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This Country Makes the Best Wine in the World, Says New Data

A study of the most prestigious wine awards ranked the top 10 wine-producing countries in the world.

What makes wine great? For many people, wine is something they pick up at the store and enjoy casually, sometimes springing for a "good" bottle for a celebration. After all, Valentine's Day without a sexy red and New Year's Eve without Champagne would be just another day, right?

In terms of the best wine, where do people take their cues from? Some hit up their local wine expert or a friend who knows something about wine, and others just buy a bottle that looks good. But who's right? Are wines we revere, the Champagnes from France and the Napa cabernets, actually worth our hard-earned money? And are there country's wines that you're not trying that you should be popping a cork on? Which country truly makes the best wine in the world?

It's time to take the guesswork out of the equation. A recent study by kitchen experts Maxima Kitchen Equipment analyzed multiple wine award ceremonies over the past three years including International Wine Challenge, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Sommeliers Choice Awards, and Decanter Awards–the most prestigious awards in the world–to find out which country produces the best wines. Here are the top 10 wine-producing countries in the world and what you need to try from each. (Plus, don't miss The Best Winery in Every State.)

10

Argentina

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Argentina is tenth on the list, winning 51 of the 3540 awards given out during the three-year timeframe. And before you think a tenth spot finish is bad, more than 70 countries around the world produce wine. According to Wine Enthusiast, Argentina is one of the fastest-growing exporters of wines. This means that Argentina is giving the big guys—who we'll talk about later—a run for their grape juice. The red to look for from Argentina is malbec and the white is torrontés. If you like a full-bodied red wine like cabernet, it's time to try malbec and if you like unoaked whites with fruity flavors—think riesling—pick up a torrontes the next time you're at the liquor store.

9

Greece

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If you've never had a wine from Greece, you're missing out. Snuggled squarely in the Mediterranean, Greece is in the cradle of the best place in the world to make wine. Greece won 59 of the awards. In Greece, you will find wines that are like nowhere else in the world, and the names of the best grapes will be foreign. Start by tasting something at your local Greek restaurant like a bracing white assyrtiko–one of the country's top wines. Chances are this native wine will be cheaper on the menu than those from other countries and you just might like it!  Check out this list for some top reds made from agiorgitiko, vlahiko, and xinomavro grapes.

RELATED: 9 "Greek" Foods No One Eats in Greece

8

South Africa

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South African wines won 93 of the awards. The wines from South Africa are more well-known than those from Greece. The wine grapes will be familiar to those used to California wines. The warm climate helps make those big whites and reds like chardonnay and cabernet. If you love California wine, South African wine is what you want to try. Here are some great regions check out, according to Wine Enthusiast.

7

Chile

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Chile won 102 of the 3540 awards and it is another region that can produce big, California-style wines. This South American country has a wide variety of climates due to the long, skinny nature of the terrain. It would take you a week to drive north to south, according to Serious Eats! As far as red, try the cabs but also look for some carmenère for a change. And for the white, you can get killer chardonnays and citrusy sauvignon blancs that pair well with seafood.

RELATED: The #1 Best Wine for Anti-Aging, According to Dietitians

6

Australia

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Australia comes up next with 133 of the awards. If you've had Australian wine, you've probably had shiraz, aka syrah in other parts of the world. According to Wine Enthusiast, this is the most planted grape in the Land Down Under. This big, bold red does well in the warm climate as does cabernet. Chardonnays and sauvignon blancs are also wonderful from Australia. Honestly, don't discount anything from Australia, pay attention to the region and its particular climate when choosing a wine. It is a huge continent!

5

United States

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Falling squarely into the middle of the list is the U.S. with 352 of the awards. Obviously, the U.S. encompasses many different regions and produces many different wines. Every state in America has a vineyard so expand your horizons from the big, bold cabs and oaky chardonnays in California and try some local wines. Don't miss the cold, climate whites of the Finger Lakes in New York or the truly great sparkling wines made in New Mexico.

RELATED: The Most Popular Wine in Every State

4

Portugal

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Portugal comes in next with 447, or almost 13% of the awards. If you haven't had any wine from Portugal outside of Port, you are missing out. Situated right below Spain, which comes up later on the list, Portugal is a huge wine-making country. With Portuguese wine, you can explore truly unique wines not grown anywhere else in the world. According to Wine Folly, if you don't recognize the grape that's a good thing!  If you're a white drinker, Vinho Verde is the variety to start with. The beauty of wines for Portugal is that you can find true gems for far less money than the more well-known wine countries.

3

Italy

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With 512 of the awards, Italy comes in just over Portugal. Italian wine can be confusing because the grapes are not often expressed on the label, the wine is grouped into regions like French wine. For instance, Chianti, arguably the most famous, is made in Tuscany and is a sangiovese-based wine. If you love Chianti try wines from Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. Pinot grigio is the most well know white variety grown and Trentino-Alto Adige is one of the regions to start. Here's a good beginner's guide to Italian wine.

RELATED: One Major Side Effect of Drinking White Wine Instead of Red

2

Spain

 

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Spain took home 794 or 22% of the awards, less than 2% under the best wine-making region in the world–which you've probably guessed by now. Tempranillo is the most planted red grape in Spain, according to Serious Eats, and it is a fantastic red grape. Again, like Italy, you need to know the regions that this grape is produced in to find it. Two of the most famous regions are Rioja and Ribera del Duero. If you've got dinero to spend and want a big, bold red, anything from Priorat should be on the table. Also, don't discount sherry which is phenomenal with food. Spanish sparkling wine or cava is a must-try too, it rivals some of the best in France.

1

France

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At #1, snagging 851 or 24% of the awards is France. French wine regions can be confusing. If you love Cali reds, head to Bordeaux where the wines are made from cabernet, merlot, and cabernet franc.  In Bordeaux, you'll also find lots of sauvignon blanc. If you crave pinot noir head to Burgundy, which also produces lots of chardonnay. And, of course, for the real sparkling stuff, always look for Champagne.

A final note: When in doubt, ask a wine associate or sommelier in a restaurant. They truly take joy in finding a wine you will love for the price that you are looking to spend.

Read more about drinking wine:

We Tried 7 Boxed Red Wines & This Is the Best

8 Best Low-Calorie Wines for Weight Loss

30 Best Wines You Can Buy at Costco

Meaghan Cameron
Meaghan Cameron is senior editor of Eat This, Not That! overseeing food content for MSN.com. Read more