Europe's minor players

Outside of the most famous and prolific producers, Europe is home to a number of producers of quality wines. Here's a look at some key contenders.

Austria - Although the packaging and labelling of Austrian wine is similar to that of neighbouring Germany, the wine itself is probably closer to those produced in Alsace in France.

Predominantly, white wines are made and the most famous grape variety is gr?ner veltliner. It is well worth a try. The wine enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the US in the late 1990s, where it was known as 'groovy' for short. It has floral, spicy, white pepper notes, is medium bodied, and goes extremely well with spicy Asian cuisine. Also worth trying are the rieslings. For a comparative tasting, try a riesling from Alsace and note the similarities and differences. For reds, pinot noir (blauburgunder) and lesser-known varieties such as zweigelt are names that may pop up from time to time.

Hungary - Best known for Tokaji, a sweet wine that will win wine lovers over from Sauternes. The wine is redolent of marmalade, floral notes and honey. The hallmark is the crisp acidity, which will take away any cloyingness from the sugar. Dry furmint is a white wine also worth a try. It is a floral and refreshing drink.

Slovenia - Across from the Italian border region of Friuli, this country was created from the break-up of Yugoslavia. The whites are particularly good. Grapes grown include ribolla (also the main grape in Friuli), with floral, citrus, mineral notes, and delicate pinot noirs.

Croatia - The country has a wine history that extends as far back as Greece's. Today, it plays a niche role in the modern wine world. In recent times, descendants of those who left at the turn of the 20th century are returning to rediscover their viticultural roots. The most famous is Michael Grgich, the owner of a well-established winery in Napa Valley. Farther down the Dalmatian coast, the Mediterranean region is home to many indigenous varieties. The best known is plavac mali.

Britain - Written off for a long time, Britain has recently discovered that it is capable of making quality wines. It is one of the beneficiaries of climate change, as warmer temperature patterns allow grapes to reach optimum ripeness. England is best known for its sparkling wines, made from classic varieties of pinot noir and chardonnay. The chalk soils in the southeast are similar to the Champagne region, and have a proven track record of producing award-winning sparkling wines. For reds, pinot noir has shown potential.