12 Exciting Wine Regions You've Never Heard Of
Feeling adventurous? Get out of your wine rut and enjoy a glass from one of these exciting, lesser-known regions.
Canada’s most recognized wine-growing regions are the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, best known for the thundering waters of Niagara Falls. While Ontario is known for its rich, golden icewine, grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir are grown throughout the region to produce dry-style table wine. The southern portion of the Okanagan Valley produces red wine and is an extension of the Sonoran desert, while the northern area is known for its Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. —Sean Sullivan
Inniskillin 2012 Niagara Estate Riesling Icewine (Niagara Peninsula); $80/375 ml, 93 points.
Uruguay’s first vines are said to have been brought from Buenos Aires by Spanish colonists. By the end of the 19th century, however, Uruguay welcomed a new wave of immigrants from Italy and Spain, particularly from the Basque region in northern Spain. The newcomers brought with them vines and rootstock, and began making wine in the New World. In addition to familiar varieties, they also brought Tannat, a grape from Madiran in southwestern France. —Mike DeSimone & Jeff Jenssen, ratings by Michael Schachner
Bouza 2011 Monte Vide Eu Tannat-Merlot-Tempranillo (Montevideo); $57, 90 points.
Familia Deicas 2004 Preludio Barrel Select Lote N 77 Red (Juanico); $45, 90 points.
Pisano 2012 RPF Tannat (Progreso); $23, 89 points.
Artesana 2012 Tannat (Canelones); $16, 88 points.
Garzón 2012 Varietales Tannat (Uruguay); $20, 88 points.
Nestled within the crossroads of the Alps and the Mediterranean, Slovenia produces some of the most exciting wines in Central Europe. Since the fall of communism, much of Slovenia’s wine production has returned to small, family-owned operations, where individualism and experimentation have taken center stage. —Anna Lee Iijima, ratings by Jeff Jenssen
Batič 2007 Valentino Sweet Red Merlot-Cabernet Franc (Vipavska Dolina); $60/375 ml, 90 points.
Štoka 2011 Izbrani Teran (Kras); $23, 90 points.
With 160,000 acres dedicated to vineyards, white wine accounts for 70% of Hungary’s total production. Beloved by Thomas Jefferson and Russian czars alike, the country’s strikingly floral, lusciously fruity wines are traditionally a blend of Tokaji grapes: Furmint, Hárslevelű and varieties of Muscat. Not unlike other botrytis-affected wines like Sauternes, Tokaji is one of the wine world’s best-kept secrets, boasting the ability to age for decades. —Anna Lee Iijima, ratings by Jeff Jenssen
Dobogó 2006 Aszú 6 Puttonyos Furmint (Tokaji); $125, 96 points.
Disznókö 2002 Aszú 6 Puttonyos (Tokaji); $100/500 ml, 95 points.
Royal Tokaji 2011 Furmint (Tokaji); $16, 92 points.
Once a formidable global provider of mass-produced, bargain-priced Cabernet Sauvignon, Bulgaria’s wine exports slowed dramatically through the 1980s and ’90s. With a new influx of foreign capital and modern technology, Bulgaria is reintroducing a wide range of value wines from both native and international varieties, and quality is increasing. —Anna Lee Iijima, ratings by Jeff Jenssen
Chateau Burgozone 2012 Chardonnay (Danube River Plains); $14, 90 points.
Vini 2013 Veni Vidi Vici Chardonnay (Thracian Valley); $9, 88 points.
Switzerland only exports 2% of its wine, so even veteran wine lovers will enjoy the art of discovery here. Known best for its whites—particularly Chasselas—the Valais region, on the shores of Lake Geneva, produces more wine than the country’s 23 other regions, known as cantons. —Jeff Jenssen.
Château d’Auvernier 2012 White (Neuchâtel); $21, 90 points.
Robert Gilliard 2012 Les Murettes Chasselas (Valais); $28, 90 points.
Croatia boasts 64 indigenous grape varieties, resulting in a wide range of wine styles. Wine is also made from “international” varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Despite Croatia’s relatively modest size, it boasts 17,000 registered vine growers and 59,000-plus acres of vineyards, growing grapes for more than 800 wineries. White wines account for 60% of production. —Jeff Jenssen
Bibich NV Ambra Red (North Dalmatia); $50/500 ml, 91 points.
Trapan 2013 Rubi Rosé (Istria); $21, 89 points.
Turkey has the fourth-largest vineyard acreage in the world, but only 2% of its grapes are vinified. Promising native grapes include Kalecik Karası and Öküzgözü for fruity red wines with bold acidity, as well as Emir, a delicate, mineral white. International varieties like Syrah and Muscat are on the rise. —Anna Lee Iijima, ratings by Mike DeSimone
Diren 2012 Collection Öküzgözü (Turkey); $14, 89 points.
Kavur 2010 Galî Merlot-Cabernet Franc (Aegean); $40, 89 points.
Concentrated in the Herzegovina side of the country, winemaking here is heavily influenced by its Austro-Hungarian history. The nation’s most promising wines are made from indigenous grapes like Blatina, which produces a ruby-red wine with bold alcohol and acidity, and Žilavka, which yields dry, full-bodied and aromatic white wines. —Anna Lee Iijima, ratings by Jeff Jenssen
Winery Čitluk 2011 Blatina (Mostar); $12, 88 points.
Despite its long, ancient winemaking history, post-communist Romania has taken to the international marketplace with a surprisingly entrepreneurial New World zeal. With a quiet yet impressive presence in Central and Eastern Europe winemaking, the country’s increased focus on grape growing and modern, hygienic winemaking has resulted in consistent, high-quality offerings. —Anna Lee Iijima, ratings by Jeff Jenssen
Cramele Halewood 2013 La Umbra Chardonnay (Terasele Dunarii); $9, 88 points. Best Buy.
Cramele Recas 2012 Dreamfish Chardonnay (Recas); $7, 87 points. Best Buy.
For years, Lebanese wine was synonymous with Château Musar, but other names have joined the Hochar family in the marketplace. Reds show the most promise.
Ixsir 2009 Altitudes Rouge (Lebanon); $20, 91 points.
Ixsir 2009 Grande Reserve Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon (Lebanon); $30, 91 points.
Situated between the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Sahara Desert, Morocco’s wineries craft quality offerings with unique terroir, 75 percent of which is red wine. Cinsault is the country’s most planted variety, but increasing proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot are being planted.
Bernard Magrez 2011 Domaine Excelcio Syrah-Grenache (Guerrouane); $35, 93 points.
Ouled Thaleb 2010 Syrah (Zenata); $17, 90 points.