Wine has been around for at least 7,000 years, as attested in the archaeological record. It is credited with being a more healthy beverage than water throughout most of history, when water purification was unkown or unavailable. Who among us would not prefer a glass of chilled chardonnay to tap water at our favorite seafood restaurants. And recent medical studies have only confirmed the age old belief that a glass of wine a day promotes a long and satisfying life.
While the image of inebriated French monks cavorting in a wine cellar in the Loire Valley may not impress one as a cornerstone of Western culture, France, without question, has produced the highest quality wines in the history of man. This age is largely past now, and the economics of competition dictate that one does not make a wine intended to be stored thirty years before being sold. Plenty of fantastic old French wines still exist, however, and the monks are pretty much priced out of the market, so if you have the means, paradise is at hand.
Nowadays, enjoyable and moderately priced wines are available from around the world. But a word of caution. There are so many wineries, so many styles of wine and methods of production, and so much variation by year and location, that your best bet is to find sound advice from a wine seller.