The world of wine is divided into two main groups of producers: European countries with long wine-making traditions; and the New World: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and the USA
In this article, let’s focus on Europe’s top producers: Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. These countries have some of the best Denominations of Origin (D.O.) wines in the world, producing reds renowned for both their quality and prestige.
Portugal, in the Iberian Peninsula, boasts its Protected Denomination of Origin Douro wines (Denominação de Origem Protegida) grown in the first-ever recognised wine region, established in 1761. Local grape varieties include Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Baroca, and Tinta Cao. Portuguese reds tend to be deep in colour, full-bodied, and tannic with rich flavours of black fruit.
Spain’s Rioja achieved its DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada) appellation status in 1991 and is known and loved internationally. It is mainly produced with Tempranillo grapes and is typically blended with Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano. Although the region makes young, fresh wines, most are aged in oak barrels and are instantly appealing because of their distinctive ruby red colour and aromas of red fruit and sweet spices. The DO Ribera del Duero is another renowned wine-growing region. It is famed for its full-bodied, intense flavour using Tempranillo grapes, also called Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais. The DOQ (Denominació d’Origen Qualificada) Priorat offers dark wines made mainly with Garnacha and Carinena grapes that give a persistent dense black fruit flavour with hints of oak.
In France, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, and Rhône produce outstanding AOP (Appellation D’origine Protégée) wines. Bordeaux blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, aged in new toasted oak, for a complex, flavourful, and long-lasting wine. Bourgogne’s Pinot Noir grapes create fresh wines with high acidity, light aromas of red fruit, soft oak, and spice. In the northern region of Rhône, the dark-skinned red Syrah grape is used for spicy, intense, and persistent wines. Meanwhile, in the south of France, Grenache, Cinsault, or Mourvedre are blended to produce sweet, spicy, oaky reds with red and black fruity aromas that are full-bodied and juicier than those from the north.
Italy’s two hugely prestigious DOPG (Denominazione di Origine Protetta e Garantita) are Chianti Classico from Tuscany and Barolo from Piedmont, made from the Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes, respectively.
Pedro J. Benasco Curbelo
DO Vinos de Lanzarote Regulatory Council