WORLD TOUR

South AfricaSouth Africa's climate is almost identical to Napa's, with mineral-rich soil that produces easy-to-drink wines. South Africa's wine business is dominated by large firms, which export around 20% of their product.The most common grape is white (chenin blanc), but the country is also the world's biggest producer (and until fairly recently, the only producer) of pinotage, which combines the

South Africa

South Africa's climate is almost identical to Napa's, with mineral-rich soil that produces easy-to-drink wines. South Africa's wine business is dominated by large firms, which export around 20% of their product.

The most common grape is white (chenin blanc), but the country is also the world's biggest producer (and until fairly recently, the only producer) of pinotage, which combines the cherry flavor of pinot noir with the earthiness of a Rhone wine. South Africa also produces chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.

Spain

The Spanish wine market has for years been dominated by Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines, but that's starting to change.

"The Spanish are moving toward varietals like tempranillo, garnacha (grenache), albarino and verdejo," said Kurt Lorenzi, vice president of sourcing and wine making for the Winery Exchange in San Francisco.

Spanish wines are doing well, particularly the white albarinos, said Scott Kamp, corporate wine buyer for Meijer in Grand Rapids, Mich. "They're easy drinkers, with no pretense, but they're not cheap and cost around $12, which is on the high side." Spanish Riojas generally cost $9 to $20. "The reputation behind Spanish wines helps," he said.

Argentina

An unexpected fact: Argentina produces around the same amount of wine as the United States, which makes it the fourth or fifth wine producer in the world, depending on the year. Argentina's wines have recently become better known, particularly malbecs, Kamp said. This grape used to be a blending grape, but 100% Argentine malbecs are now selling well, retailers and consultants said.

Another popular Argentinean wine is torrontes, a white that's very floral, Lorenzi said. Argentina produces many other wines, including Pedro Gimenez, moscatel, chenin blanc, semillon, Riesling, chardonnay, tempranillo, barbera, sangiovese, lambrusco, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and syrah.

Germany

Most German wines are white, fruity, off-dry or sweet, low-alcohol and unoaked. German wines are enjoying a comeback; case volume sales rose 10% in 2004, Lorenzi said. "Marketing has changed so [labels are] now much easier for U.S. customers to understand," he said.

German vintners have changed their techniques slightly to produce wines that that are oakier and drier, in hopes of gaining acceptance.

White grapes grown here include Riesling, muller-thurgau, silvaner, kerner, scheurebe and rulander (pinot gris). Reds include spatburgunder (pinot noir), portugieser and trollinger.

New Zealand

New Zealand wines are coming hot on the tail of Australia's success.

"New Zealand is riding the press, and they are good marketers," said John Gillespie, owner of Wine Opinions, a research company in St. Helena, Calif. "They're not afraid to embrace new packaging, and it's paid off for them. They haven't had a marketing campaign per se but are forward-looking and aggressive."

New Zealand produces over 17 wine varietals, predominantly white. The North Island, whose climate is cooler, produces muller-thurgau, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. The South Island, which only discovered its ability to grow grapes in 1973, produces chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

New York

Open since 1839, the Brotherhood Winery in New York is said to be the oldest continuously operating winery in the United States. New York is the second largest wine-producing state, with 85% of its wine produced in the Finger Lakes region.

New York wines are getting more press, particularly following this year's U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a ban on out-of-state shipments. New York pinot noir, Riesling, cabernet sauvignon and merlot wines are popular, as well as more unusual varietals such as Catawba, Delaware, Niagara, seyval blanc, baco noir and Marechal Foch.

"If any region is profiting most from the direct shipping rules, it's New York state," Gillespie said.

Virginia

Virginia had just six wineries in 1979, but by 2001 it had 75, which produced more than 285,000 cases of wine. Virginia is now the 10th largest producer of commercial grapes in the United States. Virginia tends to produce chardonnays and viogniers, but also makes chardonnay, pinot grigio, Riesling, gewurztraminer, sauvignon blanc, seyval blanc, vidal blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and pinot noir.