The Vikings were the first to notice the USA's potential as a wine-producing nation and since then things have developed and changed. The USA is now making wine from Hawaii to Texas, but most of the decent stuff comes from California and in particular the Napa Valley.
The Napa valley is located in Napa County in California. It is a great place to grow wine due to a number of factors. The climate is very Mediterranean in its temperature and so grapes that do well in those countries do well here too. It also has a good geographical setting and this and the geology of the valley are conducive to growing vines in this area. The first commercial vineyard was established in 1858 and it has moved on since then. Viticulture in the Napa Valley was initially beset by problems as the vines were established, there was an outbreak of vine disease and the implementation of prohibition in the 1920s did the industry no favours either. However since those times things have developed and as the American population developed a taste for wine so has the industry flourished.
Today the Napa Valley region has more than 300 wineries growing a wide variety of grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel. The majority of wines made here are produced from blends of grapes and so are slightly different from their European counterparts.
In fact like most of the USA, the Napa Valley has now become a bit of a theme park. There are shuttle bus rides around wineries taking in tasting sessions as well as the countryside and a whole tourism industry dedicated to the Napa Valley wine region.
The red wines found in the Napa Valley include: Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine is made from a powerful red grape which came to California from France; Merlot – this grape produces a smooth, well-balanced red. This becoming more popular in the US; Pinot Noir –this wine prefers a cooler California climate and is an elegant fruity number; Zinfandel - Zinfandel is the pride of California. Although sometimes the cheaper wines can be light and somewhat insipid the quality Zinfandels’ are spicy, sturdy and powerfully rich.
The white wines are: Sauvignon Blanc - This wine comes in two different styles each equally as drinkable it can be smoky and creamy wine with a grapefruit zing or herbal in its style; Chardonnay- Popular the world over, this wine is rich and is often fermented in oak; Gewürztraminer- These grapes prefer a cooler climate. The wine is spicy and dry.
To find out more about American wines or just to look at the range of wines currently available it is a good idea to contact an independent online wine retailer. They describe their wines in detail and give tasting tips as well as ideas of what to eat with a certain wine. Also you can look at the website without feeling obliged to buy.
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Fiona Muller has been writing for Napa Valley wine over 20 years. She is a qualified journalist and has worked in food and drink writing for the last few years. For more information and a range of wines go to laithwaites.co.uk.
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