The geography of wine used to be simple: Connoisseurs drank Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and vintage Port, with the occasional high-quality German Riesling thrown into the mix. The truth is, nothing else was taken very seriously.
Then came the explosion in California wine that followed the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” tasting, the winemaking revolutions in Italy and Spain, and the refinement of technique in Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Today, more than 60 countries produce notable wines, and although much of it isn’t yet imported to the United States, American consumers are constantly on the lookout for the next emerging wine region. Here are five spots to watch closely in the years ahead.
Our neighbors to the north have traditionally been best known for sparkling wine and dessert wine—particularly ice wine. Like German eiswein, ice wine is made by leaving the grapes on the vine to freeze, yielding tiny amounts of sweet, concentrated juice.
The primary wine regions in Canada are the Okanagan Valley (British Columbia) and the Niagara Peninsula (Ontario). Inniskillin (inniskillin.com) is the most accessible Canadian ice-wine producer in the United States and it yields versions from Riesling and the Vidal, a hybrid variety. Jackson-Triggs makes wine from Okanagan and Niagara and also distributes ice wine locally, as does Legends Estates Winery based in Niagara. All three properties also produce a range of dry wines that are not yet stocked on American shelves.
In recent years, climate change has enabled Canadian wineries to work successfully with red varieties. Among the more widely available brands in Canada that will hopefully be coming to the United States soon include Black Sage in Okanagan, producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a Port-style dessert blend, and Le Clos Jordanne. Originally created in Niagara as a joint venture between Inniskillin and Jaffelin, Le Clos Jordanne, a Burgundy négociant, specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Like Mexico, Canada’s proximity to the United States makes it easy to explore the country’s wine regions. Viator lists more than 30 options ranging from conventional winery visits to more exotic trips by kayak or helicopter. When planning your Canadian winery excusion, visit winesofcanada.com, an independent website run by expert Robert Bell of British Columbia.
Port, the fortified dessert wine made from sturdy red varieties, has been Portugal’s main export for centuries. In recent decades, the white wines of Vinho Verde have also become popular, primarily for their freshness and value. The best Vinho Verde is made from the Alvarinho grape and comes from the lush northern region of Minho.
Increasingly, connoisseurs are taking note of Portugal’s red wines. Wine Spectator startled consumers in 2014 when it rated the 2011 Chryseia Douro from Prats & Symington at 97 points and ranked it third on its annual Top 100 list. The Douro region also produces Port and contains many of the same grape varieties. The region is home to other exciting producers such as Quinta do Crasto, which also owns Quinta de Roriz, and Quinta das Carvalhas. Other emerging Portuguese regions for red wine include Dão, Bairrada, and Alentejo.
With a plethora of distinct regions to explore and 250 grape varieties to taste, wine tourism is now a popular pastime for visitors to Portugal, which boasts one of the least expensive price structures in Europe. The city of Porto—about three hours north of Lisbon—is a base for visiting the famous Port houses nestled in the surrounding hills and also serves as a departure point for exploring the regions mentioned above. Planning on heading to Portugal? Visit visitportugal.com and winesofportugal.com to help plan the ideal Portuguese wine excursion.
After subduing the Aztecs in 1521, the Spanish conquistadores quickly ran out of wine. Hernán Cortés ordered his men to plant vines, most of which resulted in the red grape varieties that eventually migrated all the way to Napa.
Today, Northern Baja—and the Valle de Guadalupe north of Ensenada in particular—is Mexico’s leading region. Top
wineries include Château Camou, famous for El Gran Vino Tinto, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc; Monte Xanic, which produces Chardonnay as well as Bordeaux-style blends; the family-operated Casa de Piedra; and Bodegas Santo Tomás, which has been producing wine continuously since 1888.
Despite the buzz that has surrounded Baja wine for the past decade, the industry is still in its infancy, and the wines can be hard to locate in the United States (though that is beginning to change). But with Ensenada fewer than two hours from the border, it’s easy to organize a brief day trip from San Diego or an extended visit, including the three-day escorted Provecho Valle Guadalupe Food and Wine Tour as well as the vintage festival that takes place in the region every August. Need travel plans? Visit baja.com/ensenada for more information.
Despite the country’s economic woes, Greece is probably the world’s most exciting emerging wine region. There are dozens of estates making wine that can compete with the best of France, Spain, Italy, or Napa, and most of them are made for export markets.
Some of the better-known and more established wineries include Gaía, with facilities in both Nemea and Santorini; Domaine Skouras in the northeastern Peloponnese, founded by Burgundy-trained George Skouras in 1986; and Domaine Sigalas, producing lyrical whites on the island of Santorini.
A handful of winemakers personify this new generation of Greek excellence. Giannis Tselepos makes a terrific rosé from the Agiorgitiko grape and an even better red Driopi Reserve. Vangelis Gerovassiliou, widely regarded as “the godfather of modern Greek winemaking,” partnered with Vassilis Tsaktsarlis to found Domaine Biblia Chora in 1998 and now turns out luscious whites and full-bodied reds from indigenous varieties. Domaine Katsaros, a small family winery is best known for its Estate Red, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend.
Given the country’s size and number of wine regions, first-time visitors will be better off with an escorted tour, such as a day trip out of Athens organized by greecetaxi.gr or explorations of the Peloponnese offered by winetoursgreece.com. Enologist Sofia Perpera’s website, allaboutgreekwine.com, is also a good source of information.
Every year as Passover approaches, media outlets trot out obligatory stories on kosher wine, focusing mostly on the more commonly available commercial labels such as Yarden and Baron Herzog. In fact, the wine industry is flourishing in Israel, particularly in areas like the Judaean Hills and the Golan Heights, a subregion of Galilee.
Many of the best boutique kosher labels can be found both online and on local retail shelves. Notable wineries include Domaine du Castel, a small, family-run operation in the Judaean Hills. Known for Bordeaux-style blends, Domaine du Castel was the first Israeli winery to receive 90 points from American critic Robert Parker. Napa-trained Danny Valero traveled across Israel in search of the perfect vineyard site before founding Ella Valley Vineyards, where he makes full-bodied and concentrated wines from low yields. The Dalton Winery in Galilee—established in 1995 by the Haruni family, who moved to Israel from England—has achieved popularity for its reasonably priced, Rhône-style blends.
The Israeli government is actively encouraging wine tourism and offers visitor information at goisrael.com. Additional resources include winetourismisrael.net, an online magazine and blog, as well as private tour operators such as myisraelwinetours.com.