The Country That Produces The Most Wine Isn't Actually France

When you think of wine, what comes to mind? Likely, it will conjure names like cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, and chardonnay — all unmistakably French. With the majority of classic wines sporting such names, it would not be surprising if you were to conclude that France is the largest producer of wine in the world; however, you would be mistaken. The real heavyweight when it comes to wine production is actually Italy.

You may wonder how this is possible when so much wine comes from French grape varietals like the ones listed above. The truth is that the varietal of a grape doesn't always determine the location in which those grapes are grown. For example, a Merlot grape can be grown in the Italian countryside, and the wine will still be called a Merlot. As such, a large quantity of French grapes — and therefore, French wines — are actually produced in Italy, not France. Along with the many Italian wines the country produces, such as Chianti and Sangiovese, this explains the overwhelming amount — roughly 50 million hectoliters — of wine that Italy pumps out each year.

How to tell where your wine comes from

While plenty of excellent wines are produced in areas of the world other than their country of origin, it's true that the different climates and soils impact the growth of grapes and the flavor of their wine. This is why some wines come from restricted areas, or appellations, that are the only place where those wines can be produced. The most common example of this is Champagne, which can only be recognized as such if it is grown and produced in a dedicated region of France. Other wine-growing countries also have these appellations for certain wines, including the U.S. If you want a wine guaranteed to be made in its country of origin, these types of wines are the ones to look for.

When shopping for this kind of wine, pay attention to the label that indicates its appellation. American wines will qualify if their grapes are grown within a specified American Viticulture Area, so you will see the acronym AVA on the bottle. For French wines, the acronym to look for is AOP, AOC, or IGP, depending on the strictness of its appellation. For Italian wines, seek out bottles with the acronyms DOC or DOCG. Of course, while these wines may be more exclusive than others, there is no reason to exclude wines that don't meet this standard. Many high-quality wines are a result of cross-cultural winemaking, so keep an open mind and choose whatever pleases your palate the most.