The four largest wine-producing countries are France, Italy, Spain and the United States. As of August 2015, China is ranked fifth worldwide; however, very little of China's wine production is exported. Other major wine-producing countries include Chile, Argentina and Australia.
Winemaking dates back nearly to the beginning of human history, and wine production in Europe dates back prior to the rise of the Roman Empire. Commercial production and distribution of wine in Europe began to boom in the 15th century. France and Italy have swapped the number one producer spot back and forth for hundreds of years. The U.S. has only become a major producer of wine within the last century, but it has been the fastest growing producer worldwide within that time frame. While vineyards can thrive under a variety of conditions, they do best in temperate climates such as those common to the top four wine-producing countries. Wine is a valuable collectible and often recommended as an investment.
France produces between 7 and 8 billion bottles of wine annually, accounting for approximately 20% of total wine production worldwide. While it may not win the number one spot every year, France is the single country most noted for wine production, and virtually all of the world's most-coveted wines are produced there. France is home to many vineyards owned by the Rothschild family, a name considered synonymous with good wine. The single most-expensive bottle of wine ever sold at auction was from the Bordeaux region of France. France is the source of many of the basic grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, that are recognized worldwide. Many of the vineyards in the U.S., Chile and Argentina were begun with transplanted and grafted grapevines from France. Wine is grown throughout France, with the Loire Valley and Rhone being major production areas.
Italy, which produces 6 to 7 billion bottles of wine annually, is home to some of the most well-known and highly favored wine-growing regions in Europe. As with France, wine is produced throughout the country in over a million separate vineyards. Winemaking during the height of the Roman Empire pioneered a number of mass production, transportation and storage techniques for the wine industry, including barrel making. Designations of popular Italian wines include Classico, which indicates production in the oldest established vineyards in a territory, and Riserva, which certifies a wine has been aged an ideal amount of time appropriate to the wine variety. Two of most prestigious areas of wine production in Italy are the Tuscany and Lombardy regions.
Spain produces about 5 billion bottles of wine annually and is actually home to the largest number of vineyards of any European country. However, its vineyards are more spread out and produce smaller yields than vineyards in France or Italy due to the drier soil common in many wine-growing regions of Spain. Although more than 400 varieties of grapes are grown in Spain, just 20 of those account for nearly 90% of all Spanish wine production. Major areas of wine production in Spain include the regions of Valdepena, Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Jerez, the main region for production of the fortified variety of wine designated as Sherry. Spain is the sole official producer of Sherry in the world.
4) United States
The U.S. ranks first in wine consumption, with annual wine revenues topping $35 billion, even though its production level is barely half that of France, approximately 3 billion bottles annually. Wine production had almost completely ceased in the U.S. during Prohibition, and it was not until the 1970s that the U.S. began to become a major wine producer. Research done by the University of California that revealed which grape varieties grow best in which regions and investment from French winemakers were major factors in reviving U.S. wine production. Approximately 90% of all U.S. wine is produced in California. The E&J Gallo Winery, headquartered in Modesto, produces nearly 25% of all wine sold in the U.S. and is one of the top five wine-producing companies in the world.