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Who Makes the World’s Best Wine?

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Actually, that’s a very complicated question which defies a simple answer, but if I had to answer it with one word, that word would be, Burgundy.

One reason I say that is Burgundy’s prestigious red wine, known around the world simply as “Burgundy.” Burgundy is vinified from 100% Pinot Noir grapes and I believe that you’ll encounter little or no argument from most people that a top-notch Burgundy is the greatest expression of this hard to manage varietal produced anywhere and, it could be argued, the best red wine in the world. It’s surely the world’s most pricey wine. Which is to say, Burgundy’s most high-profile wine, Romanee-Conti, of which only about 450 cases are made per year from grapes grown in the 4.5 acre Romanee-Conti vineyard, is the most high-priced wine in the world. The law of supply and demand is certainly at work in this case but, for instance, in 1996, Sotheby’s sold a set of eight bottles of 1990 Romanee-Conti for $224,900; which is over $28,000 a bottle for a wine that was produced merely six years earlier! Well, is it actually worth that kind of cash? Well, I wouldn’t say so. It seems to me that anyone with that much money laying around could spend it on far more worthy things, but at any rate, here’s what wine critic Clive Coates said concerning Romanee-Conti:

“This is the purest, most aristocratic and most intense example of Pinot Noir you could possibly imagine. Not only nectar: a yardstick with which to judge all other Burgundies.”

Another good reason I have for thinking that Burgundy makes the best wine of any wine-producing region in the world is their white wines, the two most renowned of which are Chablis and Montrachet. White Burgundies are more generally called “white Burgundy,” and mainly made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. by far the most popular white wine grape in the world and, in the view of most experts, realizes its greatest expression in Burgundy. Montrachet in particular is believed by many wine lovers to be the greatest dry white wine produced anywhere in the world. So therefore, Burgundy produces arguably the best red wines and white wines in the world. Taking that into account, I think it’s hardly a stretch to say that it’s the wine region where the best wines come from.

If I had to nominate the world’s greatest wine-producing country, I would have no choice but to say France. One reason for that choice of course is the stellar wines of Burgundy, but that’s hardly the end of the story. Although some people believe Burgundy to be the world’s best red, that title is generally given to another French wine: Bordeaux, made from the renowned “Bordeaux blend” of the native French grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc–the first two of which are extremely popular as varietals and blends in both old and new world wine-producing regions.

France also has one more great white wine-producing region in Alsace. Located on the French side of the Rhine river, Alsace produces some of the world’s very best Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blancs. And I haven’t yet mentioned Champagne, which is literally without peer among the world’s sparkling wines. An additional indication of France’s dominant influence on the world of wine is the impossible to ignore impact the region has had on new world producers–the States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America are made overwhelmingly from grapes of French origin.

But that’s not all: thanks to the fact that France is one of the world’s biggest wine producing countries (Italy outproduces France in some years in some years ), there are a lot of excellent French wines available at cheap prices. Two good areas to go bargain hunting are the Loire Valley and southern France. It’s possible purchase wonderful wines produced in these areas for as little as $10.00 to $15.00. Actually, you can even get some quite good Bordeaux for very cheap prices. The reality of the matter is, France fairly abounds with incredible deals on wine, for precisely the same reason that it also makes some of the world’s most expensive wines: supply and demand. Even though some of France’s most prestigious wines are in short supply, the country also produces an astonishing quantity of very good wine.

Though I’ve already committed myself to the position that the world’s finest wine comes from France, I will nevertheless append two caveats:

1. Italy is one more pretender to the crown of being the world’s best wine-producing nation. Their wine production is on an equal scale with France’s, Italy has a rich variety of native grape types from which they make lots of fine wines in the many micro-climates Italy is blessed with. And an additional asset of Italian wines is that they are very food friendly. It’s sometimes a challenge to pair French wines with whatever you’re having for dinner, but it’s normally a easier task when you’re serving Italian wines.

2. Though Bordeaux is believed by many people to be the finest red wine in the world, to the chagrin of France, it was defeated in a head-to-head competition with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, two times. The first instance was in 1976 at a blind tasting called the Judgment of Paris. The eleven judges–nine French, one American and one British–gave higher points to the Napa offerings, which were vying against some of Bordeaux’s biggest and most prestigious names wines. Some critics contended that the results were inconclusive, asserting that the French wines would certainly age far better than their American counterparts. A rematch was held 30 years later, in which the original ten wines, which ranged in vintage from 1969 to 1973, were once more blind tasted. On this second occasion the American wines won hands down, with the Napa Valley Cabs taking the top 5 places. So it might be argued that the best reds in the world are made in California’s Napa Valley.

In summary, I believe that, all in all, the greatest wine in the world comes from France. But that certainly is not the final word on the matter; there are many of caveats that easily could be added to the couple I mentioned. Quality has been getting better by leaps and bounds in pretty much every wine-producing region in the world for the at least the past two decades. I personally routinely enjoy wines produced in France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, The United States, Chili and Argentina. All of these places make excellent wines, quite a few at really low prices. And there are loads of countries I haven’t talked about which also produce interesting, high-quality wines. It seems to me that the best way to answer the question, “Where does the best wine come from?” is to get stuck in and begin tasting a variety of wines from different areas of the world yourself. That may not be the most direct route to finding the answer, but it absolutely is the most satisfying.

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