8 Unexpectedly Awesome Wine Regions
January 26, 2011
Wikimedia Commons/Peter Gerstbach
Canary Islands, Spain
Wikimedia Commons/Peter Gerstbach
A favorite of WineChap.com editor, Talia Baiocchi, for its fascinating terroir. Wine is produced on all seven of the main islands, each of which is distinguished by its own unique variety of microclimates and mineral-rich volcanic soils. "They grow vines in these holes. It's a crazy, sci-fi-looking place, and it's somewhere that should never have had vines growing on it." Nevertheless, the islands have actually been producing wine since the 15th century — said to be a favorite of Jefferson and Shakespeare — and are some of the only pre-Phylloxera wines left in the world. Although an approximate 250 producers make wines on the islands, only 11 are exported to the U.S.
In a New York Times article on the region, Florence Fabricant called it the "Napa of India." Located in Maharashtra state, it ranks among the country's largest wine-producing regions, where as of 2008, more than 40 wineries were in development. Pretty impressive considering that, although India's viticulture dates back to the Bronze Age, the modern wine industry didn't make a comeback until the 1980s. In addition to a successful production of sparkling wines, the region is most well known for its Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, and Shiraz blends. Although the majority of the wine is consumed internally, wine from the larger vineyards such as Sula and Chateau Indage are available for purchase online.
Australia is one of the hot-shot jocks of New World wine regions, for sure. And even though vines have grown on this island since the 1800s, it is only within the last few years that its wines have garnered mainstage attention. Credit that to the production of spotlight-grabbing sparkling wines (some would argue Australia's best) which benefit from the cooler temperatures of the island's southern location. Cool-climate varietals, namely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, do best, and the region's wines are typically characterized as having high acidity with a balanced fruit flavor.
Guadalupe Valley, Mexico
Wikimedia Commons/Tomas Castelazo
Tequila isn't the only alchocol of note produced in Mexico — just ask your local, neighborhood wine snob. Located in the north, within Baja California, this mountain-protected region lies not far from the Pacific Ocean, and is one of the few valleys in the world suitable for growing premium wine grapes. Interestingly, vines were originally planted there in the 16th century, but it was not until beginning of the 20th century that the industry was brought back to life — allegedly by a community of religious pacifists called the Molokans. Most predominant and impressive are the red varieties, that tend to be big, spicy, and full-bodied.
Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Attention Zinfandel fanatics, here's a wine region you need to be paying attention to. In a recent interview, WineChap.com editor, Talia Baiocchi, named Croatia as a wine-producing region to look out for in the next few years. "There's a lot of potential for Croatian white wines, they have a really interesting expression of Zinfandel." Indeed, in addition to having a fascinating terroir with a variety of microclimates, the region has primarily distinguished itself thanks to its range unique indigenous grape varietals.
Douro Valley, Portugal
Yes, yes, the region is known for Port. But recently, it's been looking to move beyond its fortified wine typecast — and is beginning to have some success at it too! Thanks to producers like Barca Velha, in the last decade, the region has made great strides in improving the quality of its table wines.
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
The region is Canada's second largest wine producer behind the Niagra Peninsula, so why might you not have heard of it? Blame it on popular demand — because they sell so well on their home turf, they rarely make it to the U.S. Considered to be the world's northernmost serious wine region, it is host to more than 60 varieties of grapes, but is best known for its Pinot Noir and Reislings, though its Ice Wine has created quite a buzz.
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
An ancient wine-producing region that has recently experienced an impressive resurgence. Home to the country's major wineries, the most well-known of which include Chateau Musar and Massaya, the Bekaa Valley has been significantly influenced by the involvement of French winemakers and French vines. And while it's true that French grape varieties like Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot dominate, lately some attention has been given to the area's unique indigenous varieties.