Top 10 wine-producing countries in Europe

Dan Brightmore
- Top 10 - Aug 07, 2017

Amazingly, Europe’s top trio of producers (Italy, France and Spain) make almost half of this global total between them and over 75 percent of the continent's wine.

Global wine production fell by seven percent in 2016 due to climatic events. The most precipitous declines were seen in South America. Here, the El Nino phenomenon (which occurs every four to five years affecting rainfall patterns and causing both drought and flooding) saw the wineries of Argentina and Chile hit the hardest.

Meanwhile, in Europe - Italy, Spain and Greece were three of the few countries to experience a growth in production.

Here is a rundown of the top 10 from Europe based on the latest complete figures for 2016.

#10 Hungary – 1.9 million hectolitres

Global Rank: 18

Production here experienced a steep fall of 38 percent (down from three million) which sees Hungary drop from seventh place in the chart but cling on to its position in the top ten, just ahead of European rival Bulgaria in the global chart. Hungary also suffered from the climatic pressures felt across Europe which combined negatively with the traditionally late November harvest of many Hungarian regions.

The Romans first brought their vines here in the 5th Century. Among Hungary's most famous wines are the white dessert wine Tokaji (grown in the far north foothills of the Zemplen Mountains) and the fearsomely monikered red, Bull's Blood of Eger which comes from the Kadarka grape, introduced to the country by the Serbs in the 16th Century.

#9 Austria – 2 million

Global Rank: 17

Austria's wine production may have fallen by 14 percent (down from 2.3 million) but experts are applauding the quality over quantity. A late April frost in some regions, such as Steiermark and Burgenland, saw their yields drop by as much as 80 percent. However, the harvests in large parts of Niederosterreich were above average following an unseasonably warm and sunny close to the season in September.

Austria is known for its prime red grape varieties including Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch and the internationally harvested Pinot Noir. But these only accounts for around 30 percent of production with the country more famous for its dry white wines often made from the Gruner Veltliner grape. Austria is also home to Riedel, makers of some of the world's most expensive wine glasses.

#8 Serbia – 2.3 million

Global Rank: 16

With nearly 70,000 hectares of vineyards production holds steady in Serbia which achieved the same yield for the fourth successive year. The country has nine winemaking regions with one of the most important vineyard areas situated in Negotinska Krajina (250km to the east of Belgrade), a sub region of the river valley of Timok where wine making dates back to Roman times. Indigenous grapes like Prokupac (red) and the Muscat-like Tamjanika (white) date back to the Middle Ages. International grapes grown include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

#7 Greece – 2.6 million

Global Rank: 15

The Greek harvest was up two percent thanks to an absence of heatwaves and consistent cool night temperatures. Assyrtiko is one of Greece’s finest multi-purpose grape varieties, first cultivated on the volcanic island of Santorini, it now thrives in the terroir of Macedonia delivering a dry white wine with citrus aromas. Xinomavro (meaning ‘acid black’) is the leading native red noted for its rich tannins and complex fruit aroma with hints of olive and spice. Greece was one of the first wine-producing territories in Europe. The earliest evidence of Greek wine making dates back 6,500 years when it was produced on a household or communal basis.

#6 Romania – 3.3 million

Global Rank: 13

Following a bumper year for production in 2013 (5.1 million) Romania has returned a third successive poor harvest with production falling by eight percent due to challenging climatic conditions seen in many regions across Europe. However, Romania still produces more wine than New Zealand with around 85 percent of vineyard space dedicated to the growth of white varietals. Feteasca Alba and Feteasca Regala feature prominently, followed by Riesling, Aligote and Muscat. The leading red varieties grown here include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

#5 Portugal – 6 million

Global Rank: 11

Wine production here fell dramatically by one million (15 percent) due to a damp spring triggering widespread mildew and cooler flowering conditions which, along with a summer drought, reduced yields considerably. Red and rose wines account for around 70 percent of all production. Portugal is home to the Douro valley, one of the world’s oldest wine producing regions with a tradition dating back to 1758. Dao is famous for its port while the Vinho Verde region’s name literally means ‘green wine’. This actually translates as ‘young wine’ and describes the distinctive slight effervescence on the pallet due to the fermentation taking place in the bottle.

#4 Germany – 9 million

Global Rank: 10

Following perfect late summer weather Germany was able to consolidate its position in the global top 10 as production rose by one percent. Experts say wine lovers can look forward to a classic year with the 2016 vintage promising aromatic, elegant white wines with a harmonious interplay of fruit and acidity allied with intensely-coloured velvety reds. Around 60 percent of wines made in Germany are white wines. The top five white varieties are Riesling, Mueller-Thurgau, Silvaner, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Blanc while the most popular red varieties include Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Portugieser, Trollinger and Black Riesling. 

#3 Spain – 39.3 million

Global Rank: 3

It’s a giant leap up the chart to Spain where wine production increased by four percent following one of the mildest winters in the country’s recent vintages followed by spring rains which increased underground water reserves. Spain still has a long way to go to beat its record breaking tally of 45.3 million in 2013, but globally the Iberian country is well ahead of its nearest competitor the United States (23.9 million). Major regions include Rioja and Ribera del Duero, known for their Tempranillo production in both red and white variations. The country has also seen high yields of Garnacha and Monastrell in the Navarra and La Mancha regions.

#2 France – 43.5 million

Global Rank: 2

Falling from 47 million, French wine production drifted by seven percent due to unseasonably savage spring weather with a freeze that hit vineyards in Beaujolais, Bourgogne and Charentes. A recent report by the journal Wine Economics and Policy warned rising temperatures worldwide, and the loss of the Gulf Stream, could lead to a potential chilling of the Bordeaux region, while other regions, including Alsace, are expected to get warmer and experience shorter growth seasons. French wine production can be traced back to the 6th Century BC, with many regions dating their wine-making history to Roman times. Famous for Champagne (where the title can only legally be assumed for wine made within the region) other popular varieties include Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

#1 Italy – 50.9 million

Global Rank: 1

Remaining at the top of the chart for a second successive year, and with production up two percent, Italy has enjoyed better growing conditions than its European counterparts. According to industry experts, in Tuscany, the harvest conditions for Pinot Grigio were excellent and the quality outstanding. However, there are some concerns for the future. In the Italian region of Chianti, grapes have begun ripening too early, leading to possible changes in wine varieties going forwards. The most popular grape varietals for red wine are Montepulciano, Barbera, Sangiovese and Merlot. Tocai is the leading choice of white wine, ahead of more well-known staples such as Prosecco.

Source: www.oiv.int (International Organisation of Vine and Wine)

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