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Planet Wine

From humble beginnings in the Trans Caucasus area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea (circa 6,000 B.C.), the grape species Vitis Vinifera now grows on every continent except for Antarctica.

A zone defined by the 30th and 50th parallel in both hemispheres defines a 'wine zone' where conditions are perfect for growing wine grapes.

Of the six continents that play host to Vinifera, only Africa with its unique position at the equator, stretches between these two wine zones. Wine grapes are grown in Africa along the Mediterranean Coat in the north, and on the Cape Of Good Hope at the continents most southern tip.

Here's a very brief exploration of our world of wine........



The islands of Japan are not naturally suited for viticulture and sucessful wine growing has always been problematic. The domestic wine industry, with over 80,000 vineyards, struggles to meet increasing demand to the point where many wineries are forced to import grape concentrates. Imported wines account for 60% of the wine consumed in Japan. Of that volume, 58% comes from France.

Despite a 2,000 year old history of winemaking, China's wine industry today is taking it's first baby steps to producing western style wines. As the government encourages its people to move away from stronger liquors to healthier wines, viticulture has seen explosive growth.

China's urban wine market is estimated to be the total population of the United States. In 2005 Chinese wineries produced 434,000 tons of wine, up 25.2% from 2004. Despite this growth rate, it's unlikely that Chinese wineries -- now 100 strong -- will be able to satisfy the increasing demand.

The new affluence in China has made wine a desirable "western style " product, for increasingly sophisticated peoples -- especially in the 30 - 40 years old range. Quality of domestic wines remains a problem that may take several years to resolve. There is also the issue of a lack of labelling standards, creating a market for cheap copies that often contain "surprises" inside.

  Australia &
New Zealand


Rising from obscurity to a major producer and exporter of wine in just 30 years, Australian winemakers are a modern miracle of the global wine market.

Through aggressive marketing, Australia has become a dominant exporter to Europe, North America, South America and Asia. Concerns regarding high levels of alcohol in Australian wines and the tradition of cross-regional blending continue to be a source of constant debate. Yet, Australian wines have developed great brand recognition, and are highly sought after in many markets.

Australia has one of the largest plantings of Syrah (Shiraz) followed closely by Cabernet Sauvignon. For whites, Chardonnay dominates, followed by Semillon and Riesling.

While grapes are grown in every state and territoty, the key regions are South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia, and Tasmania.

A Note on Tasmania......

Much has been written about Australia's premier wine regions, but the wine-drinking public knows little of Tasmania's wine industry. 'Tassie', as the island is known by locals, has the most extreme maritime climate of all Australia's wine states, along with spring frosts and gusty winds. Winemaking here is not for whimps. Yet research has shown that the vineyard climates of this "Apple Isle" as it was known for decades due to the vast apple plantings, are close to that of Champagne and Burgundy regions of France.

New Zealand

With wine growing regions spanning the latitudes of 36 to 45 degrees and covering the length of 1000 miles (1,600km), grapes are grown in a vast range of climates and soil types, producing a diverse array of styles. The northern hemisphere equivalent would run from Bordeaux down to southern Spain.

The most popular varietal is Sauvignon Blanc, followed by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which thrives on the chilly South Island. Future potential exists with Pinot Gris, Syrah, and Italian varietals.


Despite increasing competition from New World wine regions, the wines of the Old World remain the most prized, and serve as the standard by which all other wines are measured.

Today, the great wines of Western Europe are complimented by the return of wines from Eastern European nations such as: Hungary, Romani, Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia -- each of which have winemaking histories dating back thousands of years. Diminished under Soviet rule, this region is rebuilding and poised to once again take its rightful place on the international wine scene.

  North America


As a wine producer, Canada maintains a low profile. This is understandable since only the southern most regions of Canada fall within the northern hemiphere 'wine zone'. As such, growing seasons are quite short and the production of white wine excels, though some reds are attempted.

Primary wine regions are the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia to the west, and the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario to the east. Eastern wine regions are most famous perhaps for "Ice Wines" where the grapes are picked frozen on the vine.

Western Canada is known for fragrant Chardonnay, Gewirztraminer and Pinot Blanc. An 'Off-dry Riesling' from the Valley is an especially surprising wine.


Due to its location, only a small part of the northern most region of the country can support wine grape growing. Baja California is the porminent wineregion and the Guadalupe Valley is the prominent sub-region.

Though Mexico is the oldest winemaking region in North America, its wine industry has been hobbled by a history of military, political, and economic chaos.

United States

Given its position in North America, most of the contiguous states share the same latitudes as the great wine regions of Europe, and in fact every one of these states has at least one commercial winery. The sheer width of this country does allow for a great diversity of grape growing regions, but the prominent wine regions are located on the coastlines, with the Pacific coastline being the dominant.

The top four wine producing states are California, Washington, Oregon and New York. The Pacific coastline of California -- with its ideal conditions and southernly location -- is responsible for 90% of U.S. wine production.

On the Atlantic coast, the Finger Lakes region in central New York, and the Hudson Valley and Long Island areas to the east, all have a robust wine industry, though the area is tempered by colder conditions than found in California.

For the majority of the other states, climatic conditions (along with pests and disease) make vinifera a poor choice and these regions must rely more on hybrids and clones of native American grapes.


  South America

Production of wine in South America dates back to the 16th century, when Spanish conquisdators and Jesuit priests brought vinifera with them to produce sacramental wine. Peru and Chile were the first to be planted. Today, vineyards exist in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Equador and Venezuela. Argentina, Chile and Brazil are the top producers.


While Argentina is the largest volume producer, Chile is known for its quality. Heavy investment in the 1990ís and an influx of winegrowers from around the world revitalized the Chilean wine industry. Winegrowers now export 60% of the wine, with a majority going to England. Chile's remote location saved it from being affected by the grapevine disease phylloxera that swept through Europe and most other wine growing areas, allowing ithe industry to boast of its 'ancient vines' today.

Carmenere is the premium grape here, along with Cabernet Sauvignon,Merlot, Chardonnay, and more recently Gewurztraminer and Sangiovese.


The fifth largest wine producing country in the world, Argentinian winemakers shifted from low quality wines made from local grapes such as Criolla nd Cereza, to European varietals. Among the new varietals introduced, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah show good potential. The backbone of the industry, however, is the Malbec grape, producing rich, lush wines.


Most of Brazil lies within the Tropic of Capricorn, outside of the traditional latitudes known as the 'wine zone'. However, the 30th latitude cuts across the southern tip of the country, which is where 95% of the vineyards are located.

Still, making wine in this tropical setting is difficult at beat. Just when the grapes begin to mature, the rain starts to fall, stopping the maturation process so important to produce great red wines. The high acidity of the soil and the high rainfall amounts result in low glucose levels and low alcohol.

Though lagging behind Argentina and Chile in terms of grape and wine quality, Brazilian winemakers have made substantial gains towards producing higher quality, international style wines -- especially white wines. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are now high quality wines, and the Sparkling wine segment has grown by 25% annually over the last several years.

Wine Statistics

There are 24,000 names for varieties of wine grapes, corresponding to between 5,000 - 10,000 actual varieties


Believe it or not, the small country of Luxembourg leads the world in wine consumption per capita at 59.72 liters per person (2001), followed by France, Italy, Portugal and Croatia to round out the top five -- according to the Wine Institute.

Nine of the top ten countries are in the Old World except for Argentina which comes in at number eight with 32.57 liters per person (2001).

While the United States is the fourth largest wine producing nation in the world, it ranks thirty-fifth in per capita consumption, just behind Canada, and just ahead of Finland.

At the bottom of the 67-country list is Egypt -- with only 0.06 liters per person.

Ironically, the major wine producing nations of Europe such as France, Italy, Spain and Portugal have all seen a decrease in per capita consumption since the late-1990's. Despite this downward trend, collectively the members of the EU consume 58% of the world's wine production.


In 2001, China ranked 58th on the Wine Institue's list of per capita consumption.

In 2007, China is the world's fastest growing wine consuming nation and is expected to rank fourth behind France, United States, and Italy by 2010, according to the Global Drinks Market Impact Databank Review and Forecast.



Thailand has less than a dozen wine producers, and is home to the 'Floating Vineyards' south of Bangkok.

Domestic producers must pay a 200% excise duty in order to sell Thai wine in Thailand. Wine importers must pay duties of almost 400%, though this has been slightly reduced recently

In Thailand, grapevines have no dormant season, producing two harvests per year.