Wine 'Region' & 'Reason'

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

On my previous wine blog, I share my tips on how I discover rare gems for good value when I blindly travel around the world of wine, highlighting the wine region as a major point of reference.

While wine has been described as a window into places, cultures and times, geographers have realised that the same grape grown in different geographic regions produced wine with differing taste characteristics.

When you know what wines are suitable for your palate, you may want to spend a little time researching the regions in which your preferred varietals are produced because the climate of individual regions has the greatest influence on the wine style. However if you are new to wines and feeling a bit confused or intimidated when faced with a myriad of choices as you try to figure out which wine works for you, I would like to take this opportunity to influence your wine choices based on my top 5 wine regions and what grape varieties they are best known to produce.

A great source I came across that provides a deeper understanding of the influences that geography can play on wine production is the book “Geography of wine,’ edited by Dougherty, Percy H. (Ed.). This book discusses the impact of an area’s geography on its wine production as well as how geographers study wine production while featuring an analysis of the regions in which grapes and wines are produced.

The perception of the quality of any wine is inevitably influenced by your individual palate. Just because the top 3 major wine regions of the world (France, Italy, and Spain) produce almost half of all the wine produced in the world enough to fill 5,127 Olympic-sized swimming pools, your wine exploration should not just stop there. As long as you keep an open palate and appetite to experience more far beyond, the world of wine is here for your enjoyment.

Here are my top 5 regions that quench my wine-loving thirst and happen to rank among the top ten leading wine exporters.

1. South Africa

Constantia Wine Valley, South Africa | Photo Credit: Rhino Africa

My wine love affair begun right here in South Africa where my wine journey officially begun, where the Cape winelands stretch from the rugged mountains and multi-directional slopes of the coastal region to the open plains of the Klein Karoo where viticulture takes place mainly in the riverine valleys. South Africa's vineyards are mostly situated in the Western Cape near the coast. Travel over the mountains into the hinterland and the rainfall decreases dramatically with the vegetation dominated by hardy succulents, cycads and aloes.

Just as the wildlife industry has the Big Five, the South African wine industry boasts the Big Six, which refers to the cultivars: Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. On my entry into the wine market as winepreneur, Liz Ogumbo Wines, I released a 71% Chenin Blanc/ 29% Chardonnay blend 2017 named ‘Msenangu’ and a Pinotage 2013 named Mon Homme to pay homage to my love affair with the South African wine industry.

Moving forward, as I continue to explore South African wines as a wine consumer and winepreneur, I am also working towards more wine releases in collaboration with key winemakers in the wine industry to highlight more varieties including a personal favourite of dark fruit, cedar and spicy notes brought to life by the cabernet Sauvignon which is the most widely planted red grape in South Africa.

As a wine producing country since the 17th Century, South African wines offer impressively good value, and feature a vast variety of styles blending elegance and power.

2. Australia

Seppeltsfield Winery, Barossa Valley Australia

Moving on to another one of my favourite red wine regions, the key to unlocking the potential of Australia's wines is understanding the geographical distinction of its vineyards. The five most important wine states in Australia are: Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania.

A tremendously versatile grape variety, Syrah (originally called Shiraz) from the Barossa Valley in South Australia produces a full-bodied Shiraz with jammy fruit and a hint of spice. As Barossa wine producer Peter Lehmann says, 'When God invented shiraz,

he did it with Australia in mind.'

Another Australian fave in my world of wine is the Cabernet Sauvignon which has a long history in Australia dating back to the mid 1800s. Balancing the dark, rich fruit with flavours of mint and eucalyptus while bringing forth a beautiful balance of fruit, acidity and tannin, the cabernet sauvignon can age gracefully for decades and is a feature in many of Australia’s most historic and successful wines.

Australia successfully grows a range of other grapes including Grenache, Mourvèdre, and pinot noir in reds; chardonnay, Riesling, sauvignon