The region in which the wine grapes are grown can have a powerful effect on the flavor of the wine. Things like climate, soil, and topography of a certain region can all have a major impact on the taste of wine. For this reason, most of the best wine clubs in the world pay close attention to the regions they include in their selection.
When someone uses the term, Old World wines they are referring to wines that are made in Europe and the Middle East. These types of wines come from the original birthplaces of wine like Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece, Portugal, Lebanon, Israel, Croatia, Georgia, Romania, Hungary, and Switzerland.
The Old World wines are known for their lighter body, lower alcohol content, and brighter acidity. The flavor profile often has earth-driven flavors that give way to more tropical fruit notes on the finish with time in barrel aging or when paired well with food sources such as game meats which have strong spices like a pepperoni pizza!
The main similarity between all the Old World wines is that their winemaking is heavily restricted, with special guidelines that all wineries must follow to produce wine. Each country or the wine region of the Old World has been making wine in a certain way for centuries, so the current winemakers have to respect those old standards and continue their tradition.
Europe has some of the best vineyards in the world that produce some of the best quality bottles of wine. There are dozens of Old World wine regions to choose from, so it can be a truly difficult decision.
That is why in this article, we will go over the five most famous Old World wine regions and their key characteristics. Hopefully to inspire you to explore some of the most predominant Old World wine-producing regions.
The Bordeaux Wine Region in France
Bordeaux is one of the most famous wine regions for expensive dry red and white wines. The Bordeaux wine region is very large, with 271 816 acres of vineyards. The region is divided into two smaller regions Left Bank and Right Bank.
Left Bank Region
Bordeaux wines are made with a blend of grape varieties grown in a warm maritime climate. Médoc, often called the left bank of Bordeaux, has some of the most famous wineries with the highest concentration of gravel in the soil. The wines from the Medoc region have flavors of cassis, mint, and tobacco. Some of the most famous bottles of wine from this region are Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, and Haut-Médoc.
The Médoc wines are Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. They are great age-worthy wines that need to spend years in the cellar before drinking them.
Right Bank Region
Libournais or Right Bank Bordeaux wines are full-bodied with silky tannins and flavors of chocolate, ripe plum, violets, and black cherry. The right bank has more clay and limestone, which means the soil, is quite cooler and better suited for wines that do not need much warmth to ripen.
For example, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Graves and Pessac-Léognan are the closest vineyards to the city of Bordeaux that produce cellar-worthy blends with red and black fruit flavors, spice, and tobacco. But also dry white wine blends with flavors of pineapple, hay, honey, and vanilla. Some famous wines from this region are Pessac-Léognan and Graves.
The Sauternais region is most famous for its sweet marmalade, honey, and spice wines. The sweetness in the wines comes naturally in areas with fog and morning mist during harvest. Some famous golden-colored white wines from Sauternais are Sauternes and Barsac.
The Entre-Deux-Mers also known as the region between the two seas has a cooler climate, which is why it produces zesty and refreshing red and white wines. And the Bourg & Blaye Regions offer amazing value dry white wine blends like Côtes de Blaye. Bordeaux wines are all unique and special and have inspired many famous wines.
The Piedmont Wine Region in Italy
Piedmont is one of the most known wine regions in Italy. The cold from the Alps and the warmth of the Mediterranean affect the temperature in the Piedmont area. Because the area is cooler the wines are lighter tasting with higher acidity.
Piedmont has two sub-regions Asti, Alba, and Piedmont's heartland, and Alto Piemonte and northern Piedmont. The Piedmont wines are made from three different key grape varieties.
Nebbiolo is a grape variant that makes wines with high acidity, alcohol, and tannins. The flavor palate dominates with flavors of red and black fruits, violet, rose, mushroom, tar, leather, and spice. The wines typically age for long periods of time. Some finest examples are Barolo and Barbaresco.
Barbera is another famous grape variant from the provinces of Alba, Asti, and Alessandria. They are high in acidity, with relatively low tannins and alcohol. They usually have red fruit characters and rich, rustic, and silky notes.
Of the three main red grapes in Piedmont is the Dolcetto grape. Dolcettos are easy-drinking wines with low acidity and formidable tannins. They are deep purple in color with flavors of black fruit, violet, licorice, and almonds.
Cortese grapes originate from the Gavi area and are usually cultivated in lime-rich marl soils. They produce fruity-floral wines with notes of apple, peach, lemon, and white flowers.
Arneis is also a famous white wine grape from the Piedmont region they are often mixed with Nebbiolo wines to help tame down their tannic taste. Their wines tend to be fruity, floral, and herbaceous, with low acidity and notes of white peach, pear, green apple, and citrus.
And the most famous grape variant, Moscato produces sweet, sparkling, highly aromatic quality wines. The Piedmont region produces top-quality wines that remain popular not only in Italy but all over the world.
The La Rioja region in Spain
La Rioja is located in north-central Spain and it is one of the most prestigious wine regions in Europe. The wines from this region are very strictly regulated they have a lot of production boundaries and special techniques that they must follow.
The region is divided into three sub-areas. Rioja Alta, a right-bank region with a northwest Atlantic climate and clay-limestone soil. Rioja Alavesa is a left-bank region with an Atlantic climate and clay calcareous soil. And Rioja Oriental right bank region with a warmer, dryer climate with a clay ferrous.
Each sub-region offers different wine styles, production techniques, and general culture. Rioja Alta red wines are mostly a blend of different grape variants. The wines are elegant and earthy with good color, structure, and high acidity with flavors like cured leather, stewed plums, raisins, tobacco, and dark chocolate.
Rioja Alavesa wines are mostly based on the Tempranillo grape. They are brightly colored with warm fruity flavors. They have an intense black raspberry aroma and flavors like vanilla, licorice, and spice.
Rioja Oriental produced high-alcohol, powerful full-bodied wines. The reds have fresh, intense aromas of fresh fruit. La Rioja produces the perfect Spanish wines, so they are a great start if you want to explore Old World Spanish wine.
No matter which wine region you decide to explore, we are sure you will be satisfied with your choice. There are many lovely wine regions in Europe to enjoy just make sure you do a little background check and some research before you decide on one.
A great way to explore the Old World wine regions is through international wine clubs that offer a wide variety of different wines from different regions around the world. So, grab a wine glass and get sipping!