Best Countries for Wine, Ranked
Humans have been enjoying wine for more than 6,000 years, and the drink’s popularity has only risen over time. Through the use of agro-technology and the rise of global commerce, more countries are producing wine in the 21st century than ever before.
But at the risk of starting a serious debate, we’re just going to be honest: Not all countries that produce wine are worth visiting for their wine. Instead, head to these 15 countries where wineries abound and the quality of wine is unmatched. We even ranked them, based on personal staff opinion, which we'd happily defend over a delicious glass of vino.
Best wine to try: Areni Noir
Best wine region: Vayots Dzor
Why Go Wine Tasting in Armenia
Armenia isn’t very well known as a wine country, which is simply outrageous considering that it is where wine production was invented. The Eurasian nation has the oldest winery ever found, the Areni Cave, which dates back to about 6,100 years ago.
The cave is located in the Vayots Dzor wine region, where you’ll be able to taste Armenia’s Areni wines. This local variety has been produced with the same grapes and techniques for centuries, so you’ll literally be drinking a glass of history. Hey, why change something that’s already perfect?
Best wine to try: Mukuzani
Best wine region: Kakheti
Why Go Wine Tasting in Georgia
Ah Georgia, the most underrated wine destination in the whole world. Wine is as important and ubiquitous for Georgians as it is for the French. But most of it stays home rather than being exported, so the world has yet to fully appreciate it.
What makes Georgian wine unique is that most of its 500 varieties of grape are completely native. Though some of these grapes may be found in other countries, it’s rare to see Georgian wine made with imported grapes. This means that most of the wine you try will be different from anything else you’ve ever tasted.
Best wine to try: Chasselas Blanc
Best wine region: Lavaux
Why Go Wine Tasting in Switzerland
It’s surprising that most people don’t think of Switzerland as a wine-producing country. After all, the nation shares borders (hence, climate) with both France and Italy.
There are many wine regions in Switzerland, but the most famous is Lavaux. The canton’s vineyards are almost impossibly beautiful, with hilly rows contrasting cold, blue lakes and tall mountains. This beauty, plus their almost 900-year history has earned the Lavaux vineyards UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Best wine to try: Riesling
Best wine region: Moselle Valley
Why Go Wine Tasting in Germany
Germany? For wine? No, we aren’t confused with another country. Germany may be more famous for its beer than its wine, but there are numerous vineyards throughout the country.
Many of the country's vineyards are in the Moselle Valley along the Rhine River, which shares borders with France. This is definitely where you want to go for a German wine-tasting tour to try some of the country’s famed white wines.
Best wine to try: Vinsanto
Best wine region: Santorini
Why Go Wine Tasting in Greece
The Greeks have been enjoying wine since antiquity and are actually the ones who spread it through most of Europe. That’s right, if France, Spain and Italy enjoy their wine — and if the rest of the world enjoys it with them — it’s thanks to the ancient Greeks. They even had a specific god of wine and wine making, Dionysus.
Today, Greece has been largely overshadowed by other wine countries, but it continues to produce the drink in its mainland as well as many of its numerous islands. One of the most popular wine regions is Santorini, whose volcanic nature gives wine a deep, unique flavor. The fact that you can enjoy the island’s famed white and blue towns as you sip wine doesn’t hurt either.
10. New Zealand
Best wine to try: Sauvignon Blanc
Best wine region: Marlborough
Why Go Wine Tasting in New Zealand
Though it started producing wine only last century, New Zealand has quickly made a name for itself in the world market. The country’s climate makes it possible to grow wine grapes on both of its islands. Because of this, wine tasting is an extremely popular activity for visitors.
Marlborough is the best-known wine-producing region in New Zealand, with Sauvignon Blancs that have a prestigious reputation. The region’s wine is complemented by the country’s famously astonishing landscapes of deep lakes and rugged hills.
Best wine to try: Shiraz
Best wine region: Yarra Valley
Why Go Wine Tasting in Australia
Australia’s diverse landscapes make for a very interesting wine market. All Australian states produce wine with their own distinctive flavor, courtesy of the varied terrain. That said, most of the wine you’ll find will come from the southern regions of South Australia and Victoria.
An easy day trip from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley has some of the country’s most popular winery tours. Here, we recommend trying the Chardonnays and the sparkling wines, though the Pinot Noirs are also quite good.
8. South Africa
Capital: Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein
Best wine to try: Pinotage
Best wine region: Cape Winelands
Why Go Wine Tasting in South Africa
Winemaking in South Africa goes back to the 17th century and mostly centers around the winelands that surround Cape Town.
The country has a perfect climate for wine and uses techniques that are both “Old World” (read: European) and “New World” (read: basically everywhere else.) The country has a signature varietal called Pinotage that you should definitely try during a wine tour. It’s a deep earthy red that you’ll find no matter where you are in the country, but it always tastes better at a vineyard.
Best wine to try: Port
Best wine region: Douro Valley
Why Go Wine Tasting in Portugal
Portugal doesn’t export as much wine as neighboring Spain does, but winemaking (and drinking) are just as important to the Portuguese.
The country has many wines that you won’t find anywhere else, including its famous thick, sweet Port wines and airy Vinho Verde (green wine). Pair them with some of the country’s many, many cheeses as you tour wine regions like the UNESCO-listed Douro Valley, Madeira Island or Alentejo.
6. United States
Capital: Washington, D.C.
Best wine to try: Zinfandel
Best wine region: Napa Valley
Why Go Wine Tasting in the United States
If California were its own country, it would be within the top five largest wine-producing countries in the world. Regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma County are the most famous in the U.S. and produce the country’s best wines.
However, several other states also produce wine, albeit of qualities that don’t yet compete in the world market. You can do wine-tasting tours or winery visits in states like Virginia, Georgia, Ohio and even Texas.
Capital: Buenos Aires
Best wine to try: Malbec
Best wine region: Mendoza
Why Go Wine Tasting in Argentina
Wine is as intricately part of Argentine culture as barbecue, mate and soccer. In fact, Argentina is within the top 10 countries for wine consumption. It is certainly common to have a glass of wine with lunch or dinner every day.
The vast majority of the country’s wine is produced in the Mendoza region. Here, you’ll get to sip strong Malbecs as you take in views of the snow-capped Andes mountains.
Capital: Santiago de Chile
Best wine to try: Chardonnay
Best wine region: Colchagua Valley
Why Go Wine Tasting in Chile
Like neighboring Argentina, Chile produces a variety of delicious wines that are highly respected around the world. If the slim country was ranked higher, it’s not because the quality of its wine is better (we won’t fuel that war) but because you can find vineyards in almost every region.
Chile offers convenience for those interested in doing a winery tour since you'll likely be close to a vineyard no matter where you are in the country.
Best wine to try: Tempranillo
Best wine region: La Rioja
Why Go Wine Tasting in Spain
Now that we’re in top-three territory, the competition for the top spot is getting tough. If you’ve ever been to Spain, you already know that wine seems to flow like water in the country. Order tapas, and they’ll often be accompanied by a complimentary glass of wine. Do El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, and you’ll see free wine fountains meant for pilgrims — no, we’re not making that up.
Spain also has the largest grape-cultivating area in Europe, though its wine production still lags behind neighboring countries. We have absolutely nothing bad to say about Spanish wine. If it didn’t achieve the title of winner or runner-up, it’s not because it’s lacking anything. The top two contenders are simply too strong.
Best wine to try: Chianti
Best wine region: Tuscany
Why Go Wine Tasting in Italy
Italy produces the most wine out of any country in the world. This alone earns it the runner-up sachet. The nation has been producing wine for literally thousands of years since the ancient Greeks first brought the concept over.
The peninsula also boasts having the first established wine zone in the world — Chianti Classico in Tuscany. You can find vineyards mostly anywhere in Italy, so wine-tasting tours are extremely popular. Even if you don’t go on a tour or visit a winery, we encourage you to try as many different Italian wines as you can.
Best wine to try: Bordeaux Red
Best wine region: Bordeaux
Why Go Wine Tasting in France
Many countries produce wine. Many countries love wine. But no one does wine like France does. There’s a reason why so many wine words and names are French. So if anyone contends France earning the top spot, well, we’re sorry to say they’re simply wrong.
French people love their wine, and so does the rest of the world, which explains why the country exports more wine than anyone else. Visiting a vineyard is a quintessential part of a complete French tour.
One of the funnest ways to learn about French wines is to do the Wine Route, or Route des Vins. This route runs along the Rhine River and has you drive from town to town tasting different local wines. (You can also check out medieval villages.) If you don’t have time to drive around following the flow of wine, we recommend a visit to gorgeous Bordeaux, particularly the town of Saint Emilion.