With more wine lovers craving authenticity and new experiences, many restaurants are looking to lesser-known regions with winemaking traditions that date back to biblical times. Countries like Israel, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Turkey and Lebanon are finding traction, in addition to the continued popularity of Greece.
At Oceana, Wine Director Pedro Gonçalves features dozens of these options in a dedicated section on the wine list highlighted as regions of particular value. Jennica Best, the beverage director at Upland, finds that bottles from Croatia and Serbia fit her commitment to emerging regions. Zahav boasts an array of international wines to pair with its authentic Israeli cuisine, but the heart of the list are the 25+ Israeli bottles—one of the largest selections outside Israel—alongside several from Lebanon and Turkey.
Many Italian restaurants are also incorporating these wines, noting their influence on Italy’s cuisine and viticulture. Iron Gate offers Serbian, Lebanese and Slovenian wines on its otherwise Southern Italian and Greek list. Balena concludes its predominantly Italian list with an “Antiquity” section devoted to Greek, Lebanese and Israeli wines. Alimento’s Wine Director, Ryan Wenger, drifts into Slovenia and Croatia, saying of the Rojac’s Royaz, a sparkling Refosko-Syrah blend from Istra, Slovenia, “It lends itself to everything on the menu, as good bubbles should.”
Sometimes the appeal of these wines is simply their uniqueness. Hearth offers a range of dry Furmints from Hungary and a Georgian wine made from Mtsvane grapes aged in kvevri, traditional clay vessels. According to the wine list, it “should be approached with an open mind… think of it as you would an earthy green tea, with notes of wet earth, smoke and raw almond.”