Category Archives: Wine Guides

Within this section of our website we hope to offer some informative and insightful guides into the fascinating topic that is ‘Wine’.

They are placed here merely to serve as an additional aspect of our service and we hope that in some way they might add to your body of knowledge in this fascinating industry.

Wine By Region | Spain – The Mediterranean Coast

The Mediterranean Coast Wine Region of SpainSpain’s Mediterranean Coast wine region spans the eastern coast of Spain from its northern border with France to the border with Andalucía in the south. Within this vast expanse a wide variety of wines are produced, from crisp, fragrant sparkling Cava wines and dry whites to dense and earthy wines made from Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell, and more.

Here the warmth of the coast can be mitigated by high altitudes, whether in Cataluña or in Valencia. Throughout most of this region world-class wines are being produced in areas such as Priorate and Monsanto as well as in established areas such as Penedés.

In Cataluña, which occupies a triangle-shaped area south of the border with France in Spain’s northeast, elevation as well as proximity and exposure to the sea are crucial to the styles of wine produced. The vineyards of the area may be fairly moderate and coastal, as in Alella DO, or remote and mountainous, as in Priorat DOC/DOCa

South of Cataluña along a long stretch of Spain’s east coast, the land heats up, and as summer temperatures rise, the opportunity to make light wines is baked away. Instead, from northwest of the city of Valencia, south to the Cap de la Nau pointing past Ibiza towards Sicily and all the way to Murcia, the area’s vineyards are wholly dependent upon water. Where water is available for viticulture, many good wines are made, and hardy vines, especially old vines with deep roots that find enough moisture in the soil, survive where water is scarce.

The DO’s of the region are:

Alella DO: Alella’s proximity to Barcelona has added to its success, at least in Spain, but it also now puts the region at risk as the land under vine is worth far more to housing, hotel, and, resort developers than to wineries. Here the Pansá Blanca grape (also known as Xarel-lo and sometimes Pasá Blanca) performs well in the limestone, granite, and sandstone soils of the coastal and hillside vineyards.

Alicante DO: Alicante’s large, present–day 35,000 acres of vineyards pale in comparison to the 230,000+ acres that were bearing fruit before phylloxera destroyed them. Back before phylloxera struck the most proficient grape planted was Moscatel de Alejandría (Muscat of Alexandria, or as it was likely known before, Moscatel of Alicante). The grape and the region have since recovered but it is no longer the powerhouse producing region it was. One of the DO’s famed dessert wines, Fondillón, is now more likely to be made from Monastrell than from Moscatel.

Bullas DO: This is a large region just south of Jumilla where the vineyards in hills and valleys can run from 2,000 to 2,800 feet. Monastrell, Garnacha, and Tempranillo are produced here alongside the famous French grape varieties. The highest areas are considered to give the best quality.

Cataluña DO:  The Cataluña DO was established in 1999 to allow the greatest flexibility to winemakers hopeful of blending commercial wines from throughout this corner of Spain. While most wineries seem to seek the more delineated names of Empordà, Montsant, and the others within the larger Cataluña area, names such as Clos d’Agon are helping to bring greater recognition to DO Cataluña (or Catalunya, in Catalan).

Conca de Barberà DO: The concave (conca) bowl of this limestone–rich valley has produced some outstanding wines which historically have been mostly white wines; the Chardonnay grape thrives here. But Torres, among others, with its Grans Muralles vineyard bottling, has offered proof that this can be an exciting place for reds made with both international and autochthonous varieties. The DO is protected from the sea by the mountains and fed by the Francolí and Anguera rivers.

Costers del Segre DO: This is a top-performing DO that can be found in the province of Lérida. The vineyards are traditionally devoted to Cava production, but Raimat has long been focused upon making top–flight red and white wines from both French and indigenous varieties with international success.

Empordà DO: The Empordà DO can be found lying at the foot of the narrowest section of the Pyrenees and is the closet Spanish wine region to France. Most of the production here is rosado style wines, but the red wines from here are very good too.

Jumilla DO: The high, hilly vineyards of Jumilla still have ungrafted vines planted. Almost all the wine produced in this DO is red and it is the Monastrell grape that seems to thrive here.

Montsant DO: The Montsant DO is potentially a very exciting region that is forging a growing reputation for the quality of wines produced here. It’s vineyards surround the edges of Priorat, and shares grapes (Garnacha & Cariñena) and styles also with its more illustrious neighbour. The only great differences between the two are that the vineyards are usually not as old and the elevations and terrains are not as wild in Montsant as they are in Priorat.

Penedés DO: While Cava can be made in many of the DOs throughout Spain, almost 90 percent is made in the Penedés DO. With good money available to vineyard owners who want to sell early–picked grapes to Cava producers, there is little reason to grow grapes for high–quality table wine. There are excellent red and white wines made in the region, but it is the sparkling Cava wines which rule here.

Pla de Bages DO: Bages is a derivative of Bacchus, the name of the Roman God of Wine, and although winemaking is an old tradition in Bages this is still just an up-and-coming wine region with many newly planted vineyards and a number of small modern bodegas. International varieties, as well as Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Macabeo, are performing well here, and many people enthuse over the white Picapoll grape, which is perfectly pleasant and crisp.

Tarragona DO: Before 2004, the Tarragona DO contained Montsant, but the best vineyards, especially those around Falset, were divided off and combined with elevated areas north of Priorat to make the Montsant DO. The greater part of the vineyards of the Tarragona DO are given to Cava production, although there are some very good white and red wines to be hunted out.

Terra Alta DO: This region lies in the highlands well away from the coast and produces some very good everyday drinking red and white wines. The traditional grapes of Garnacha, Cariñena. Temparnillo, Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, and Parellada dominate the vineyard plantings.

Utiel-Requena DO: This is a large and important DO producing region of Spain that focuses on red wine production in the extreme west of the province of Valencia. Bobal is the grape variety that appears to be leading the way.

Valencia DO: Valencia is historically famed for its wines, Spain’s third largest city sold wines from everywhere, not only from its native vines. There are some very good red wines produced from the Monastrell grape, but it is the Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes which are really catching the eye here.

Yecla DO: Yecla is situated bewteen Alicante and Jumilla and share’s many similar traits aspect wise to those in Jumilla. Monastrell is the red grape which performs well here as too the dessert style wines.

Priorat DOC/DOCa: Priorat is Spain’s second DOCa along with Rioja and is one of the country’s oldest appellations. It is regarded as one of Spain’s wine producing super-stars with some of the country’s most expensive wines being made in the region. The area has a dry climate and poor soil in which the vines roots spread everywhere in search of water. The new style of red wines made here are stunningly rich and powerful.

Wine By Region | Spain – The Meseta

The Meseta Wine Region of SpainThe Meseta (also known as the Central Plateau) wine region of Spain is an enormous wine producing region that produces nearly half of all the wine in Spain. Almost two-thirds of all Spain’s vineyards are planted upon this vast central plateau which encapsulates Madrid to the north, Cáceres to the west and Albacete to the east. It is home to the world’s most widely planted white grape variety, ‘Airén’, a grape that produces rather unspectacular table wine but does excel when distilled for the production of Brandy de Jerez.

For a long time it was considered that no wine of any real quality could be made on the ‘tabletop’ that represents the centre of the elevated plateau in Spain; however, huge European Union investment has attracted a number of foreign buyers into the region who recognise the potential to be had here, especially by planting vineyards in amongst the significant mountain spots dotted throughout the region.

A broad range of grape varieties including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have been introduced into the region taking advantage of the strong differences between day-time and night-time temperatures which grapes appear to thrive upon and now resulting in the production of very good high-quality wines.

The work of Carlos Falcó (Marqués de Griñón, owner of Dominio de Valdepusa and other estates) in the region led to the creation of the highest tier of Spanish wine designations called Vino de Pago which is a single vineyard area designation. His Dominio de Valdepusa vineyard became the first to receive a Vino de Pago DO and there are now a total of eight DO Pago’s in the region.

The Denominación de Origen regions in the Meseta wine region are:

Almansa DO is a large wine producing region but home to only a few wine producers. The region produces mostly Monastrell and shows great potential not only with value but with their high quality oak-aged wines.

La Mancha DO is a large region that relies heavily on its plantings of the local Airén grape for brandy production. There are other grape varieties in production including Macabeo, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay all of which prove a popular partner to the local Manchego cheese.

Manchuela DO has several wineries championing the indigenous Bobal grape for both red and rosado style wines.

Méntrida DO is separated from the beautiful city of Toledo by the Tajo River and is a vast, flat and sandy region planted primarily with the Garnacha grape, although other vines such as Tempranillo, Albillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon are also planted. Madrid is just to the northeast of this DO and provides a welcome local market for the reds and rosados.

Mondéjar DO is a small region with some vineyards planted at elevations approaching 3000 feet offering great potential in the future.

Ribera del Guadiana DO is a sprawling region that touches the border to Portugal and has a myriad of grape varieties planted that are a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese and French. Winemaking has flourished here since Roman times, and the city of Mérida includes an amphitheatre, an aqueduct, bridges, a circus, and a hippodrome from those long-gone imperialists.

Ribera del Júcar DO is located to the eastern side of the La Mancha DO. The extreme summer temperatures are mitigated by elevation (vineyards are planted at roughly 1800 feet) and the proximity of the river Júcar. The most popular varieties grown include Cencibel and Bobal.

Uclés DO is a small region that is prone to some of the most extreme temperatures in Spain. Even though large producers dominate, the region shows potential based on its higher elevation vineyards.

Valdepeñas DO is a wine region of nearly 70,000 acres planted to Garnacha, Cencibel, Airén, and Macabeo grapes. The wines produced here have a centuries–long legacy of international popularity.

Vinos de Madrid DO is a region rapidly diminishing because of the growth of the city, however, towards the south there is a focus on two local white grapes: Malvar and Albillo. The area of Vinos de Madrid that’s farthest from the city has many ancient Garnacha vineyards.

The Vino de Pago DO’s include: Pago Calzadilla, Pago Campo de la Guardia, Pago Casa del Blanco, Pago Dehesa del Carrizal, Pago Dominio de Valdepusa, Pago Finca Élez, Pago Florentino and Pago Guijoso.

Discover more about the Meseta Wine region of Spain online.

Wine By Region | The USA – California

Discover Californian Wines Online

America’s golden state of California has winemaking traditions which date back to the late 1700’s, when Spanish missionaries introduced winemaking to California from Mexico. With almost 250 years of wine-making skills and experience together with the perfect year-round climate to grow grapes, California is arguably one of the best places on earth to make outstanding wine.

Discover California and Californian Wines Official Website

California’s 800 miles of rugged coastline expose nearby vineyards to natural ‘air conditioning’ in the form of fog and sea-breezes which provide ideal conditions for the production of exceptional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. Further inland the warmer interior valleys receive the same cooling effect due to the rivers, lakes and deltas that run through them. Vines planted along the hillsides obtain the perfect mix of cooling air and bright sunshine allowing grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to thrive.

Every bottle of Californian wine lists the geographical origin, or appellation, where the grapes were grown. Appellations in the state are defined either by political boundaries, such as the name of a county, or by federally recognised growing regions, called American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). For a wine to carry an AVA name on its label, at least 85% of the grapes must be grown in that AVA.

There are numerous wine regions spread throughout California and these are to be found in the main wine producing areas of: The North Coast, The Central Coast, The Sierra Foothills, The Inland Valleys, Southern California and Far North California. The wine regions of California are divided into AVA’s, of which there are presently over 100.

The North Coast is one of California’s coolest regions and is home to more than half of the states wineries and to some of the world’s most celebrated producers. The regions found on the North Coast include: Napa Valley, Lake County, Mendocino County, Sonoma County and Los Carneros.

Discover more about the wines of California’s North Coast wine region.

San Francisco’s ‘Golden Gate Bridge’ paves the way south into the state’s ‘Central Coast’ where you will find wine from regions including: Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey County, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County.

Discover more about the wine styles of California’s Central Coast wine region

The Sierra Foothills was the epicentre for California’s Gold Rush and attracted thousand’s of immigrants who sought fortune in the mines and left their vines in the ground. Famous landmark attractions to the area include Lake Tahoe and the Yosemite National Park as well as numerous Ghost Towns that serve as a reminder of the old wild west. The Sierra Foothills is a quality wine producing area and home to some very good wine made only in very small quantities.

Discover more about the wine producers and their wines in the Sierra Foothills.

The Inland Valleys of California are home to some of the most fertile farmlands in the entire world and wine producers across regions such as Lodi, Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley are producing excellent quality wines from a range of grape varieties.

Discover more about the wine regions of California’s Inland Valleys.

The Southern California wine region is nestled in and around the valleys and foothills of famous locations such as Malibu, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, where one vineyard is planted at 1,300 metre’s above sea-level, the highest vineyard elevation in California.

Discover more about wines produced in Southern and the Far North of California

Wine By Region | The USA – Pacific Northwest

Washington State WinesThe Pacific Northwest is the largest wine region in North America and encompasses a collection of varied wine making areas and more than 1,000 wineries. The region is relatively unknown to wine drinkers outside of the USA, however, wine production is on the increase and it is now fast becoming recognised as a source of truly world-class wines desirable across the globe.

The region broadly consists of America’s three northwestern states: Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The Pacific Ocean defines the western border of the region, from northern California in the south to the Canadian border in the north.

The Yakima Valley which runs through Washington is roughly the same latitude as northern Bordeaux and southern Burgundy and so it is no surprise to note that the state has become well known for its powerful Bordeaux and Rhône style wines.

The primary grape varieties grown in Washington State include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah for red wine production and Chardonnay and Riesling for white wine production.

The ‘American Viticultural Areas’ (AVAs) of Washington include: Ancient Lakes, Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Lake Chelan, Naches Heights, Puget Sound, Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, Wahluke Slope, Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley.

For more in depth reading on the wines of Washington State, the wineries and wine regions visit the official Washington State Wine Website.

Oregon is the coolest state in the Pacific Northwest with a wet, maritime climate and has long been noted for the production of outstanding Pinot Noir red wines as well as exceptional Pinot Gris and Chardonnay white wines.

The approved AVAs for Oregon state include: Applegate Valley, Chehalem Mountains, Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Dundee Hills, Elton Oregon, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Red Hill Douglas County, Ribbon Ridge, The Rocks District, Rogue Valley, Snake River, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Willamette Valley and Yamhill-Carlton.

For further information on the wine regions of Oregon, the wineries and wine styles visit the official Oregon Wine Board Website.

To buy wine online from the Pacific Northwest wine region of America take a look at the range of wines from Oregon and Washington State for sale at the Hic! wine shop > Buy Wine from the Pacific Northwest of America Online

Argentina | A Guide to the Wines of Argentina

Argentina’s dynamic wine industry has boomed over the past decade thanks to rapid modernisation and a great deal of investment, lured by the potential that exists in the country’s high altitude vineyards. The country is divided into three primary wine regions: The North; Cuyo (central) and Patagonia in the south each with their own distinct wine districts.

The wine producing area of Mendoza, in the far west along the foothills of the Andes, is by far the most significant wine – growing province, with over 150,000 hectares of vineyard giving huge variation in grape varieties and style. Other key wine producing provinces in Argentina are: Jujuy; Salta; Catarmaca; Tucuman; La Rioja; San Juan; La Pampa; Neuquen and Rio Negro.

Malbec, native to South West France, is Argentina’s flagship grape variety and seems to have found its true home in upper Mendoza, particularly in Luján de Cuyo (designated Argentina’s first controlled appellation in 1993). The second most planted red variety is Bonarda, which is enjoying considerably more success here than its native Italy. Other popular red grape varieties planted in Argentina are amongst others: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir.

Torrontés is an increasingly popular white grape choice alongside more traditional varieties of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Sémillon.

Australia | A Guide to the Wines of Australia

Drought, water restrictions, devastating fires, frost, a plague of locusts, monsoons, floods and latterly a wave of powdery mildew have all conspired to make life a challenge for Australian wine producers in recent times.

Nobody ever claimed Australia was an easy place to grow grapes, yet we do have an image of the Australian way of life as being quite laid back and straight forward. However, the recent run of extreme weather has tested the mettle of the most talented winemakers!

Thankfully, they are not found to be sitting around complaining, instead they have taken their destiny in their own hands and ensured that the wine that they bring to market is now better than it has ever been.

Austria | A Guide to the Wines of Austria

Austria’s 51,000 hectares of vineyards are concentrated in the east and southeast of the country, with the vast majority of its varied and individual wines orginating from the provinces of Lower Austria and Burgenland.

The Kamptal district of Lower Austria produces some of the country’s most concentrated Grüner Veltliners, the national speciality, as well as fine Rieslings, and is home to a number of Austria’s most innovative winemakers.

In contrast, Burgenland’s sunnier climes are producing increasingly high quality red wines, particularly from Blaufränkisch and the indigenous Zweigelt.

Canada | A Guide to the Wines of Canada

Despite severe winters and unpredictable springs, Canada has thriving wine industry that dates back to the early 19th Century. Since the late 1980s, greater emphasis on appropriate site selection has seen vinifera vine varieties enjoy increasing success, particularly in Ontario and British Colombia.

Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula is the largest wine region in Canada, its continental extremes are moderated by its location between Lakes Ontario and Erie. The Chardonnay grape thrives here, and Pinot Noir performs well in warmer years, but the area is also producing top quality ice-wine.

Chile | A Guide to the Wines of Chile

At more than 2,500 miles long and an average of just 110 miles wide, Chile has an enviable geographic and climatic diversity ideally suited for interesting and varied grape-growing. Famously phylloxera-free for its entire wine-producing history, Chile’s dry summers invariably yield exceptionally healthy grapes, and the best of the country’s forward-looking winemakers are turning these into higher quality and better value-for-money wines.

Traditionally, most of Chile’s wine has come from the 1000km long Central Valley plateau, which includes the Maipo region, lying just south of the capital Santiago and producing what is considered to be the country’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.

A unique point of difference open to Chilean wine producers is the capacity to exploit the red grape variety Carmenère. Originally a Bordeaux variety (where it has virtually died out now), Carmenère was discovered in Chile masquerading as Merlot. A pure ungrafted variety of impeccable breeding Carmenère has the potential to fly the flag for Chilean wines unchallenged (as yet!) by major plantings anywhere else in the world.

Casablanca is one of Chile’s coolest regions and is particularly suited to the grape varieties Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

England | A Guide to the Wines from Great Britain

The vineyards of England are concentrated in the warmest southern counties of Kent and Sussex, yet grape ripening on our shores is still a risky business. As a result, it is imperative to select vineyard sites that minimise the effects of the cool, wet climate.

The hallmark high acidity of English wine lends itself to traditional method sparkling wine production, so it is no surprise that it is these wines that are making people sit up and take notice of what can really be achieved in our home country. For those who like a drop or two of good quality sparkling wine, then the likes of Ridgeview and Nyetimber are certainly names to look out for!