Great wines start with great grapes from great places.
With substandard raw ingredients, there is no way to produce anything other than a substandard wine. This being the case, there are a few specific conditions, which make grape growing impeccable. Let's take a look at these conditions and what other influences different regions have on their wines.
Vineyards, more importantly the grapes in those vineyards, need a certain set of conditions to grow optimally. These conditions include a cool breeze off the ocean, infrequent rainfall, rocky soil for good draining, and plenty of sunshine. This is one of the reasons you will hear wine experts talking about a good vintage year due to the seasonal conditions, because ultimately, the body and taste of the wines are based on the conditions the grapes are grown in.
The combination of land, seasonal weather and soil used to produce wines, even has a French designation - terroir. Pronounced [tear-wah], this term is the origin of the word terrain. While you can have the same type of wine, Pinot Noir for example, from three different regions - New Zealand, Burgundy, and California - you can expect to have three different tastes due to the terrain in which the grapes grow.
How did the community you grew up in shape and mold who you are today? Your appearance, accent, and palate were formed by your exposure to your community, or region, as it were. The same is true for grapes and wine. Each region has people with different techniques for growing grapes and producing wine, usually passed down from generation to generation.
Take, for instance, Champagne. This sparkling beverage was originally produced in Champagne, France with special grapes and innovative techniques. The only true "Champagne" is from this region in France. Any other bubbly wine is actually Sparkling Wine and must be labeled so. This is a case where a community took such pride in protecting the land and developing the traditions used in their specific form of wine making, that no other sparkling wine may be labeled Champagne.
Since each region has climate differences and commitments to tradition, it's easy to study the grapes and growing conditions for each region to make categorizations about exactly what regions can produce certain types of wine.
An example is Port from Portugal, where the growers have been producing fortified vineyards for centuries. The region Port comes from, in Douro, has extremely rocky soil with desert like conditions. Port is only made by humans stomping the grapes, which adds to the uniqueness and allows only wine from that region to be called Port.
The regional impact on wines makes a big difference in how a wine tastes and feels. Knowing the conditions the grapes were grown in, how they were processed, and the time-honored traditions of the vintners, allow the consumer to know exactly what to expect with each type of wine. Know the region and know the wine!