Where Does the Best Wine Come From?

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

One reason I say that is Burgundy’s famous red wine, known throughout the world as “Burgundy.” It’s made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes and I think that you’ll get little argument from most people that a fine Burgundy is the best expression of this temperamental varietal in the world, and, arguably, the finest red wine in the world. It’s certainly the world’s most expensive wine. That is to say, Burgundy’s most prestigious wine, Romanee-Conti, of which only about 450 cases are produced per year from grapes grown in the 4.5 acre Romanee-Conti vineyard, is the world’s most expensive wine. The law of supply and demand is obviously at play here but, for example, in 1996, Sotheby’s auctioned off a set of eight bottles of 1990 Romanee-Conti for $224,900; that’s more than $28,000 per bottle for a wine that was made just six years earlier! So, is it really worth that kind of money? Well, in my opinion, no. It seems to me that if anyone has that much money to burn, they could spend on it many more worthwhile things than wine, but at any rate, here’s what wine critic Clive Coates has to say about 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.”

The second reason I would argue that Burgundy makes the best wine of any wine-producing region in the world is their white wines, the two most famous of which are Chablis and Montrachet. White Burgundies are more generally known as “white Burgundy,” and mostly made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. Chardonnay is hands down the most popular white wine grape in the world and, in the opinion of most experts, finds its greatest expression in Burgundy. Montrachet in particular is considered by many to be the greatest dry white wine in the world. So, Burgundy produces arguably both the best red wines and white wines in the world, therefore, I would say that it’s the wine region that the best wines come from.

If I had to choose the best wine-producing country in the world, I would have to say France. One reason for that choice is the great wines of Burgundy, but that’s hardly the end of the story. While some people consider Burgundy to be the world’s finest red, that distinction is generally given to another French wine: Bordeaux, made from the famous “Bordeaux blend” of the native French grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc–the first two of which are very popular as varietals in both old and new world wine-producing countries. France also has another excellent white wine-producing region in Alsace, which makes some of the world’s best Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blancs, and I haven’t yet mentioned Champagne, which is without parallel among the world’s sparkling wines.

Another indication of France’s dominant position in the world of wine is the undeniable influence the country has had on new world producers–the wine grapes grown in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America and California are overwhelmingly of French origin. Add there’s even more: owing to the fact that France is, in most years, the world’s largest wine producer (Italy outproduces France in some years), there are many excellent French wines available at very reasonable prices. A couple of areas to look to for bargains are the Loire Valley and southern France. It’s possible to buy excellent wines made in these regions for as little as $10.00 to $15.00. Actually, you can even get some quite descent Bordeaux for very reasonable prices. In fact, France is just chock full of good wine bargains, for the same reason that it also produces some of the most expensive wines: supply and demand. While some of France’s most sought-after wines are in limited supply, the country also produces an astounding quantity of really good wine.

Having already asserted that the best wine comes from France, I would like to add a couple of caveats:

Italy is another pretender to the crown of being the world’s best wine-producing country. Their wine production is on an equal scale to France’s, they have an impressive diversity of native grape varieties from which they make many excellent wines in the large number of micro-climates Italy is blessed with, and Italian wines are very food friendly. It’s often a challenge to pair French wines with food, but this is generally a much easier task when you’re serving Italian wines.

While Bordeaux is considered by many to be the world’s best red wine, it lost out in head-to-head competition with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, twice. The first time was in 1976 at a blind tasting called the Judgment of Paris. The eleven judges–nine French, one American and one British–gave superior marks to Napa offerings, which were competing against some of Bordeaux’s most famous wines. Some critics called the results inconclusive, claiming that the French wines would age better than their American counterparts. A re-tasting was held 30 years later, in which the original ten wines, ranging in vintage from 1969 to 1973, were again blind tasted. This time the American wines won hands down, with Napa Valley Cabs taking the top five places. So it could be argued that the best reds in the world are made in Napa Valley.

To sum up, I would say that, all in all, the best wine in the world comes from France. But that is by no means the last word on the subject; there are many more caveats that could be added to the two I mentioned. Quality has been improving year by year in almost every wine-producing country around the world for at least the last two decades. I personally regularly consume wines produced in France, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, The United States, Chili and Argentina. All of these countries produce great wines, many at very reasonable prices. And there are a slew of countries I haven’t mentioned which also make 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 start tasting various wines from different regions of the world yourself. This may not be the shortest route to finding the answer, but it certainly is the most satisfying.

By Suzana