Last week, America made headlines when it was discovered that it was taking over the global market for wine consumption — curiously snubbing our Old World friends in Europe, the world's pros at drinking and making wine. According to the Associated Press, America is now the largest wine market in the world, consuming nearly 13 percent of all the wine made worldwide. And while we'll always love a good riesling from Alsace or a good Bordeaux, it's become clear that Americans are drinking wines born in the USA now more than ever.
"The American wine industry is robust and growing, both at home and abroad, with their increasing exports," says Doug Bell, the national wine buyer for Whole Foods Markets, who's been buying wine for nearly 30 years. While Bell notes that there will always be a demand for Old World Wines from France, Italy, and Spain, American drinkers are becoming more knowledgeable and curious about all wines — including New World wines. "I think the consumer 'perceives' New World wine as a comfortable purchase because they pretty much know what they are buying with how the New World is labeling its wines… by varietal," he says. "They are comfortable with that more than, say, a Piesporter Michelsberg Spatlese or a Chassagne-Montrachet German Riesling and French White Burgundy, a chardonnay."
And it could be why Americans are gravitating to local wines. Bell buys nationally from the bigger wine regions that have total coverage in the U.S., because some of the up-and-coming wine regions aren't distributed nationally. While Napa and Sonoma may be the ruling wine regions in the country, many more states and regions are exploding into the wine world; there are now more than 7,000 wineries in the U.S., a huge jump from the 1970s, when there were just 400 wineries. Bell says Whole Foods Markets has 12 regional wine buyers as well as approximately 225 wine buyers at the store level, who tend to heavily focus and promote wines in their regions-states-markets. "We are big supportes of the locally crafted wines," Bell says.
Some emerging wine regions in the U.S., like Virginia, may taste more Old World than new, but that doesn't mean that the wine regions on our list aren't redefining what the American wine landscape looks like. Click ahead to find out which regions are exciting the country's wine experts — we have some serious wine country road-tripping to plan this summer.