Top 10 Wine Selling Countries

By: Sara Elliott

Try wines from various countries until you find your favorite.
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If you're a wine connoisseur, you can travel the world without leaving your dining room table -- or temperature-controlled wine cabinet -- to see what other countries have to offer. Wine is an ancient beverage with very modern appeal. New markets like China have enormous potential for increasing the demand for premium wine. To meet that demand, countries like Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada and South Africa are going head to head with traditional winemaking powerhouses like Italy and France to produce superior wines and market them globally. On the next pages, let's take a look at the top 10 wine producing countries and learn a little about their unique history and contribution to the art of winemaking.

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10. Portugal

Famous for its fortified wines like Madeira and Port, Portugal's topography provides enormous diversity and a varied wine industry. From the harsh weather extremes on the challenging terraces of the upper Douro Valley to the cool breezes along Portugal's long coastline, this country's history of winemaking goes back to Roman times and includes the development of many grape varieties grown nowhere else on Earth.

Portugal also has numerous local red wines or Vinho de Mesa (table wine) and Vinho Regional (VR - regional wine) that have never been marketed commercially. In 2009, Portugal was responsible for a little less than 2.5 percent of all wine produced globally.

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9. South Africa

A winery in Cape Dutch, South Africa
A winery in Cape Dutch, South Africa
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With the abolition of apartheid, South Africa's table wine business really started taking off. Grapes had been a popular crop since the Dutch settlers first introduced them in the 1650s. Until the last couple of decades, though, more than half of South Africa's annual grape harvest was used for the production of grape concentrate and distilled alcohol. Today, South Africa produces almost 3 percent of table wines, and the United Kingdom is one of its biggest customers.

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8. Germany

Winery in Rheingau, Germany
Winery in Rheingau, Germany
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Germany was responsible for about 3 percent of the wine produced in 2009, no small accomplishment when you consider the fact that beer, not wine, is Germany's national beverage. The majority was white wine that relied heavily on the Riesling grape grown on or near the Rhine River in the western part of the country.

German wines are often sweet, with a good balance of alcohol content to acidity. The best vintages are the result of lots of seasonal sunlight that produce sugar-rich grapes for harvest. Other popular grape varieties used in German wines are Silvaner and Muller-Thurgau. About 85 percent of German wine is white, but there's a growing movement to produce more red varieties like Pinot Noir for local distribution.

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7. Chile

The absence of common pests, a temperate climate and abundant water make Chile a paradise for grape growers. The climate conditions in Chile's central valley are sometimes described as a blend of California's Napa Valley and the verdant vineyards of France. With more than 3.5 percent of the market, Chile has experienced steady growth with more than 70 vineyards and counting. Chile relies heavily on Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties and produces many fine wines for export, including Carbernet, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot and Pinot Noir.

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6. Australia

They go big in Australia with large wine storage tanks.
They go big in Australia with large wine storage tanks.
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Responsible for 4.38 percent of the world's wine, Australia originally entered the winemaking business by accident. Two-fisted drinkers with a penchant for demon rum were rowdy enough to make the local governors anxious to find a less alcoholic alternative -- and Australian table wine was born. It would be a great story if heavy drinkers immediately put down their tankards in favor of a nice Chardonnay, but that's not the way it happened. Rum and beer remained the clear favorites until some very clever winemakers in the 1970s learned how to turn the dry and sometimes harsh Australian landscape into productive wineries -- more than 850 of them. Chardonnay and Syrah are the top wine grapes grown Down Under, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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5. Argentina

Another South American entry, Argentina is the fifth largest wine producer in the world with more than 4.5 percent of the market. A majority of the wine made in Argentina has been for domestic consumption, favoring grapes like Criolla, Cereza and other varieties introduced by immigrants and used to create bulk table wines. The times are changing, though.

International investment and growing interest in Argentina as the next big wine producer has changed the complexion and focus of the more than 1,500 vineyards distributed across Argentina's interior. The Malbec grape from France's Bordeaux region and the Bonardo from Italy are now among the most widely planted red grapes for use in the development of Argentina's export-quality wines.

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4. United States

Napa Valley, Calif., is a popular wine destination.
Napa Valley, Calif., is a popular wine destination.
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Today, the U.S. produces almost 11 percent of the world's wine, and that number is growing. There are wineries in all 50 U.S. states, and the Napa Valley of California is widely considered one of the most prized vineyard lands on Earth. The bounty from this one region has elevated U.S. wines to world-class status and helped set a standard that other producers measure themselves against.

For the major European wine producers, winemaking has been an art handed down from generation to generation for many centuries, but the history of winemaking in the U.S. has been relatively brief, a paltry 300 years or so. It hasn't all been smooth sailing, either. Prohibition, a ban on alcoholic beverages that made it illegal to manufacture or sell wine and spirits between 1919 and 1933, sent the promising U.S. wine industry underground for more than a decade in the 20th century.

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3. Spain

Spain produces more than 14 percent of the world's wines in regions like La Rioja, Catalonia and the wet and humid Galicia region. Where the Spanish wines of a few decades ago were dry, dark and probably a bit unappealing to the modern palette, a technological makeover has updated Spain's approach to winemaking -- at least when it comes to reasonably priced white wines that taste fresh and fruity. Add to this the lasting appeal of Sherry, the Spanish lady that no EU country but Spain can claim as its own since 1996, and you have something to celebrate -- with a glass of wine, of course.

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2. Italy

Napa Valley, Calif., is a popular wine destination.
Napa Valley, Calif., is a popular wine destination.
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Italy helped write the book on wine, and at production levels of more than 17 percent of the world's total, Italian wines are still plenty popular and very prolific. Italy vies with France for the top spot in wine production, and they're both big wine consumers, too. If you think of a recently (and happily) emptied Chianti bottle on a checkered tablecloth when you think of Italian wine, you're probably not alone. A glassful of Italian vino brings to mind fun, family and boisterous good times (along with pasta, too). If you also flashed on that grape stomping episode of "I Love Lucy," you get extra points.

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1. France

Winery in  Eguishem, France
Winery in Eguishem, France
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France does for wine what diamonds do for a girl's complexion. A bottle of French wine served on a special occasion whispers elegance, self-assurance and refinement. It may be an accident of geography, a climatic miracle and an almost compulsive attention to detail that's brought France to the position of premier wine producer in the world. With more than 17.5 percent of world production, whatever the French are doing, they're doing it very well. Per capita, the French consume five times more wine than folks in the U.S., so they know their wines inside and out.

Let's part company with a brief list of French winemaking regions that reads like a travel brochure. If this doesn't make you thirsty for a glass of French wine in a charming bistro, nothing will: Bordeaux, Margaux, Medoc, Beaujolais, St. Julien, Pauillac, Sauternes, Burgundy, Chablis and Champagne.

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Sources

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