wine region of America. The region is subdivided into six main areas. From north to south these are the North Coast (north of San Francisco, home of Napa Valley, Sonama, Carneros wines),Humboldt (on the banks of the Sacrmamento River), Sierra Foothills (at the foot of the Sierra Mountains east of Sacramento), Central Coast (south of San Francisco to slighty north of Los Angeles), Central Valley (a huge area on the banks of the San Joaquin River), and South Coast (between Los Angeles and San Diego).
Franciscan monks from Bordeaux with the rather appropriate name of Jean Louis saw th possibilities here in 1830 and he improted countless European varieties of grapes.
Things really took off though after the Gold Rush. The growers left the south alone and concentrated their efforts in the central and northern area where there was a ready market with the lager city of San Francisco. The quality of those wines was from modest to poor. In those days California made ponderous syrupy wines of little character and freshness. This was the start of the huge American bulk wine industry. Prohibition from 1919 to 1933, which banned the production of alcoholic drink on a commercial scale, was a major blow for the Californian wine trade.
It seemed for a long time as though the growers would not survive this crisis. It was not until the 1970s that changes started to take place. Wine-making became a recongnised profession and people form California went to study at first hand in Europe with the best wine-makers. The result is nothing les than spectacular.
There are still many ‘wimpy wines’ (plonk) in California, but quality is becoming more important than quantity with both the big business and small wineries.
Yet many still regard California as a massive industrialised wine region with its enornous vineyards, wineries like palaces, batteries of high towering stainless steel storage tanks etc. Despite this the numbers of smaller producers is growing in places like the Sonoma Valley, and Carneros. These growers and makers not only know what they are talking about, they also bring much verve and passion to their wine-making.
Hence the massive rows of readily saleable Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are becoming smaller in scale and some even dare to replace them with specialist varieties such as Viognier for white wines and Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Granche for reds.
The name describes the position of the area: “at the foot of the mountains”, which is the Alps and bounds Italy with France and Switzerland. Countless rivers flow from these mountains to create beautiful valleys in the lower area. The city of Piedmont is Turin (Torino), famous for its large industry. The rest of the region is traditional agricultural and wine region.
Piemonte has great tradition, which has had many successful generations of farmers. The local food is known for its strong herbs and spices. The Italian red wine is very powerful, especially those made with the Nebbiolo grape. Italian wine has been made in this wine regon for a long time, referenced both in Greek and Roman literature. Today Piedmont, with Tuscany, is a temple to the art of Italian wine making.
Portugal's climate is generally moderate without extremes of temperature. The winters are mild and the summers are warm but definitely not too hot.
The north of the country is warmed by the gulf stream of the North Atlantic and the ocean ensures ample moisture.The centre of the country is hotter and drier, especially in summer. The winters there are mild and short. The south has the hottest and driest weather with a moderate Mediterranean climate. Countless wines of distinction originate from this idyllic land, which have been popular with European consumers for a long time. There are other wines that are waiting to be discovered that are of no less quality.
We will deal with the various wine areas of Portugal from north to south and then continue onwards to Madeira and the Azores. The enormous technical backwardness of the Portuguese wine industry has been almost totally done away with in recent decades.
Italy is a long and narrow peninsula in the form of a thigh-high wading boot. The island of Sicily that is shaped like a bunch of grapes lies off the toe of the boot with the larger island of Sardinia above it.
Italian wine-growing has clearly defined areas in the same way as France and Spain. Wine-growing takes place throughout the peninsula except in the highest mountains. In the north of the country the Alps run from west to east. while the Apennines run down the country from the centre to the south from north to south. The mountains, which form the back bone of the country, do account though for about 40% of the area cultivated by vines. Vineyards can be found in every sheltered valley. Between the two areas of mountains is the fertile Po valley. Although there are countless micro climates throughout Italian vineyards, in general terms the north has a continental climate while the south enjoys a Mediterranean climate. The vineyards are never far from the sea so that extremes of temperature are moderated. In broad terms, the geology of the north is chalk bearing while the south and Sicily is of volcanic origin.
Grape varieties and types of wine Italy is a veritable labyrinth of vineyards from which the enthusiastic wine connoisseur can discover more than 2,000 different types of grape. Most of these grapes have been growing in the peninsula for almost 3,000 years. There are ancient native grapes but also vines that were introduced by the Greeks and then more modern varieties, which mainly originate from France. Italy has a total of about 14 DOCG wine denominations, 270 DOC denominations, and 115 IGT wines. When you consider that most production areas make white, rose, and red wines and that some denominated areas may use 20 different varieties of grapes it becomes obvious that it is impossible to give a complete survey of all Italian wines. This book will concentrate on the most popular wines and where possible mention the others.
Virtually every type of wine that exists is to be found in Italy from superb dry sparkling wines (spumante), made in the same traditional way as in Champagne, or by the charmatlcuve-close (sealed tank) method; or seductive sweet sparkling Moscato wine; dry white wine that is fresh, light and fruity or fullbodied white wine that is cask aged in small French barriques;