History of Wine – Viticultural Regions

History of Wine - Viticultural Regions

Wine production is limited to certain geographical regions that tend to coincide with annual thermal isotherms with average temperatures ranging between 10° and 20° Celsius. In general, grape cultivation has been observed in areas that reflect a climate similar to the Mediterranean. It is possible to cultivate vines in subtropical environments if the necessary techniques are applied. In addition, certain local microclimates allow vines to be cultivated in areas as diverse as the Canary Islands and Canada.

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The European Union has a unified approach to the wine industry, as specified in Regulation 1493/1999, published on May 17, 1999, which has been updated multiple times, predominantly by Regulation 479/2008, published on April 29, 2008. Annex III of the Regulations establishes three major zones -A, B and C-, each of them composed of numerous subcategories. These partitions are more intricate than the regions of Northern and Southern Europe, with a single region or subregion combining parts of France, Germany and Hungary, among others. The details are quite specific, for example: “In Cyprus, subzone C III a) is home to vineyards located more than 600 m above sea level”. The same applies to Annex IX of Regulation 479/2008, of 29 April 2008, which modifies these small and large areas.

In 2016, Spain had the largest area of cultivated vineyards in the world, with nearly one million hectares. Castilla-La Mancha was responsible for half of the total Spanish vineyard area. China, with its growing fondness for wine, has become the second largest vineyard grower, with 800,000 hectares, surpassing France (790,000 ha) and Italy (700,000 ha) in its effort to meet growing domestic demand. According to the International Vine and Wine Organization (OIV), Italy was the first wine producer in 2016, with 49 million hectolitres, followed by France (47 million hectolitres) and Spain (37 million hectolitres) in third place.

This organization of the wine business takes into account a number of factors that are not strictly commercial. According to recital 26 of the 2008 Regulation, some areas cannot meet demand and it is suggested that the best solution is to grant a premium for the definitive abandonment of viticulture in those areas, and that Member States manage that premium. However, the following recital indicates that Member States that produce less than 25,000 hectolitres of wine per year do not have a significant impact on market balance, so those States should be exempt from planting restrictions, but should not be able to take advantage of the premium for the definitive abandonment of viticulture.

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In some areas, the production of a limited quantity of wine is acceptable and even encouraged if it responds to the legitimate wishes of the region or nation to have its own wine. It is also lenient with districts that do not receive enough sunlight for the grapes to ripen, which forces them to add sugar to the musts, especially in certain seasons.

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