Lesser Known Wine Regions
Napa Valley, Bordeaux, Tuscany - these are among the famous wine regions well known to the general public. There are many regions, however, that remain relatively obscure, despite the quality and notoriety of their wines. Here is a list of some areas that deserve more attention - particularly from consumers who value quality and good prices.
Castilla y León: Ribera del Duero and Toro
Spain produces some of the most underrated wines in the world. Two areas in particular are worthy of more attention: Ribera del Duero and Toro, located in the province of Castilla y León, both produce wines from the Tempranillo grape that are full-bodied, dry, and fruity, with dense color and spicy overtones. These wines are great for those who enjoy California wine, as they are almost New World in style. The relative obscurity of these areas results in great prices, and you can find incredible deals if you keep an eye out.
Douro River in Portugal
The red wines from the banks of the Douro River in Portugal offer amazing quality and value. This is Port country, and many of the same vineyards that supply grapes for the famous fortified wine will also make dry reds. Portugal has been relatively isolated from the rest of Europe through the centuries, and has managed to preserve a large variety of indigenous grape varietals with exotic names like Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cão, and the highly regarded Touriga Nacional. These red wines, like those from Castilla y León, are generally fruit-forward and appealing to those who enjoy Cabernet.
The French region of Alsace is situated along the border with Germany, and is one of the sunniest and driest wine regions in France. Winemakers from this area specialize in white wines, such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Blanc. Ranging from sweet to dry, these wines have a richness and complexity that makes them standout. Alsace has a unique cuisine based largely on pork, so the next time you serve ham or pork roast, look for an Alsatian wine.
The Loire Valley in France is a long, varied region along the banks of the Loire River. Great wine in almost any style can be found here, and they are often a great value, because they’re not as well known as other French wines from places like Bordeaux. A couple of great wines to look out for include Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, as well as Cabernet Franc from Chinon or Saumur Champigny. The whites from Loire tend to be light and dry, with bright fruit flavors and steely minerality. The Cabernet Francs are reminiscent of Pinot Noir, being relatively light and smooth.
The small region of Cahors, just southeast of Bordeaux, is the original home of the Malbec grape, and offers great wine at great prices. The Malbecs from Cahors are just as dark as their counterparts in Argentina, but are also much drier and have an earthy, herbal character.
The Veneto, near the city of Venice, is home to some very popular wines, including famous Pinot Grigios. Most people are not familiar with the region, however, despite being among the most productive in Italy. The Veneto is also home to Prosecco, Valpolicella, Amarone, and wonderful white wines like Soave. Prosecco is a sparkling wine that is dry, crisp, and much less expensive than Champagne. Valpolicella is an area that produces excellent red wines, including the highly regarded Amarone della Valpolicella. Soave is a local white wine made principally from the grape Garganega. Soave is a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
The southeastern part of Australia is home to most of the continent’s wine production and well known regions. On the opposite side of the continent, just south of the city of Perth, there is an isolated wine region where lovely grapes are grown in huge variety. The subregion of Margaret River is one of the best locations for Cabernet in the world.
Given the northerly position of Washington State, it’s easy to imagine that it might have too cool a climate for wine production. The stereotype of Seattle, after all, is of endless rain and grey days. Eastern Washington is sheltered from the Pacific rains by mountains that run from north to south, dividing the state, and offers a world-class climate for vineyards. In fact, summer days in Washington are longer and sunnier than in almost any other part of the country. Nearly every type of wine is produced in Washington, but their reputation is largely built on the quality of their Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, and Riesling. The next time you buy wine, look for Washington State on the label.