A Journey in Wine: The Wines of New Zealand

The distinctive aromas of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will immediately capture your full attention when you try it for the first time. It’s the country’s flagship wine for a good reason, but there is plenty more to discover. Even though New Zealand produces only 1 percent of the world’s wine, that wine has an international reputation amongst wine experts and wine lovers worldwide. 

New Zealand’s Wine in a Nutshell

New Zealand has ten wine-producing areas across the North and South Island. These areas cover 1,600 kilometres, with no vineyard more than 120 kilometres from the ocean. 

The country has a cool, maritime climate, though the North Island is slightly warmer than the South. The combination of long sunshine-filled days, cooling sea breezes at night, and a long ripening period results in ripe, flavourful grapes that still retain a great deal of acidity.

Since the 1980s, New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blancs have put the country on the global wine map. These wines are aromatic, with aromas of freshly cut grass, citrus, gooseberry, and passionfruit. While the white grape accounts for two-thirds of the country’s wine production, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Pinot Noir also thrive. Let’s have a closer look at the country’s winemaking history and regions. 

How Did New Zealand Become a Premier Wine-Producing Country?

Although the earliest records of Vitis vinifera (vine) plantings in New Zealand date back to 1819, the first recorded wine is from the 1840s. British resident and oenologist James Busby had success growing grapes, others quickly followed suit across the country. In the 1940s, their efforts went to waste when the phylloxera louse destroyed many vineyards. The decision to replant with hardier Vitis labrusca vines resulted in poor quality wines, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that Vitis vinifera grape varieties made a comeback. Until the 1980s, Müller Thurgau was the widest planted white grape, and Cabernet Sauvignon for red. This all changed in the 1980s when Sauvignon Blanc burst onto the scene. 

A glass of sauvignon blanc in front of a New Zealand vineyard

Sauvignon Blanc: New Zealand’s Star Variety 

In the early 1980s, Sauvignon Blancs from the Marlborough region came onto the global wine scene, and the quality blew everybody away. It was a Sauvignon Blanc that nobody had ever experienced before, bursting with aromas of freshly cut grass, citrus, gooseberry, and grapefruit, and extremely mouthwatering. The Sauvignon Blanc from Cloudy Bay Vineyards received critical acclaim. This zingy style quickly became fashionable worldwide.

What Other Grape Varieties Grow in New Zealand?

For white grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc is followed by Chardonnay. Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer are planted in smaller quantities. 

As for red grapes, Pinot Noir reigns supreme, followed by plantings of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. 

Overview of New Zealand Wine Regions

Because New Zealand’s ten growing regions extend 1,600 kilometres, there’s a lot of regional diversity, resulting in a variety of wine styles.

New Zealand’s North Island

From subtropical in the north to semi-maritime in the south, New Zealand’s North Island is known for a variety of grapes and wine styles. Northland, Auckland, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa are the main growing regions here. Wairarapa’s Pinot Noirs have come to the fore as their flagship reds. The region’s warm days and cool nights make it a perfect place to grow Pinot, and growers here have shown that they can produce wines with a distinctive character and style that often seems to straddle the Old World and the New. The North Island is also home to Bordeaux blends and Syrahs, most notably from Hawke’s Bay, the second-largest wine-growing region, as well as creamy Chardonnays.

Taste the Country: Paddy Borthwick Pinot Noir

Marlborough vineyard landscape

New Zealand’s South Island

The South Island is cooler, with a maritime climate. It is known for its high sunshine, low rainfall and free-draining soils. Nelson, Marlborough, North Canterbury, Waitaki Valley, and Central Otago are the regions from north to south, and it’s mostly the cool climate grape varieties that thrive here. Marlborough is the country’s largest and most famous wine region, planted mainly with Sauvignon Blanc. Central Otago is the most southerly wine-growing region in the world and the only region with a continental rather than a maritime climate. The area is home to marvellous Pinot Noirs.

Central Otago vineyard

New Zealand’s Wine Industry Today

Focus on Sustainability

Working sustainably is key to New Zealand’s wine industry. 96 Percent of the country’s vineyard area currently falls under the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand certification programme (SWNZ) – considering the cool maritime climate, this is quite impressive! SWNZ members adhere to guidelines for sustainable practices in the vineyard and winery. The industry strives to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

Winemaking Innovations

Since New Zealand is a relatively young winemaking country, there’s been a spirit of pioneering and innovation. The country is known for its advances in canopy management, cool stainless steel fermentation techniques and screwcaps.

Most vineyards have an open leaf canopy, where winegrowers strip away leaves to let sunlight get direct access to the fruit, making grapes fully ripe and intensely flavoured. Most Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to preserve the wine’s aromatic intensity and freshness.

In 2001, Kiwi winemakers were the first to embrace screwcaps on a large scale. It turned out that the closures worked great for preserving aromatics and freshness in wine (hello again, fruity Sauvignon Blancs!). Today, a whopping 95 percent of New Zealand wines are bottled with a screwcap – which has proven to allow the same bottle aging as a traditional cork – although it may take longer.

Love discovering the world of wine? Here at WineCollective, we always share our discoveries and rare finds with our members. Join us as we explore uncharted territories and discover wonderful grape varieties and unusual blends. 

What’s in a Grape? Tempranillo

Tempranillo (pronounced temp-rah-nee-oh) is a red wine grape most commonly grown in Spain. You’ve probably heard of Rioja, where some of the best examples of Tempranillo have made the Spanish wine region famous. This is one of our favourite grape varieties  (who are we kidding? So is every other variety!), and we are never one to miss an opportunity to share some information about our favourite things!

Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

What is Tempranillo?
Where is Tempranillo Grown?
What does Tempranillo Taste Like?
What to Pair with Tempranillo?
How is Rioja Tempranillo Classified?
How to Choose a Good Tempranillo

Tempranillo on the vine

What is Tempranillo?

Tempranillo is the primary grape used in the popular red wines (also referred to as “tinto”) of the Rioja region of Spain. Rioja wines tend to be blends that contain Tempranillo and various other grapes (Mazuelo, Garnacha and Graciano), which is why you may not be as familiar with the name Tempranillo. The more commonly recognized grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz are included in blends too, but are often distributed as stand-alone varieties in wines, unlike Tempranillo.

Did you know?

Another reason you might be less familiar with Tempranillo (despite it being the main grape used in the extremely popular Rioja wine) is due to the labelling conventions typically used in the Old World. Wines in the old world aren’t labelled using the grape varieties within, but by the region. This explains why you’ve probably heard about Rioja, and not Tempranillo!

Tempranillo in Rioja

Where is Tempranillo Grown?

Tempranillo is grown in Spain’s Rioja region, of course! But that’s not the only place. Tempranillo actually covers over 230,670 hectares of land worldwide (that’s just a couple hundred square kilometres smaller than the total area in the country of Luxembourg), with 20 percent of that being outside of Spain.

Did you know? 

It was recently announced that Tempranillo is the most widely planted grape variety in Spain, with 202,917 hectares under vine. That’s 21 percent of Spain’s vineyard area!

Why is Tempranillo so Broadly Grown in Spain?

The Tempranillo grape is a versatile one, with characteristics that allow it to grow in a variety of different sub-climates and terroirs. It flourishes in the higher elevations of the Rioja regions, along the sandy Duero River valley, and even in lovely fertile soils like those in Navarra. This versatility is partly due to the grape’s early ripening schedule – it ripens earlier than the other Spanish red grape varieties.

Did you know?

Tempranillo is a diminutive for “temprano,” which translates as “early.”

vineyards in Navarra

Growing Tempranillo in Northern Spain

  • La Rioja Alta, Alavesa and Baja
    Probably the most well-known of the Spanish regions, here Tempranillo is grown at high elevations and aged in oak barrels. With a variety of styles and classifications, there is a wine for every palate.
  • Navarra
    Rioja’s neighbour to the North, characterized by cooler weather and fertile soils, brings out the red fruit flavours of Tempranillo. 

Did you know?
Romans brought vines to Navarra thousands of years ago!

  • Toro and Zamora
    Tempranillo’s versatility allows these grapes to grow in rocky, mineral-deficient soils in these regions. Wine made from grapes grown here is incredibly rich with a characteristic spiciness. If you are looking for a Tempranillo from Toro, it will be called Tinta de Toro, rather than Tempranillo.
  • Ribera del Duero
    The soil along the Duero River is mostly sand and clay, and vines grown here experience broad diurnal shifts (temperature fluctuations from day to night). Here, Tempranillo is called ‘Tinto Fino’ and is known for its bright acidity brought on by the cooler nights.

Growing Tempranillo in Central Spain

  • La Mancha
    Spreading from Madrid and throughout the centre of Spain, this region is hot hot hot. Tempranillo doesn’t develop too high of an alcohol count, which is sometimes the case with wines in hot weather, allowing for deep fruit flavours and another delicious rendition of this versatile grape. 

Growing Tempranillo in Portugal

Tempranillo is also the most-planted grape in Portugal. It’s one of the main grapes used in the production of Port wine (blended with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca).

In the Dão and Douro regions of Portugal, Tempranillo is called Tinta Roriz. Here, the grape showcases a lot of berry fruit and spicy flavours, and is often blended with native grapes.

In the southern Portuguese region Alentejo, Tempranillo is better known as Aragonês.

Growing Tempranillo in the New World

Tempranillo is increasingly planted in New World countries as well. It has shown great results on the Californian west coast, Northern Mexico and even in places like Texas. It has also shown up in regions where you wouldn’t expect the grape at all. WineCollective features a rare Tempranillo from B.C., as part of Inniskillin’s Discovery Series!

What Does Tempranillo Taste Like?

Tempranillo is often part of a red wine blend, but the grape itself is known for its complex flavour profile. Tempranillo wines exhibit notes ranging from red fruit, like cherry and plum, to savoury and earthy, like leather and tobacco, to those associated with oak aging, like vanilla, caramel and dill pickles. If you enjoy Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll love yourself some Tempranillo!

A glass of Tempranillo with finger food

What to Pair with Tempranillo?

Wines made from Tempranillo are food-friendly due to their complex and savoury flavour profile. The wine pairs well with Spanish dishes, especially those with tomato-based sauces. But you don’t have to stick with just Spanish foods – Tempranillo really will go with many foods. Try with late-night favourites like pizza or tacos or something more sophisticated like charcuterie. 

How is Rioja Tempranillo Classified?

We get it, you’re intrigued by the Tempranillo that comes out of Rioja. We are too! The Rioja DO (Denominación de Origen) has a unique classification system that is based on aging time rather than vineyard location. These are the three classifications that you will see on Rioja wine labels, and what they mean:

  • Rioja Crianza wines have spent at least two years aging, six months of which must be spent in a barrel (the rest can be spent in a bottle), before they enter the market.
  • Rioja Reserva classified wines have spent at least one year in a barrel, and at least 3 years aging in total, before they can be released for sale.
  • Rioja Gran Reserva wines are aged for even longer before they are put out on the shelves! They require at least 18 months of aging in a barrel, with a total minimum aging time of five years. Rioja Gran Reserva wines are some of the most age-worthy wines, and can continue to age for decades to come. 

If you come across a Rioja wine labelled ‘Vino Joven’, that means that it hasn’t been aged in oak at all. These wines are much younger, brighter and acidic and are meant to be enjoyed immediately, without cellaring.

How to Choose a Good Tempranillo

Walking up and down the aisles at your local liquor store can be overwhelming. Let us help! Sign up for a monthly subscription box from WineCollective and you’ll receive a curated selection of amazing wines from around the world. We often feature Tempranillo from Rioja, and from other regions too! Members even get 15-50% off the retail price of bottles in the store

Want to try a Crianza (the class of Rioja that is aged for at least six months in oak, and two years total)? Try this Armentia y Madrazo Crianza for only $18.49. 

Want to try something a little ‘fancier’ – maybe one that has been aged since 2012? We’d recommend this Armentia y Madrazo Gran Reserva, which members can order for $31.49 (psst that’s a sweet deal – retail price is $37.99).

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A Journey in Wine: The Wines Of Chile

Chile is the seventh largest wine producer in the world today. Stretching for over 4000 kilometres along South America’s western edge, it’s a thin but elongated country between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The wine regions from north to south are classified into regions, as well as three larger growing zones: Costa (cooler coastal areas), Entre Cordilleras (warmer inland valleys) and Los Andes (mountainous regions). Let’s have a closer look at the wonderful wines of Chile.

How Did Chile Become a Wine-Producing Country?

The Chilean wine industry was heavily influenced by the French. When the phylloxera louse wiped out European vineyards in the 19th century, unemployed French winemakers migrated to Chile, bringing their grape varieties and know-how. They were optimistic about Chile’s climate and terroir, and it was their influence that shaped Chile’s wine market toward Bordeaux varieties. It wasn’t until the 1990s that much of the “Merlot” grown in the country was identified as Carménère- a nearly extinct grape variety of French origin.

What Grape Varieties Grow in Chile?

Chile grows predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but its “signature” grape truly is Carménère. Carménère is related to Cabernet Franc, and does so well in Chile because of its long, sunny growing season. It produces full-bodied reds, high in tannins. Don’t be surprised to come across other grape varieties, though! You’ll also find Pinot Noir, Syrah, and País (a native grape variety) as red grape varieties, and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier as white grape varieties.

Overview of Chilean Wine Regions

Chile’s vineyards can be found over a range of 900 kilometres from north to south. The wine regions are divided into principal regions and sub-regions. In 2012, an additional classification was announced, based on their distance from the coast. Costa has coastal influences, Entre Cordilleras is a strip of land that runs between the Andes and the coastal valleys, and Los Andes are the mountainous vineyards. Let’s dive a little deeper into these zones and what each of them entails.

Costa – Chile’s Coastal Influence

The Costa area is the coastal strip of valleys that sit along Chile’s extensive shoreline – it’s over 4000 kilometres long! It was thought that Chilean wines flourished best on its plains and steep mountainous areas, but this all changed when Casablanca Valley wine made its debut in the early 1980s. Some other popular regions in the Costa zone include the Aconcagua region, which envelopes the Aconcagua, San Antonio, and Casablanca Valleys, the Coquimbo region with Elqui and Limarí Valleys, the Central Valley region with Rapel, Curicó and Maule Valleys and finally the South region with the Itata Valley. 

While the coastline is significant, its effects on winemaking depend on the changing and cooling Humboldt Current. This current moves northward and cools the sea and neighbouring areas. It usually causes fogging that then shield the areas from the sun. This periodic fogging allows the grapes to ripen properly.

The coastline also affects the taste of the grapes, as the maritime influence adds minerality or a certain saltiness that comes from the soil being so close to the sea. 

The wines from Chile’s coastal areas are usually fruit-forward with a delicious acidity that makes them balanced and elegant. 

A great example is the Casa Viva Cabernet Sauvignon from the Casablanca Valley. 

Entre Cordilleras – Generous Chilean plains

Although most of the Entre Cordilleras area consists of flatlands, it is wrong to assume that the whole region is entirely flat. From east to west, the plains are covered with mountains and rivers that constitute a rich and diverse terroir responsible for over 60 percent of Chilean wine production. 

With Entre Cordilleras in the middle of the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the area receives a cooling influence from both. This allows growers to ripen Merlot grapes and even the rare and finicky Petit Verdot. Some popular regions in the Entre Cordilleras zone include the Aconcagua region with the Aconcagua Valley, the Central Valley region with Maipo, Curicó, Rapel and Maule Valleys, and finally, the South region with the Itata, Bió-Bió and Malleco Valley. 

Chilean wine received a boost when Spanish winemaker Miguel Torres arrived in the mountainous areas of the Curicó Valley in the early 1980s. He modernized wine production, making fresh and fruity wines. Many winemakers followed suit, giving wine exports a real boost. In the same region, further south, wineries in Cauquenes and San Javier are leading the charge to revive old vines to produce wine with a great expression of their region. A great example is the Santa Ema Select Terroir Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon which really allows Isla de Maipo to shine!

Los Andes – Chile’s Mountainous Vineyards

Nearly half of the entire range of Chile is covered in mountains, which affects everything in the country, including the wine. The Andes’ influence on climate is a large one. In the north, the Andes work with the cold Humboldt current to prevent cloud formation, reducing rainfall. In addition, the size and altitude of the Andes have also prevented diseases and pests such as phylloxera that have destroyed other vineyards around the world.

The Andes Mountains also form air masses that drop down into the valleys during the day. The ventilation and moving air currents provide a significant variation between the daytime and nighttime temperatures. This is important for the grapes to show off their characteristics. The terrain also plays an important role, with rockier areas providing more drainage and clay and soil material deposited alongside the mountain slopes and riverways.

The Andes region is well-known for some of the most renowned Chilean wines. The area produces wines with structure, great balance and character. A great example to try is the Haras De Pique Galantas, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Carménère.

The Chilean Wine Industry Today

Due to its altitude, mountainous areas, and government involvement, Chile has remained phylloxera-free, and vines don’t need to be grafted onto Phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Chile remains isolated, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Andes Mountains on the other. The Quinta Normal Agriculture, a set of agricultural norms dating from 1841, regulates all grape-based agriculture and makes an effort to ensure no infested soil and vines are imported from other countries. Today Chile has some of the oldest vines with Vitis vinifera rootstock. 

Chile’s dry climate makes it a perfect country to produce organic, biodynamic and sustainable wine. 75 Percent of all exported Chilean wine is, in fact, sustainably produced. The Chilean Wine Industry Sustainability Code is a voluntary standard that guides wineries in the challenge of working as sustainably as possible.

With the abundance of different types of terrain and the versatility of the land and climate in Chile, it is possible to make many different wine styles.

With the coastal regions best suited for cooler climate grapes, the inland valleys are known for their soft Bordeaux blends. The high-elevation and climates of the Andes area create wines that have greater structure and character, and so it is not surprising that winemakers are beginning to go back to the basics in an attempt to play around with these characteristics to create more natural and organic wines. 

An interesting example is De Martino, employing the terracotta amphorae, returning to the rural and original winemaking traditions. They’ve even forgone the use of enzymes and certain yeasts, allowing the sugars and microbes in the grapes to ferment unaided with minimal intervention. 

Here at WineCollective, we make sure to share our discoveries and rare finds with our members. Join us as we explore uncharted territories and discover wonderful grape varieties and unusual blends. 

18 Stunning Winery Designs Across the Globe

In our “Design of wine” series, we’ve looked at great label design, but we’re also shining a light on winery architecture. These 18 wineries house state-of-the-art winemaking facilities and fit in remarkably well with their surroundings. Come join us on a tour across the world to look at some jaw-dropping contemporary winery design.

Herederos del Marqués de Riscal – La Rioja, Spain

Dubbed “the Spanish château of the 21st century”, Herederos del Marqués de Riscal is a sight to behold. Canadian star architect Frank O Gehry’s signature titanium curves mark an avant-garde structure atop a historic sandstone building, where millions of precious bottles are cellared. Gehry’s addition houses a luxury hotel, a Michelin-starred restaurant, a vinotherapy spa and a tasting room. Tradition and innovation merge – precisely what this renowned wine brand, founded in 1858, is about. The 2006 landmark has given tourism to the region a new impulse, making it hard to imagine that Rioja wineries were never really open to the public until a few decades ago.

Bodegas Ysios – Rioja Alavesa, Spain

Another stunning Spanish winery design is the 2001 Bodegas Ysios in the foothills of the Cantabrian Range. Architect Santiago Calatrava created a long rectangular building, clad on one side with cedar slats to resemble wine barrels on their side. The undulating roof made of aluminum and cedar echoes the surrounding mountains.

L’And Vineyards – Alentejo, Portugal

Lisbon-based architecture firm Promontorio won the assignment to integrate an agricultural business with luxury leisure in the Alentejo region of southern Portugal. The rural area is known for its wine and olive oil production, as well as its white-washed architecture. In 2011, L’And Vineyards opened its doors, designed as a hinged prism with four corners cut off. It is a stark white building contrasted by dark wood accents, housing a winery and luxury hotel. In the surrounding suites, retractable ceilings allow guests to sleep under a starry night.

Antinori nel Chianti Classico – Tuscany, Italy

In 2012, Archea Associati completed the Chianti winery for the historic Tuscan wine company Marchesi Antinori. The winery’s façade almost merges with the hillside, appearing as two horizontal “cuts” in the Tuscan landscape. The most striking feature is a steel spiral staircase that connects the three levels of the building. The winery was constructed entirely from local materials and designed for gravity flow winemaking. It provides the ideal climatic conditions for winemaking, resulting in a low environmental impact.

Rocca di Frassinello – Tuscany, Italy

Rocca di Frassinello, a joint venture between renowned Castellare di Castellina and Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Château Lafite, required an equally prominent winery design, and Renzo Piano was the architect who fit the bill. Centred around a massive, square-shaped excavated barrel room is the functional, partly gravity-flow winery. The roof is a terracotta-paved terrace with a glass pavilion on top, offering a beautiful view over the rolling hills.

Délas Frères – Rhône Valley, France

Inspired by the surrounding terraced vineyards, Carl Fredrik Svenstedt designed a similarly curved winery for Rhône winery Délas Frères. Robots cut slabs of solid stone, which masons expertly put together to create a “stone drapery.” While the manufacturing process was high-tech, the material is not: it is made from locally-sourced limestone, which forms ideal conditions for storing wine. Additionally, gravel from the cutting process was used to pave the garden, tying the newer building in with the existing historic Manor House on-site.

Château Cheval Blanc – Saint-Émilion, France

Château Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux is a château as you would imagine, with turrets and all – and the 2011 addition beautifully complements the historic building. Christian de Portzamparc designed it as two enormous waves of white concrete rising from the earth, with a wild-grass garden planted on its roof. The architect also created glass-shaped concrete vats, each designated for a specific vineyard parcel. The cellar reflects the château’s exceptional attention to detail throughout the winemaking process – and was one of the first certified environmentally-friendly built wineries to boot.

F.X. Pichler – Wachau, Austria

Located in a UNESCO World Heritage area, the F.X. Pichler winery had to be appropriately beautiful. Thomas Tauber designed a building that mimics the nearby Danube river with a curved, wave-like aluminum façade. Furthermore, the glass of the tasting room reflects the vines. The granite walls are sourced locally and echo the surrounding mountains, while the main internal wall is composed of rocks gathered from the vineyards.

Weingut Schmidt – Bodensee, Germany

Often, vineyard layouts inspire architects, as is the case with Weingut Schmidt. The architect Elmar Ludescher designed it against a hill and used the height difference for easy access to the wine cellar at the bottom and a beautiful view of the vineyards at the top. Two stairways lead to the wine tasting room in the attic, where the glass façade is protected from the sun by a filter made of wooden slats. The building adopts the traditional silhouette of regional farmhouses, but the vertical slats give it a more modern, minimalist feel.

Lahofer Winery – Czech Republic

Lahofer Winery is situated amid the scenic South Moravian countryside scattered with vineyards. CHYBIK + KRISTOF designed a wave-shaped, walkable roof that functions as an amphitheatre for cultural and wine-themed events. With its exposed arches, the interior reflects the typical local architecture but with a distinctly contemporary feel. Two horizontal buildings form the winery, resulting in a less bulky appearance in the landscape.

Kunjani Wines – Stellenbosch, South Africa

Boutique winery Kunjani Wines in the Western Cape adds a modern twist to the historic Cape Dutch architecture of the region. Designed with gables and an “H”-shaped floorplan, the exterior is anthracite-coloured rather than the traditional white. The façade is marked with bright red sliding screens cut out with geometrical patterns similar to those on West-African mud huts. The interior, designed by Haldane Martin, is similarly flamboyant, with a laser-cut staircase and bright graphics on the wall.

Aperture Cellars – Healdsburg, California

Jesse Katz is a young winemaker whose unique vision of winemaking comes back in his winery design. Aperture Cellars is located just outside of Healdsburg, overlooking the Sonoma Mountains. Local firm Signum designed a large production facility clad in darkened metal. It has separate elements reaching skywards, forming a dramatic silhouette. Inspired by the concept of a camera aperture, the hospitality building has a large skylight that allows for dramatic differences in light fall. Its bright white interior juxtaposes the dark exterior and is perfect for the photos of the winemaker’s father, renowned photographer Andy Katz.

Sokol Blosser – Dundee Hills, Oregon

The Sokol Blosser family is part of the founders of Oregon’s wine industry. For their new tasting room and event space, the family commissioned Allied Works in 2012. The architects began by cutting a series of gardens, terraces and paths into the face of the hill. Three interconnected volumes showcase the landscape and beautiful views of the Yamhill Valley. Inside and out, the building is clad in grooved cedar in a pattern inspired by vineyard rows and the traditional wooden farmhouses of the region. It was also the first winery design to comply with the Living Building Challenge.

Martin’s Lane – Okanagan Valley, Canada

Anthony von Mandl is committed to making the best wines that the Okanagan Valley can offer. His Martin’s Lane is another gravity-flow winery, designed on different levels. Architecture firm Olson Kundig created a dramatic structure of glass, steel and concrete that reflect the roughness of the environment. It is conceived as a fracture, with one side following the steep slope down the hill and the other following the horizon.

Alfa Crux Winery (Formerly O. Fornier) – Mendoza, Argentina

Completed in 2007, Bormida Y Yanzon Architects devised a large concrete, stainless steel and glass structure that rises up on a vast dry plain against an impressive backdrop of the rugged Andes Mountains. Here too, a gravity-flow system makes pumping over the wine unnecessary. The Agostino family acquired the Uco Valley landmark in 2018 and is now known as Alfa Crux Winery – named after the building’s skylight forming a large cross (or “crux”) into the wine cellar.

Zuccardi Winery – Mendoza, Argentina

Inaugurated in 2016, the Zuccardi Winery building in Altamira is a tribute to the mountains that determine the region’s climate and soils. Also called the “Infinite Stone Winery,” it consists of stone-like materials only, from the angular stone walls to the epoxy-free cement tanks in which the wines are made. As a focal point, architects Eugenia Mora, Fernando Raganato and Tom Hughes devised a 10,000-bottle domed cellar around a boulder weighing more than 10 tonnes.

Lapostolle Clos Apalta – Colchagua Valley, Chile

Some say it resembles a barrel, others compare it to a bird’s nest perched on a mountain, but one thing is sure: the winery design for Lapostolle Clos Apalta in Chile’s Colchagua Valley is a stunning sight. This winery is more than meets the eye, however: it took from 1999 to 2005 to become a reality, from the drawing table of Roberto Benavente to excavating its seven floors 35 metres deep into the rock. The levels make it a 100 percent-gravitational winery, designed exclusively for making one wine, the Clos Apalta. The twenty-four wooden beams on the exterior represent the number of months necessary for the production of this iconic wine.

Viña Pérez Cruz – Maipo Valley, Chile

The winery for Viña Pérez Cruz is made entirely of native pine wood. Architect José Cruz Ovalle created three barrel-shaped naves, reflecting the stages of wine production: fermentation, maturation and storage. The exterior arches are slightly curved, giving the project a sinuous movement. These curves also promote air currents which allow an optimal temperature for wine. Evoking Chilean houses with porches and patios that blur the distinction between interior and exterior, the naves are also pierced by open spaces, offering beautiful views of the valley.

While winery design is cool, and wineries are fun to visit, the best part about wine is the yummy stuff that goes into the bottle. Our wine experts taste hundreds of bottles each month to bring members a selection of great wines from across the globe. Join us, and we’ll explore the world of wine together!

New Latitude Wine: Surprising Wine Regions

You’re probably familiar with Old World and New World wines, but have you heard of New Latitude Wines? Wines from Brazil, Thailand, India, Vietnam, but also Norway, Sweden or England fall under this category. What are they? Let’s explore!

What Is New Latitude Wine?

The grapevine thrives in temperate climates between the 30th and 50th parallel of latitudes in both hemispheres. These two narrow bands on the map are shifting, however, and global warming only partly explains why. Higher temperatures have made grape-growing possible at higher latitudes: just look at England, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, even closer to home in Nova Scotia! But there’s more and more winemaking at low latitudes as well, even in tropical conditions. Together, these “new” wine regions fall under “New Latitude Wines”. 

Let’s have a closer look at how it has become possible to successfully grow and ripen grapes in conditions previously deemed “unsuitable” for viticulture. We’ll also zoom in on a few of these countries.

How Do Grapes Grow in Extreme Environments?

Hybrid Grape Varieties

To a large extent, we can grow and ripen grapes outside of the “traditional” latitudes thanks to hybrid grape varieties. Hybrids are crossings of two grapes of two different vine species, and they are more resistant to fungi, phylloxera and other diseases and pests. They also tend to ripen earlier. 

For decades, these hybrid grape varieties had one major drawback: they had a rather unpleasant taste with aromas of wet dog and chewing gum (yuck!). However, the newest generation of hybrids are actually hardly distinguishable from the “classical” grape varieties.

Innovative Viticultural Practices

New hybrid varieties have made it possible to grow grapes in wetter, cooler or hotter climates, but advanced viticultural practices are equally important. Carefully timed irrigation, as well as different vine pruning or training techniques all determine whether grapes can successfully grow in a certain climate. In tropical countries, for instance, the grapes are usually pergola-trained, so that the canopy of grape leaves protects the grapes from the scorching sun. We’ve become better at adapting the vine to its environment, which can provide lessons for current wine-growing regions that are dealing with the effects of climate change.

Winemaking in Cold Countries: High Latitude Wines

If you decide to start making wine in a cold and wet climate, you definitely have to like a good challenge. For starters: getting a grape perfectly ripe is really difficult. The weather is pretty much always unpredictable. As Canadians, we are pretty familiar with these crazy weather patterns – from frost in June, to hail, to an early freeze in the fall. All of these are huge threats (not just to our outdoor activities!).

Your best bet in colder climates is to produce sparkling wines (a strength of the English wine industry, for example), as well as crisp white wines. A bright acidity and relatively low alcohol content are hallmarks of wine from colder regions (not unlike their cool climate counterparts). 

Wine of Nova Scotia

A great high latitude example close to home, Nova Scotia has a small, but interesting wine industry. Here, 20+ vineyards are clustered around the Gaspereau Valley, in the Annapolis Valley. If you happen to be in the area, take a tour through this historical region on a magical double-decker bus straight out of Harry Potter!

The Bay of Fundy is crucial in successfully growing grapes here. The large body of water acts as a heat sink, moderating the temperatures. The wineries have mostly hybrid grape varieties planted such as L’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc or New York Muscat. Vinifera grapes grow here as well, such as Chardonnay and Riesling. Most production is consumed locally, but outside of the region you might be able to find a great sparkling wine. (Get it, you won’t be disappointed!)

New Latitude Wine: A Vineyard at a Fjord in Norway

Norwegian Wine

In Norway, grapes are commercially grown as far as 59º N! Lerkekåsa takes pride in being the most northerly vineyard in the world (For comparison, that’s pretty much on the border of Alberta and the Northern Territories). The country has a short growing season, with threats of late spring frost and heavy rains. However, the long summer days are great for ripening grapes. The fjords also help, reflecting the sunlight back onto the vineyards, and the mountains accumulate heat and provide good drainage. 

Norway grows predominantly white grapes, with Solaris, Vidal, Bacchus and Riesling as some of the common grape varieties. 

Winemaking in Tropical Countries: Low Latitude Wines

Until 30 years ago, the grapevine was deemed unsuitable for cultivation under tropical monsoon conditions. Today there exist some 125,000 ha of vines in India and South-East Asia alone!

Tropical viticulture comes with its own set of challenges. There’s the constant heat (25–35°C) during harvest and fermentation – making it necessary to cool grapes down in the winery, before they are processed. 

Wine growers need to select their grape varieties carefully: they need to be able to ripen even with shorter sunlight days, with a high fungus and waterlogging resistance. 

The biggest difference between tropical and regular viticulture is that there is no dormancy period of the vine. Immediately after harvest, the growing cycle starts again. As a consequence, quality-conscious vine growers need to prune twice a year: after harvest and right after the Monsoon before a new growing season starts.

New Latitude Wine: a vineyard in Thailand

Thai Wine

Thailand defies the notion that viticulture is only possible between the 30th and 50th parallels, since it is located around the 15th parallel. There are two harvests: a summer harvest in July and August and a winter harvest in January and February. 

The wineries are located in three areas: 

  1. Northern Thailand: Chenin Blanc, White Malaga, Shiraz, and the indigenous grape Pok Dum are mainly planted on the high vineyards in northern Thailand. 
  1. Central Thailand: The second area is Khao Yai on the Korat Plateau in Central Thailand, where vineyards are located at some altitude to take advantage of the wind and some cooling at night. Shiraz predominates here. 
  1. Southern Thailand: Not far from Bangkok is the Chao Phraya Delta. This is the home of Siam Winery, producers of Monsoon Valley, the biggest player on the fledgling Thai wine scene. 

Siam cultivates grapes on “floating vineyards”. Between the cultivation of coconuts, rice and bananas, you’ll find rows of vines between narrow channels, intended to drain water.  The manual harvest usually takes place in the evening, with gondola-type boats transporting the grapes to the cellar. Chenin Blanc is made in a fruity style here. Sometimes it has some residual sugar, so it fits well with Thai cuisine and tastes. The Shiraz is full and round, yet not particularly complex. 

Siam was founded in 1986 by Chalerm Yoovidya, whose family is better known for inventing the energy drink Krating Daeng or Red Bull. They also produce grapes in the Hua Hin Valley, where Asian Elephants and lush green hills form an uncommon vineyard sight.

New Latitude Wine: A vineyard in India

Indian Wine

In the immense country of India with its 1.3 billion inhabitants, the wine industry is relatively small. Currently, the per capita annual wine consumption is about 9 milliliters! With an ever-growing middle class and a more liberal attitude of the Indian authorities, the domestic wine market is growing. 

India’s modern wine industry started with pioneers in the 1980s. Sula Vineyards, now the country’s largest wine producer, entered on the stage in the 2000s. About 100 wineries produced around 17.6 million litres in 2019. Most wine that is consumed in India is also produced within the country, since import duties are sky high.

Much of India is unsuitable for viticulture: it is way too hot and too wet in the summer months. Most viticulture is concentrated in two states: Maharashtra and Karnataka, where higher altitude regions offer the grapes some more coolness. In India, the vines are often horizontally guided in a pergola style, so that the grapes are protected as much as possible from the bright sun. Irrigation and frequent pruning are necessary.

Explore New Wines

Before you run to your local wine store to pick up a bottle of Thai wine, we should point out that you won’t easily find these New Latitude wines outside of their country of production. That means you probably won’t come across them in our WineCollective packages either. Still, we do want our members to realize how vast the world of wine truly is. As you learn more about wine, you realize there is so much else to discover! 

So, even though you may not be able to track down a bottle of Vietnamese wine or Swedish wine unless you take a trip to these countries, you can still surprise yourself! Try a wine from a grape variety you’ve never heard of before. Maybe seek out a bottle from a wine region that’s new to you. And while you’re at it, consider becoming a member of WineCollective and receive new and familiar, but always amazing wines to your doorstep each month!

A Journey in Wine: The Wines of Spain

You might’ve tried Rioja or Cava, or even sipped on a glass of Sherry once, but what more do you know about vino de España? Let’s explore the fascinating world of the wines of Spain.

Even though Spain’s history of winemaking dates back to the Roman empire, it’s only in the past few decades that Spain has come into its own as a quality wine-producing country. The country had a brief stint as the world’s largest wine producer by volume in 2013 and received recognition as a leader in the industry. Spain has since fallen to third place, but remains a top producer in the world today. 

Are Spanish Wines Organic?

Spain is the world’s largest producer of organic wine, with 1,21,000 hectares in 2019 (27 percent of the world’s organic vineyard area). The country has more than doubled its organic wine production in the last eight years and shows no signs of slowing down. Many wines are vegan as well, and are made with minimal intervention in the fining and filtration process. This results in wines with natural and unique flavours that are true to their terroir, or their place of origin.

Want a Taste?

WineCollective’s Via Terra Selection, made from a local variety of Garnacha, is a great example of Spain’s vegan and organic wine.

Are Spanish Wineries Sustainable?

Larger Spanish wineries are leading the charge when it comes to building sustainable wineries and storage facilities that blend in with their landscape. Beronia in Rioja Alta opened the first winery with LEED (Leader in Energy Efficient and Sustainable Design) status in Europe, using renewable energy sources and cutting-edge technology. Finca Montepedroso in Rueda had a winery built with typical materials of the area to blend in with the surrounding vineyards. Many Spanish wineries use caves or underground storage facilities to age the wines naturally. 

glass of red wine with olives and charcuterie

What Grape Varieties Grow in Spain?

Spain is home to around 600 grape varieties, although only roughly 20 are used for the majority of wines. Some winemakers have a renewed interest in these indigenous grape varieties, however, as they really bring character and, literally, variety to the Spanish wine scene.

Some of the most common red grape varieties grown in Spain:

  • Tempranillo is the most widely planted grape variety in Spain, and the grape that characterizes the popular Rioja blends.
  • Garnacha is often used as a blending partner with Tempranillo. It shows rich berry flavours and spice, and sometimes tomato leaf.
  • Monastrell is known as Mourvèdre in France. It has high tannins and acidity, with characteristic dark berry fruit.
  • Bobal is the second most-planted red grape variety after Tempranillo. The wines have a lively acidity, with aromas of dried berries and chocolate.

Some of the most common white grape varieties grown in Spain:

  • Albariño grows in northern Spain, where the grape develop thick skins due to the cool climate. The wines are aromatic and zesty, ideal for seafood.
  • Verdejo makes subtle, but rich white wines with plenty of lemon, grass, and, with age, almond aromas and flavours.

Where is Wine Grown in Spain?

Spain’s climate is mostly continental, with hot, dry summers and cold winters. Although the country is in the hotter climate range for wine, its network of mountain ranges highly influences vine-growing temperatures. Climates vary quite a bit throughout Spain’s wine regions, which fosters an incredible variety of wine in the country. 

Wines of Northern Spain

The wines of northwestern Spain are cool-climate wines, with the zesty whites of Rias Baixas as the most famous ones. Further west is the small wine region of Bierzo, producing great wines made from indigenous grapes Mencia and Godello. Some great Tempranillos come from this region, such as the outspoken Bodegas Neo Disco. Toro, Rueda, and Ribeira del Duero are further inland, protected by the Cantabrian mountains. 

Northeastern Spain is characterized by the Ebro river and its valleys. The upper Ebro river is important to the regions of Rioja and Navarra which produce the best exports of Tempranillo and Garnacha. Our Armentia y Madrazo Gran Reserva is a beautiful example of Rioja’s excellence, while Castillo de Eneriz Riserva is a bit more of a modern-day blend from Navarra. 

Wines of South-Eastern Spain

Jumilla, Valencia, Alicante and Bullas are the fastest-growing regions in Spain. Fruity and stylish reds are their champions, made in a richer, sweeter style. These wines give producers from California and Australia a run for their money!

Local varieties such as Monastrell are blended with international grape varieties like Syrah, like the 3000 Años from Bullas. Or Tempranillo with Petit Verdot or Cabernet Sauvignon, like this Nucli Tinto from Valencia (Tempranillo with Petit Verdot and Syrah).

This region is also home to Bobal, a light and easy-drinking wine, made in a similar style to the light Pinot Noirs of French Burgundy. Our En La Parra is the life of the party!

The Wines of South of Madrid

Closest to Madrid are the vineyards of La Mancha, one of the best-known tourist destinations in Spain. Our biodynamic Pablo Claro is from this region, a blend of local grape Graciano and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The south is most widely planted with Airén, which is the grape most commonly used in making brandy. As time goes on this region is changing from white to more red varieties. 

Wines of Spain: a vineyard in Rioja

Wines from La Rioja are among the most popular wines in the world. The first mention of the name Rioja as a wine-producing region dates back to 1092. In 1872 the introduction of railways in the country made it possible for wineries to get their wines to the coast, to be shipped to foreign markets.

Early wineries in the area wanted to keep up with the famous châteaux of Bordeaux and started exporting their wines, putting Spain on the map. Until the 1970s, most of Rioja was made by small farmers. The grapes were picked fast and then aged in old American oak for many years. In the 20th century, new winemaking techniques were introduced as well as winemaking laws by the European Union, which led to higher quality wines.

Wines of Spain: a vineyard in Penedes, Catalonia

Catalonia – Home of Cava: Spain’s Sparkling Wine

Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine, made with the same method of production as Champagne. However, the grapes are different. Champagne uses Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in their blends. For Cava, it’s a blend of Macabeo, with a combination of Xarel-Lo and Parellada to balance it out. As these are all white grape varieties, a small amount of Pinot Noir is planted in the area to blend in to make rose Cava.

Cava means “cave” in Spanish, referring to how these wines are made. Just like Champagne, these wines undergo a second fermentation in the bottle and must be cellared for a minimum of nine months on their lees (disintegrated yeast cells). The majority (around 95 percent) of Cava is made in Catalonia (in Penedès, pictured), but it may be produced in other regions as well. 

The Andalucia/Jerez Region: The Home of Sherry

Andalucia is cooler, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s perfect for growing Palomino, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes, the main source in the production of Sherry. Next to Port, Sherry is one of the world’s best-known fortified wines in the world. Though not as popular in modern times as it once was, Sherry is still widely exported. It is produced in a wide range of styles from light and dry to rich and sweet, using the “solera” system which blends wines of different ages from different barrels.

How are Spanish Wines Classified?

As a member of the European Union, Spain has wine laws that comply with the EU standards. Spain has 70 DOs (Denominación de Origen) and two DOCas (Denominación de Origen Calificada), La Rioja and Priorat. 

What is a DO?

A DO is a Spanish classification for wines that come from a specific region or zone and is not a blend of different areas. Unlike table wine which can be a blend from different regions, this ensures that the wines come from the region stated on the label as required by law.

What is a DOCa?

DOCa-status is reserved for standout regions among the DOs. Their standout regions are higher than the DOs, and they must have demonstrated superior quality as a DO for at least 10 years before obtaining DOa status. This classification has been awarded only to Rioja and Priorat so far.

Aging requirements and Terminology

Aging wine in oak barrels is a common practice in Spain. Labeling terminology to indicate a wine’s age is strictly regulated by Spanish wine law.

Wines of Spain aging designations

Vinos de Pago

On top of the traditional DO classification system, Spain saw the introduction of “vinos de pago” in 2003, similar to a “first growth” classification in France. To become certified, the estate needs to demonstrate unique characteristics. The standards for these wines are higher than those of other DO’s and DOa’s. Vino de Pagos set their own appellation rules, but if they are located inside an existing DO or DOa their standards must meet or exceed those expectations. There are currently 20 Vino de Pagos but that number is expected to increase.

This is just a high-level overview of a country that is endlessly fascinating and still very much in development. Due to changing climate conditions, new wineries are popping up in the southern regions of Spain. It’s becoming easier to plant vines and have a successful harvest in these regions. The wines of the Spanish islands are also gaining traction. Here at WineCollective, we make sure to share our discoveries and rare finds with our members. Join us as we explore uncharted territories and discover wonderful grape varieties and unusual blends. 

New World Wines: What’s Really Up?

What is New World Wine?

New World wines are those that are produced outside of the traditional winemaking areas in Europe. So if you’re drinking a wine from Italy or France, that’s an Old World wine. If instead, you’re indulging in a glass of wine from New Zealand, South Africa, the US, or even Argentina, you’re enjoying a New World wine. 

What is the Difference between Old World and New World Wines?

The differences between Old World and New World wines have been discussed and debated. Many people will pick Old World wines over New World wines and vice versa, but what is it that makes these two wine worlds so different? Here at WineCollective, we don’t think that one is better than the other! But understanding the differences between these two worlds and the wines they produce is the first step to understanding what wine styles you like and which ones to steer away from!

New World wines tend to be fuller-bodied, and higher in alcohol. They also tend to have lower acidity and are much riper on the palate. Old World wines, on the other hand, showcase a lighter body, they are lower in alcohol and higher in acidity. They show more earth-driven flavours and are less fruity than the New World ones. 

It is important to acknowledge that there are many exceptions to this. With climate change, and evolving winemaker preferences, it is not uncommon to come across a New World wine that is lighter in alcohol and higher in acidity or an Old World wine that is high in alcohol or has a riper flavour profile.

What are the Characteristics of New World Wines?

New World Wine Styles

As mentioned above, since New World vineyards are generally in hotter climates such as South Africa and Argentina, the fruit tends to mature and ripen much quicker than Old World vineyards. This means the grape, as it ripens, will have more sugar and less acid unlike grapes from vineyards with cooler growing climates.

As a result, these vineyards produce wines that are higher in alcohol, more fruit-forward, and have lower acidity than wines of central-northern Europe. New World wines tend to lend more “jammy” flavours, with more structure on the palate. 

New World Wine Labels 

Old World wines tend to use the region of origin to label their wines. Think Bordeaux, Chianti, or Rioja. This labelling style requires consumers to have some base knowledge of the grape varieties grown in that region… For example, Chianti is usually a Sangiovese-dominant blend, while Rioja is usually Tempranillo, but the label won’t tell you that!

In contrast, New World wines are named by the variety of the grape, such as Merlot, Shiraz, or Cabernet Sauvignon. This makes wine more accessible to everyone and gives less experienced wine lovers the opportunity and confidence to pick what they like and develop their wine palate. 

Selling New World Wine

With Old World Wines, geography tends to denote the style, along with the general taste and appeal of the wine. New World wines have steered away from this convention and are less dependent on geography and focus on varieties instead. They have placed more emphasis on branding when marketing. This is why you may have heard of Yellow Tail or Barefoot Cellars, but perhaps don’t know exactly what region it is from! 

Rules and Traditions 

Winemakers in the Old World usually have to adhere to tradition and complicated appellation rules in order to produce a wine that can be classified as specific to that region. Since New World wine countries aren’t bound by the same kind of tradition, they have more room to experiment. This doesn’t mean that anything goes, but there’s more freedom to experiment with grape varieties, and viticultural or vinification techniques, like using wine eggs or even employing a gravity-flow system

Where are New World Wines Made? 

Any region outside of Europe and the Middle East is classified as a New World wine region. There are so many regions in the New World that produce wine. Let’s explore some of these regions that you may or may not be familiar with! 

Vineyards along the mountain lines in Santiago, Chile. A New World wine region

Chilean Wines 

This New World wine region sits along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean, and due to the climate and terroir, it produces wines that are plush, fruit-forward and herbaceous. Chile produces wines that are similar in style to French wine! If you are a fan of French reds and want to explore the New World, try the Casa Viva Cabernet Sauvignon

Vineyards that overlook the mountain and a small waterbody in Mendoza, Argentina. A New World wine region

Argentinian Wines 

With a unique terroir and ideal growing conditions, Argentina, more specifically Mendoza, produces some of the world’s most renowned Malbecs. Looking to try a textbook Mendoza Malbec? Give the Mi Terruño Reserve Malbec a try.

Vineyards in Napa Valley, California. A New World wine region

American Wines

With its red and volcanic soil, along with its unique terroir, the United States, or more specifically California, is well known for its big and bold Cabernet Sauvignons. The wines produced here resemble Bordeaux style wines so much, that the 1985 Groth Cabernet sauvignon was awarded a perfect 100-point score by the well known Bordeaux critic, Robert Parker. A fruity and juicy example to try is the Aviary Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Vineyards along hills in Stellenbosch, South Africa. A New World wine region

South African Wines 

Did you know that South Africa is the oldest of all the New World wine countries since their vines were first planted in the 17th century? South Africa is known for their Cabernet Sauvignons, so if you’re a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, you must get your hands on a South African one to try! They produce high alcohol wines that still remain fruity, juicy and approachable. If you’re looking to try a South African Cabernet Sauvignon, give the Boschkloof Cabernet Sauvignon a try. 

Vineyards across the coast of Tasmania, Australia. A New World wine region

Australian Wines 

You think Australia and you think heat! So isn’t it surprising that Australia’s climate and terroir allow them to produce well-rounded Chardonnays with a smooth butteriness – perfect to pair with popcorn at your next movie night! Tasmania has a cooler climate than the rest of Australia, so the Chardonnay grape thrives well in this climate. If you are a fan of French Chardonnay, particularly white Burgundy, you will love the Devil’s Corner Chardonnay from Tasmania.

It is safe to say that New World wines have allowed for variety and different characteristics to be produced within the same grape varieties. Different growing climates and conditions produce varying results of the same varieties, thus giving us more choices and options to pick and choose from. What do you think about the New and Old World wines? Do you prefer one over the other?

If you want to keep learning and exploring the world of wine, be sure to sign up for a WineCollective subscription for amazing wines from both the Old and New World. You’ll receive tasting notes, a 15-50% discount in the online store, and more fun content like this! We like learning – one sip at a time!

A Journey in Wine: The Wines of the United States

America doesn’t have as long a wine history as other countries, but it is the fourth largest wine producer in terms of volume worldwide. Let’s have a closer look at the wines of the United States, known for its big, bold wines.

Go big, or go home: it seems a fitting phrase not only for the country, but for the American wine industry as well. The country boasts some impressive stats:

  • The USA is the globe’s largest wine consumer.  
  • The country is one of the world’s leaders of exports and imports of wine and shows no signs of slowing down. 
  • They are also the world’s largest luxury wine market. 

In short: America drives the global wine industry. 

map of USA superimposed on a vineyard

An Overview of the USA as a Wine-Producing Country

Almost every American state has a thriving wine scene. California is the largest, and best-known. The country produces many wine styles, but is best known for big, bold and juicy Cabernet Sauvignons and boldly oaky and buttery Chardonnays. 

  • Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling also play an important role in American winemaking, as they are cold-hardy grapes that can survive extreme temperatures and are suited to less than ideal growing conditions. In recent years, American winemakers have been creating amazing wines from their lesser-known regions in Oregon, Washington and New York. 
  • America is a large country and produces wines in a variety of different styles. For example, Chardonnay can vary widely from unoaked, citrusy and acid driven styles to oaky buttery and tropical notes. 
  • America is known for creating wines that embrace modern winemaking. American winemakers aren’t subject to the strict winemaking laws so common in Europe and therefore can make wines with more freedom of expression.

Winemaking in California

American wine is almost synonymous with Californian wine, but why is it such an ideal environment for growing grapes?

  • It has a Mediterranean climate
    Temperatures during the growing season average 13-21 ºC.
  • There’s an Ideal amount of sunshine

Morning fog cools the vineyards with full sunlight in the afternoon giving an even ripening to the grapes.

  • There’s minimal rainfall and clouds 

Rainfall typically amounts to less than 20 inches in an average season.

  • Mild winters

On the coast the average daytime temperature hovers around 20°C and up and can get up to 30 °C or more on the hottest summer days. Freezing temperatures are rare, even in winter.

  • Low humidity 

Dryer, almost desert-style conditions with relatively low humidity prevent disease from spreading in the vineyard.

With 80 percent of the vineyard acreage in the country and 88 percent of the wines being made here, California is by far the largest wine producer of the 50 US states. Areas in the north and along the coast have cooler climates ideal for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, whereas inland areas get plenty of heat perfect for ripening red grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ripe bunches of Cabernet Sauvignon

The Roots of American Winemaking


The history of wine in America dates back to the early 1560s when the first American colonies were settling on the East Coast. The settlers brought vine plantings with them, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that a sustainable wine industry developed. This had a lot to do with the West Coast becoming part of the United States after the Mexican War. 


When gold was discovered in California in 1849, the population of California skyrocketed as did the demand for alcohol. However, problems started to develop in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the spread of phylloxera, a deadly insect pest that attacks vines. The phylloxera louse had come from Europe through grapevine cuttings. 

The bigger problem however, was a political one that started in 1919. Moral crusaders were questioning the culture and safety of alcohol, eventually leading to the 13-year Prohibition period. Production in California surprisingly increased, as wine was being used for sacramental wine, and consumers started buying grapes to make homemade wine. As most winemakers were not allowed to produce more than 200 gallons of wine, they planted high yield grapes and often made blends of different grape varieties. This started the red blend trend we commonly know to come out of California today.

Focus on varietal wine and innovations


Prohibition was followed by the Great Depression and World War II. These were some of the toughest times to be living in America and it took several decades for the wine industry to recover, rebuild and establish a consumer base. 


The early 1960s were a time of growth and wine became fashionable again, increasing the demand in the industry. Winemakers like Robert Mondavi, Warren Winiarski, and Mike Grgić pioneered the success of producing quality wines that could compete with their European counterparts.

 In France, the Judgment of Paris Tasting that took place in 1976 put California on the map. After a blind tasting, the French wine judges unknowingly voted for a California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon as first-place winners above the finest white Burgundy and Bordeaux classified growths. This was an important date in history as it gave California winemakers the confidence that their wines could compete with well-established winemakers around the globe. It also paved the path for a new level of sophistication among American wine consumers, demand for varietally-labeled wines rather than generic labels became the new standard and place of origin became important. The American wine industry has been gaining traction ever since. 

fog rolls in over the vineyards in California

Introduction of American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s)

American Viticultural Areas (AVA’S) are different from their European Counterparts in that they do not dictate a specific style of winemaking, but they do give a sense of place. There is no minimum or maximum size for an AVA, but it is generally thought that smaller AVAs produce wines of greater quality. America has over 261 distinct AVAs of which 142 are dedicated to California. AVA’s became important as winemaking started to expand as climates can differ quite a bit from place to place. 

In California alone, it would take 12 hours to drive from the most northern edge of the growing region to the very southern end of the growing region. If we look at the AVA’s in the North Coast, we can see a difference in how the wines are made:

  • The Santa Cruz Mountains, which are further north, produce wines with greater acidity and more tannic structure. Example: Ridge Vineyards, a great place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
  • Further south, in Sonoma County, we get wines that are more fruit-forward with softer tannins due to the influence of San Pablo Bay. An example is Shug Estate, which produces good medium and light-bodied reds like Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir and more structured whites like Chardonnay.
  • Inland, in Lodi, the air quality is very different and the valley acts like a vacuum sucking in all of the cold air from the ocean which is great for growing acidic white wines. 

Knowing these qualities about certain AVA’s can help consumers best decide which wines suit their preferences.

Modern Winemaking in California

California has come a long way in the last decade and in many ways is still being defined. More AVAs have been distinguished even in the last few years, with the newest San Luis Obispo Coast AVA just coming on the map in March of 2022. California has added an additional 23 AVAs since 2018 and the wine trade is still growing. 

Online Wine Sales

The latest trends, however, have been centered around technology and more sales are made online than in brick-and-mortar stores since 2021, with Vivino being the largest player. New technology fueled by a thirst for alternative assets has also started a trend in wine investing online, something previously only available to the elite high-net-worth individuals is now readily accessible and helping wineries stay in business. 

Other important American Winemaking States

California has the largest area under vine in the US, but the state has some serious contenders with Washington, Oregon and New York. These states are gaining traction and making a mark on the map. Although these three are the most-recognized American regions after California, it’s important to note that Virginia is an up-and-coming contender for winemaking, with 10 winemaking regions and 8 distinguished AVAs. The US also has a few AVAs in Texas, New Mexico, and one in Arizona, although we don’t normally see these wines on the export market.

Winemaking in Oregon

The Oregon wine industry is primarily dominated by small family-run wineries and is a great source for unique wines. Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines are highly acclaimed and sought-after wines from the region. These are also the most widely available in the Canadian market. 

Oregon is home to 18 AVAs, with the Willamette Valley, Walla Walla Valley and Columbia and Columbia Valley as the best-known ones. Oregon is best suited to cool climate grape varieties and has a climate similar to that of Burgundy. Although to a lesser extent, some of the wineries are producing Rhône varieties which are sourced from the warmer southern parts of Oregon’s Rogue Valley.

Number of AVAs in Oregon: 18

Primary Grapes Grown in Oregon: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine

Winemaking in Washington

Washington is the second largest producer of wine in the US and has the most land under vine next to California. Although winemaking in Washington started near Puget Sound, minimal sunshine made it more viable to grow grapes east of the Cascade Mountains. 

Although the region has nearly desert-like conditions, the vines still get ample water from the glacial runoff from the mountains as well as influence from the Columbia River for irrigation, without which viticulture would be impossible. Washington has 14 AVAs, and most are protected by the rain shadow formed by the Cascade Mountains – creating an ideal and unique climate for grape growing.

Number of AVAs in Washington: 14

Primary Grapes Grown in Washington: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling

Winemaking in New York

New York plays a significant role in America’s winemaking as it was one of the eastern pioneering regions where grapes were first planted in the Americas. However, the state isn’t always ideal for grape-growing as hot, humid summers foster mold and disease, and the climate can often face harsh winters. 

Despite the challenges, New York still maintains a flourishing wine industry. In recent years, New York has grown and modernized its winemaking capabilities substantially. The Finger Lakes are the most important, with 85 percent of the state’s wine production. With a climate similar to Germany, Riesling and Cabernet Franc do well here and most of the region is planted to cold-hardy grapes.

Number of AVAs in New York: 7

Primary Grapes Grown in New York: Riesling, Cabernet Franc, hybrid grape varieties

Want to Discover American Wine?

At WineCollective, we love the wines of our neighboring country. We often feature wine from famous AVAs in California, such as Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, or the Russian River Valley. Occasionally, we feature a wine from Oregon or Washington as well. If you’d like to discover great American wines that are exclusive to Canada, sign up as a member today!

A Journey in Wine: The Wines of Germany

If you’ve ever stared at a German wine label, you probably assumed deciphering it requires next-level skills (and most likely, some reading glasses). However, we urge you to set aside your fear of impossibly long words and umlauts and hear us out. The wines of Germany are worth discovering – and not just Rieslings – and cracking the code of the German wine label is easier than you think.

What’s Germany as a Wine Country Like?

Germany is known as one of the world’s coldest-climate wine regions. Its northernmost vineyards lie well above the normal latitude range for growing grapes and are far from the moderating influence of a large body of water. Through determination (or is it stubbornness?) and hundreds of years of experience with carefully chosen vineyard sites, German winemakers have found a way to produce world-class wines. Many regions have a unique terroir of red and dark blue slate soils that are ideal for absorbing solar heat during the daytime and radiating it back at night, which is why these grapes can still grow and ripen properly even in a harshly cold climate.

Riesling is king, a grape that is one of the most cold-hardy grapes. German Riesling has a worldwide reputation for quality, complexity and ageability. However, German wine is about more than just Riesling: the country also produces many white, red and even sparkling wines. 

Wines of Germany: steep slopes of the Mosel

Why You Should Know About German Wine

Due to its unique climate, Germany can produce wines with a high acidity, which makes them extremely food-friendly and a great pairing to a vast amount of different dishes. Much like German engineering, the wines stand for quality and precision: they are a force to be reckoned with. Read our blog about acidity in wine, and why high-acid wines pair well with food.

What Grapes Are Grown in Germany?

It’s no surprise that white grape varieties dominate the nation, accounting for 66% of the country’s total wine plantings. Germany is home to over 100 different grape varieties however, 20 of those make up most of the plantings that we see in the German export market. 


Riesling is the most widely planted variety, accounting for roughly 20% of total production. Rieslings from Mosel and the Rheingau are the most sought-after worldwide. 


Müller-Thurgau comes after Riesling. This is a Riesling crossing developed for heartiness and its ability to grow in cold climates, but it lacks in flavour and longevity compared to Riesling. You could consider it a “drink now while you are waiting for your Riesling to age” variety. 

Other German Grape Varieties

Germany’s leading grape producers also grow:

  • Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is the most planted red grape variety.
  • Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) is also common and sometimes labeled as Ruländer
  • Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) is less common but still widely available
  • Chardonnay. Germany produces a small amount in a Chablis-style.

Other important grape varieties that are indigenous to Germany and exciting to try include Silvaner and Kerner (whites) and Dornfelder and Portugieser (reds). Most of the red grapes grow in southern German growing regions, whereas most of the whites come from Germany’s northernmost growing regions.

Wines Of Germany Riesling in the vineyard

Quality German Wine Levels

In Germany there are two main quality levels to look for:

Qualitätswein [“Kvahl-it-AYTS-vine”]

These wines are defined as quality wine from a designated region. The wine must come from one of the 13 designated wine growing regions in Germany. This means these wines meet basic level quality standards and are above average table wine. 

Prädikatswein [“Pray-dee-CAHTS-vine”]

This is the highest quality level designation, a notch up from Qualitätswein. This classification is divided into different degrees of ripeness of the grapes at harvest time. 

Kabinett [“Kah-bee-Net”]: Light to medium-bodied wines made from grapes with the lowest ripeness level. Around 7% – 8% alcohol and good for acidity. And if you are a member of WineCollective, you’ll know that this means Kabinett will pair perfectly with lots of different foods!

Spätlese [“SHPAYT-lay-zuh”]: These are late-harvest wines with additional ripeness and can be made in an off-dry or dry style. Perfect to pair with roast pork of moderately spiced Asian dishes.

Auslese [“OWS-lay-zuh]: Selected harvest. These are wines from grapes that have stayed on the vine a bit longer to develop more sweetness. They can also be made from dry to sweet – with the drier styles around 14% alcohol. The drier versions pair better with food, while the sweeter styles are best savoured on their own.

Beerenauslese [“Bih-ren-OWS-lay-zuh”]: Rich, sweet dessert wines made from individually harvested berries. Often affected by botrytis, a fungus that pierces through the grape’s skins and concentrates the juice, and affecting the grapes to exhibit honeyed flavours similar to Sauternes. 

Trockenbeerenauslese [You can do this! “TROH-ken-bih-ren-OWS-lay-zuh”]: Wines from individually picked berries. They are overripe to the point of being raisins and among the sweetest, most unctuous dessert wines.

Eiswein [“ICE-vine”]: Ice wine made from frozen grapes harvested late in the season and very sweet. Yes, Frozen. Picked at temperatures that are a minimum of -7 ºC (We can almost hear the harvesters sing “The cold never bothered me anyway!”)

Wines of Germany: Eiswein - frozen grapes on the vine

What Are Germany’s Main Wine Regions?

Mosel [“MOH-sehl”]

The Mosel is the best-known wine region in Germany. It’s famous for its Rieslings and one of the largest areas in terms of production. This is the most northern wine region in Germany with vineyards so steep that they must hand-harvest the grapes, while balancing on the slopes (see: stubbornness, above).

Known for producing high quality white wine, Riesling takes up 60% of total production with the rest being mostly Müller-Thurgau. Acidity is the hallmark of these wines, balanced by rich flavours of stone fruits and honey. As these wines grow in regions so far north, they usually contain no more than 10% alcohol and are a great choice for those looking for low-alcohol wines.

Rheingau [“RHAYNE-gou”]

This region only produces about 2% of Germany’s wines but is also the most famous for producing the highest quality wines in all of Germany. Among the best examples are Riesling and Spätburgunder [“Sh-PATE-boor-gun-der”] (Pinot Noir). Look to this region for a fuller body-style Riesling.

Nahe [“NAAH-huh”] 

This region is dominated by indigenous white grape varieties. Nahe is a great place to look if you want to find something unique, like a Kerner or Sylvaner. 

Rheinhessen [“RHAYNE-hessen”]

The Rheinhessen leads Germany wine production with the most land under vine and overall wine production. Best known for its Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Dornfelder.

Pfalz [“Pfahlts”]

This region’s name comes from a Latin word meaning “palace” and given this region gets the most sunlight and least cloudy days it’s rather fitting. The Pfalz lies along the border of France and is a stone’s throw away from Alsace. This is the best place to look for affordable Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Baden [“BAH-dun”]

The warmest of Germany’s growing regions and most famous for its red wine production, this is the best place to look for Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Dornfelder and Portugieser.

How to Read A German Wine Label

Now that you know something about the German grape varieties, quality classification system and regions, you can get a lot of information from a German wine label. 

Source: Thomas Er/Wikimedia Commons]

On these labels above, you can spot the name of the producer (“Dönnhoff”), the vintage (“2005” and “2003”), the town (used as an adjective, so “Oberhausen (an der Nahe)” becomes “Oberhäuser”, and the specific vineyard is “Leistenberg”). These are wines from Nahe, with 9% and 11.5% alcohol, respectively. They are both “Qualitätswein mit Prädikat”: one a Riesling Kabinett, the other one a Riesling Kabinett trocken, an off-dry and dry wine.  

Or, if you’re still confused, watch Ernst Loosen, one of the Mosel’s most renowned winemakers, explain it:

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All About Cool Climate Wines

Whether you’re talking about tasting notes, techniques, or even regions, the vocabulary of wine is constantly evolving. As our understanding of the science of winemaking grows, so too does our understanding of what wine is and how we classify it. One way of describing wine that has become increasingly popular in the last decade is by referencing the growing climate. Wine grapes and vineyards in growing regions with cooler temperatures are said to produce “cool climate wines.” 

But what counts as a “cool climate” and what characterizes the wines from these regions? Read on to learn all about the cool climate wine flavour profile, which grape varieties do best in cool climates, what makes a cool climate wine growing region and why it’s more complicated than you might think. 

What is a Cool Climate Wine? 

It might seem like an easy question, but if you’ve ever asked a wine enthusiast or a sommelier, “What exactly IS a cool climate wine?” you probably got a lot more answer than you bargained for! Sure, the basic answer is simple enough – wine made from grapes grown in a region with colder weather – but the factors that go into a “cool” growing region in terms of wine can actually be quite varied!

No matter how they define “cool climate” for themselves, there is one thing that cool climate wine enthusiasts can agree on — what a cool climate wine tastes like. Whether red or white, cool climate wines tend to be light-bodied and lighter on alcohol, and with a fresh, acidic bite. 

The reason for this has to do with how heat interacts with grapes. High temperatures help grapes grow and develop more sugars, faster. Up to a certain point, this is of course a good thing! However, an overexposure to heat and sun – say, if you don’t harvest on time – will lead to an overproduction of sugars and a loss of acidity, which is why grapes grown in hot climates can end up tasting flabby and even jammy. 

On the flip side, grapes in cool climate regions have to really work to ripen, so they’re not overly sugary and have an acidic zing to them since the acidity is not broken down. And of course, since the sugars break down into alcohol during fermentation, a wine’s alcohol content is directly tied to the grape’s sugar content. Basically, a cool climate = less sugar = less alcoholic wine! 

Which Grapes Grow Best in Cool Climates? 

While growing grapes in a cool climate region is always going to be challenging, the type of grape makes a huge difference to a winemaker’s success and failure. In fact, many grape varieties would stand no chance of ripening in a cool climate region! White grapes tend to do better in cool climates, as their thinner skins allow more sunlight and heat to pass through, helping them to ripen fully despite shorter, cooler growing seasons, but some red grape varieties can also stand up to the cold. So what are the best grapes for producing cool climate wines? 

Best Grapes for Cool Climate Red Wines

Like all cool climate wines, cool climate reds tend to have a lighter body, lower alcohol content and high acidity. They also often have tart flavour profiles. 

Red wine grapes that do well in cool climates include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay Noir, and Merlot.

Best Grapes for Cool Climate White Wines

Just like the reds, Cool climate whites will be very light-bodied, have a zingy acidic mouthfeel and low alcohol content. They also tend to have citrusy flavour profiles. 

White wine grapes that do well in cool climates include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer.

What Makes a Cool Climate Wine Growing Region? 

Cool climate wine regions often have colder weather, all four seasons, and a lower average monthly temperature across the growing season, typically 13-15 °C. Of course, even regions outside of that range have been labeled “cool climate” and an average temperature for a span of seven months hides a lot of variety. If you’re looking to nail down some specifics, you might be surprised to learn that there is no official criteria for what makes a cool climate wine region!

That’s because the factors that go into a wine region being “cool” are pretty complex. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the common features of cool climate wine regions. 


Probably the most obvious factor in the climate of wine growing regions is latitude. While there are exceptions, viable grape growing regions are generally confined to latitudes ​​between 30° and 50°. Any closer to the equator, and the grapes get burned up in the extreme heat, any further and they simply fail to ripen. Within this range, geographical regions that are at or close to the 50th parallel are usually considered cool climate wine regions. 

A diagram from WSET, showing the the latitudes where most viable grape-growing regions are located.

High Elevation

Even in warmer regions closer to the equator, higher elevations can dramatically alter the local climate. As a result, vineyards in high elevation areas will often see weather patterns that closely follow those of more “classic” cool climate wine regions. 

Large Bodies of Water

If you live near a large body of water, you’ve probably noticed a pretty dramatic swing in temperature as you drive further inland. Large bodies of water are slow to change temperatures, staying cooler in summer and warmer in winter. They also have a tempering effect on air currents passing over them, which means coastal regions generally get a much more moderate climate overall. Because of this effect, coasts in cold weather regions can make great cool climate growing zones, as nearby bodies of water help make the otherwise frigid temperatures tolerable for the crops. 

Dramatic Diurnal Shifts

While the mental image that “cool climate” produces is usually along the lines of frozen lakes, mounds of snow, and parka-clad children, grapes do require heat and sun to grow, and cool climate wine countries can actually get quite hot in the summers! Even places that you would never associate with a cool climate, such as Australia, have regions that are considered cool climate wine regions. 

This is partially because of elevation, but it is also down to the phenomenon of diurnal temperature variation. Say what? Basically, this refers to the difference in temperature between the hottest and coldest point in a single day. In wine growing regions with dramatic diurnal shifts, hot days that boost sugar development give way to cold nights that stop it in its tracks. As a result, the wines that develop in regions like Southeastern Australia are lighter in body and alcohol content and high in acidity, just like wines made in more “traditional” cool climate wine regions. 

Want to Learn More about Cool Climate Wines? 

This month, WineCollective members have gotten the scoop on cool climate wines with content like our “Ask a Somm” feature, where we interviewed River Café wine director Bruce Soley. If you’ve been enjoying these articles and want to get more knowledgeable about wine, become a WineCollective member today to enjoy informative monthly articles on all aspects of wine and the winemaking industry! (And, of course, a curated selection of incredible wines delivered straight to your door.) 

Exploring the Bordeaux Wine Region

When shopping for wine by region, it’s common to want to start with the best. Which frequently leads people to France’s Bordeaux region. Everyone wants the greatest experience possible when choosing a wine. Why risk getting bad wine?! What can be frustrating about this process, is that “best” can mean “most expensive”. Although it’s nice to splurge sometimes, it isn’t always possible. Classifying the “best French wine” is a subjective topic that we can start to break down by understanding the region better. What makes the Bordeaux wine region so special? Let’s find out!

What is Bordeaux Wine?

Bottle of Bordeaux red wine placed on a map of the Bordeaux wine region

The name Bordeaux derives from “au bord de l’eau,” which means “along the water.” The region is divided by three important rivers: the Garonne, Dordogne, and Gironde. As you may have guessed, any wine produced in the Bordeaux region is considered a Bordeaux. This includes both red and white wines, and includes a vast appellation system to categorize the region. As a result, the appellation system in Bordeaux can be very complex, and dates back to the original classification of the Haut-Medoc AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in 1855. 

How are Bordeaux Wines Classified?

The trick is to imagine Bordeaux like a set of Russian nesting dolls: highly specific and prestigious appellations are nested within increasingly larger sub-regions. The more specific the location on the label, the better (and more expensive) the wine. While broader location names (like the catch-all “Bordeaux” or the slightly smaller “Médoc”) indicate humbler bottlings.

Wine Regions in Bordeaux

Bottle of Bordeaux wine next to a glass of red wine.

The Gironde river provides the most basic, unofficial classification of wines from Bordeaux’s left and right bank. The left bank (to the south and west of the river) is home to the AOCs: 

  • Médoc
  • Haut-Médoc
  • Graves
  • Sauternes 

The red wines here tend to have a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. The right bank, to the north and east, generally have a higher percentage of Merlot, and includes the AOCs: 

  • Cotes de Blaye
  • Pomerol
  • Fronsac
  • St.-Emilion 

What Grapes are in Bordeaux Wine?

Bordeaux grapes on a vine

Red Grapes of Bordeaux

Of the five traditional red grapes of Bordeaux, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are by far the most popular. Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot play a smaller, but still important, supporting role. Red wine in total makes up approximately 90% of all wine produced in Bordeaux.

White Grapes of Bordeaux

White grape varieties are evenly split between Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, with very small amounts of Muscadelle, Ugni Blanc, and Colombard. The most famous whites of Bordeaux are the Botrytis-affected sweet wines of Sauternes.

The grapes in Bordeaux are some of the most sought after in the world. Whether you’re looking for a white or a red, there is something from Bordeaux that will excite your palate. And not necessarily break the bank.

Shop these Amazing Bordeaux Wines!

WineCollective’s Quick Guide to South African Wine

Why drink wine from South Africa?

Boasting nearly 3000 km of coastline, South Africa is the only wine region in the world that is bordered by two oceans. With the Atlantic to the West and the Indian ocean to the East, South Africa is home to many beautiful vistas. One thing South Africa has in common with other wine countries in the world: incredible landscapes. We are hard-pressed to think of a wine region anywhere in the world that isn’t beautiful to look at—and South Africa is no exception. The unique environment created by its combination of geography and climate has made South Africa ideally suited to wine production. South African wine is known for pairing easily with food, approachable price points, and offering a wide range of grapes. Therefore, your next bottle should definitely be South African wine!

How did winemaking start in South Africa?

treed hillside in South Africa's wine country

With a grape-growing history stretching back over 300 years to early Dutch colonists, South Africa is not new to the wine game. Cape Town was an important re-stocking station for trade voyages between Europe and the East Indies. Local wine production was critical and kick-started early-on by cuttings from French grape varieties. Despite South Africa’s wine-growing history starting with colonization, it has been able to flourish past its harsh beginnings. As a nation it does not crack the top 10 in volume of wine production. However, many wine lovers around the world continue to seek out the exceptional quality wines grown and made in South Africa.

What grapes grow in South Africa?

close shot of grape vine

The signature grapes most commonly associated with South Africa are:

  • Chenin Blanc (also called Steen)
  • Pinotage (a made-in-South-Africa crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault)

In addition to these, other major French varieties are also thriving. Some varietals are becoming increasingly available in export markets and are well worth seeking out, including: 

  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Syrah
  • Merlot

The variety in South Africa vineyards is always expanding. As a result of South Africa’s incredible biological diversity, sustainability has become an important watchword for wine producers. Many of such producers invest considerable resources in preserving their land. As a result, you will find new varietals growing in innovative ways here.

Try South African wine today!

bottle of Spier Golden Thread wine laying on its side

We feature South African wine throughout the year and are always happy to help our members discover exciting bottles from regions they may not be familiar with. One of our favourite South African wineries, located just outside the Stellenbosch region, is Spier Wine Farms. Their Golden Thread red blend is excellent and always a great wine to indulge in. Shop Spier now and get exploring South African wine!