Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux, Tuscany … yeah, yeah, you’ve heard about all of them. But with a blossoming number of people interested in alternative vino across the globe, and the recession encouraging consumers to try cheaper, less notable brands, many boutique wine regions are sprouting up—and in some very unexpected places. While a few of these regions are growing wine grapes for the first time, many others already have a rich history of traditional winemaking that’s only now gaining the respect of international wine drinkers.
Although you can buy the wines of these emerging wine regions at specialty shops and online, going wine tasting is a great way to enjoy wine firsthand. You’ll be able to experience gorgeous scenery without the crowds of other photo opp-worthy tourist spots and get a real (ahem), taste, of the local culture.
The production of wine in Slovenia dates back to the fourth century BCE (vastly predating Roman wine production!) when Celtic and Illyrian tribes settled there. Given the region’s deep cultural winemaking roots, it’s no wonder Slovenia has become one of the most well-developed wine producers of the former Yugoslavian countries.
The Istria region joins Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy, and produces some of the country’s best wine … although outside of Slovenia many don’t know it. Only 10 percent of Slovenia’s 26.4 million gallons of wine a year are exported out of the country, which means a lot of the wine produced here goes almost completely unnoticed by the international wine community.
And if white wine isn’t your thing, don’t worry; although Slovenia is known for it’s whites (75 percent of its wine production is white) the Istria region has more to offer. The region is also known for it’s Refosco grapes that produce tannic and slightly bitter-but-fruity reds.
Where to go: The Vinakoper winery is a great place to try Refosco; one of its bottles won a local silver medal in 2008.
Northern California may be known for its amazing wine regions … but Southern California? Although the Temecula region may be relatively new (the first winery was planted less than forty years ago), Temecula is now home to twenty-four wineries. Located about an hour north of San Diego and a few hours south of Los Angeles, Temecula has become a staycation spot for the SoCal crowd.
Although there’s a history of winemaking nearby in the Mission padres in San Juan Capistrano, deciding recently to grow wine in Temecula was a geographically strategic choice, not a cultural one. Temecula is located on a plateau twenty miles from the ocean. And although the weather can get pretty warm, cool Pacific Ocean breezes travel through Rainbow Gap (a break in the mountains), keeping the grapes cool. In addition, since Temecula has warm temperatures and little rainfall year-round, high-tech underground aquafiers irrigate the plants regularly.
Where to go: The Maurice Car’rie Winery uses the oldest vines in the region to make a tasty Sauvignon Blanc. Its 2007 vintage won six medals in 2008.
Serra Gaúcha, Brazil
Located in the southern tip of the country, the Serra Gaúcha region of Brazil is responsible for around 90 percent of the country’s wine production. Wine has been produced in this region since the eighteenth century when Italian immigrants brought winemaking to the area, although traditionally wine in Brazil was made for local consumption, not for exporting. But since the sixties, Brazil has slowly become more established on the international wine scene. And after Ibravin (the Brazilian Wine Institute) was established in 1997 to regulate growing and to promote wine, Brazil has emerged as one of the premiere winemaking countries in South America.
Where to go: Casa Valduga specializes in sparkling wines and has the largest sparkling wine cellar in Latin America
Originally published on NileGuide
Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Ontario’s intense climate may seem like the antithesis of what grapes need to be happy, but using an ancient German method of frozen-grape harvesting, the winemakers in the Niagara Peninsula use the frigid temps to their advantage. Many wineries in the region make “icewine,” an intensely sweet and acidic dessert wine that’s made from harvesting completely frozen grapes and processing them before they have a chance to thaw. Because most of the water in this process remains frozen, only a few drops of concentrated liquid can be harvested from each grape, hugely intensifying its flavor.
Where to go: Check out Inniskillin, who recommends paring icewine with cheese, rather than dessert, to be able to enjoy the flavor of their wine. They even provide a pairing list of more than 100 cheeses and appropriate wine pairings made by cheese expert Laura Werlin onsite.
Nashik Region, India
Traditionally the Nashik region has been India’s biggest producer of grapes for eating, but until recently, no one ever used the likely region to grow wine grapes. Not only is Nashik the perfect geographical spot for grape production, but the region also has a well-developed infrastructure and a thriving economic community, making it an ideal location for budding wineries.
In 1997, Stanford-educated engineer Rajeev Samant foresaw the potential in Nashik and quit his Silicon Valley job to move home to Nashik to build Sula Vineyards on his family’s land. Along with a Napa Valley winemaker, Samant continues to expand his business and his initial success is drawing other winemakers to the region.
Where to go: Take a look at where it all started at Sula Vineyards. And while you’re there, sample Sula’s Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, India’s first dessert wine.
Snake River Valley, Idaho
When you think of Pacific Northwest wines, Washington State and Oregon immediately come to mind. But wineries have existed in Snake River Valley, Idaho long before they did in Washington. The first vineyards were planted in the region in the 1860s but were left to rot during prohibition. Although the wine industry has been slow to recover in Snake River Valley, over forty wineries have sprung up since the 1970s, capitalizing on the regions rich soil and temperate (for Idaho standards) climate.
Where to go: Sawtooth Winery’s stunning vistas make for great viewing while sipping their Pinot Gris, which was awarded a Double Gold in 2009.
It may seem surprising that a country that’s 98 percent Muslim could sustain an entire wine region, but with such a long history of wine production, the Meknès region in Morocco is doing just that. Originally cultivated over 2,500 years ago by the Carthaginians, conquering Romans continued to use the vineyards after their arrival. And when the North African grape variety was wiped out from disease in the nineteenth century, the French replanted with their own grapes while in control of the region in the twentieth century.
Where to go: Since 1964, the winemakers at Les Celliers de Meknès have been able to carve out a little space for themselves (Muslim law only allows for small parcels of land to be used for winemaking) where they bottle Les Coteaux de l’Atlas, a French wine which has been graded premiere cru.
Located on Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast, Krk Island produces the countries finest Zlahtina grapes … well, actually, its only Zlahtina grapes, a varietal grown only on this island and nowhere else in the world. Like most other countries in this part of the world, Croatia’s history of winemaking far predates the Romans, but recently the coastal region has really come into its own as a wine producer, taking full advantage of its unique local varietals.
Zlahtina is a crisp, light white wine with strong lemon and citrus tones. And when it rains it pours! Krk is also famous for its spectacular seafood, which is the most traditional pairing for the local white wine.
Where to go: Katunar Winery, located in the town of Vrbnik on the island of Krk, produces one of the best Zlahtinas around called Katnur Zlahtina.
Wine production in Israel has changed a lot from biblical times when, according to Genesis, “Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine.” After Noah, Baron Edmund de Rothschild was the next major wine producer in Israel when he sent grapes from France to Israel to help settlers begin making wine at the end of the nineteenth century. Now Israel has a thriving wine market, especially in the region of Galilee.
Today, wineries in Galilee take advantage of their unique microclimate of volcanic soil and high altitudes. They also utilize advanced winemaking technology instead of relying only on traditional methods of growing. For example, the mega-winery Golan Heights has even established a microwinery that they use solely for experimentation on new grape varieties and productions methods.
This region is also one of the biggest producers of award-winning kosher wine that’s incredibly popular worldwide since traditionally, delicious kosher wine is difficult to come by.
Where to go: Golan Heights Winery is a great place to sample some of the best wine Israel has to offer. The winery owns a few smaller labels, including Yarden and Gamala.