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California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes.
When it comes to New World wines, and especially wines from the United States of America, Napa Valley is something of a standard bearer. Over its relatively short history, it has managed to transform itself from being a fairly insignificant region, to becoming one of the most important and highly regarding wine locations on earth. With an ideal climate for viticulture, blazing sunshine and a low level of rainfall, this valley is shielded on many sides by mountain ranges which help it maintain a consistent level of heat, light and moisture throughout the year. Today, Napa Valley is a home of innovation and quality, with dozens of grape varietals thriving in the fertile soils. However, the main varietals grown there have always been Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel, and the wines they produce are constantly lauded by critics and competitions across the globe.
Port wine is Portugal’s great gift to the world. Coming from the ancient harbour capital city of Porto and the surrounding Douro Valley region, Port wine has been made by Portuguese vintners for at least four hundred years, although viticulture has been continually happening in the area for well over two thousand years. Port is a fortified wine, meaning it is a wine which has been bolstered by the addition of grape brandy. Originally, this was used as a method of preservation, allowing the delicate Portuguese wines to survive the journey by sea to trading partners in the UK and France. However, the wonderful taste and unique character the fortification process lends to the wine soon became massively popular, and before long, this new wine style was a hit all across Europe.
Unlike some other fortified wines, Port is made by adding brandy before the wine itself has completed its fermentation. The result of this is that plenty of the grapes’ natural sweetness is maintained in the barrel, meaning it is exceptionally smooth and rounded on the palate. Port comes in many different styles - Tawny Port wines are prized for their richness and mellow character, Reserve and Late Bottled Ports are full of fruit flavor. Vintage Port is a complex, wonderful thing - capable of standing up to some of the finest wines in the world when it comes to depth of flavor and fascinating features.
Of all the New World wine countries, perhaps the one which has demonstrated the most flair for producing high quality wines - using a combination of traditional and forward-thinking contemporary methods - has been the United States of America. For the past couple of centuries, the United States has set about transforming much of its suitable land into vast vineyards, capable of supporting a wide variety of world-class grape varietals which thrive on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coastlines. Of course, we immediately think of sun-drenched California in regards to American wines, with its enormous vineyards responsible for the New World's finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, but many other states have taken to viticulture in a big way, with impressive results. Oregon, Washington State and New York have all developed sophisticated and technologically advanced wine cultures of their own, and the output of U.S wineries is increasing each year as more and more people are converted to their produce.