There are so many wine regions on the planet and many that are either rarely found at wine retailer or a restaurant wine list. I wanted to create this wine list because there are so many wine countries that are producing fantastic wines; many points of difference and that need to be highlighted.
There are two things that prompted me to start this list. One was that I write up what I am looking at tasting each year as some wine countries are either hard to find or rarely land on my tasting table. And secondly I recalled in the past few years listening to a European producer say how hard it is for his wine regions to be a point of difference. I’d like to add to the conversation of point of difference wine regions around the world that are not always thought about.
Firstly like my top 100 wine list. Number one doesn’t represent the first amongst all wine regions. This list is sorted in alphabetical order to avoid any confusion about listing. Also and equally important is that this doesn’t make these wine regions rise above known wine regions. Simply it is not to pit this group of wine regions producer against others or to say one is superior to another. I miss the opportunity when these wine regions are on the road and have the chance to taste at a consumer/trade/media event.
Ultimately, I hope it may be a thought starter for you to think about wines from each of these regions. Perhaps a request to your wine merchant and to the wine director at your favourite restaurants. A world of wines from all reaches of the planet is important for not just remembering a wine region but also that you have the most expansive list of wines available to you for your enjoyment.
- Alto Adige/Südtirol – I have been to historic city of Trento; gorgeous views of the Alps; I walked to a vineyard and loved putting my foot on ground in a region where I adore the points of differences. Schiava (Vernatsch) is one that is out there more plentiful than other wines. Be sure to taste the lovely Lagrein as well as Pinot Bianco and Riesling wines and others from this region.
- Abruzzo – Adriatic facing region with dominate grapes of Trebbiano and Montepulciano.
- Anderson Valley – gorgeous sparkling wines, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. Some of my most favourite California Pinot Noir’s come from Anderson Valley.
- Aragon: Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano – gorgeous Garnacha (Grenache) – high quality and distinctive Grenache often at a very approachable price point. Try the red, white and rosé bottlings. This regions Garnacha were the first Garnacha I tasted and for me began a love affair of this variety from this region.
- Australia – Australia?!? Yes, Australia wines are out there but not just as plentiful as say a generation ago. Australia not only does fantastic Shiraz (Syrah) but also Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and lyrical Pinot Noir. Australia is one of the most prolific wine produces in terms of how many wine varieties are grown. I have delighted and been in awe of Australian wines and the desire to produce world class wines.
- Austria – it is not just the land of Grüner Veltliner though this country producer gorgeous Grüner; the reds are equally wonderful. When I think of Austria I think of Sankt Laurent wines–a variety thought is hauntingly similar to Pinot Noir just on senses experience but not necessarily on the genetic level. I am always longing to taste Austrian wines.
- Basilicata – the region south of Campania with outstanding Aglianico. The prized Aglianico del Vulture DOC is in this region. Aglianico is truly the noble grape of southern Italy. I love this region–so hard to find these wines but truly a treasure to find.
- Basque Country – the land of Txakoli; a fantastic low alcohol slightly effeversent white wine from the Hondarrabi Zuri and other grapes as well. There is a red Txakoli from the Hondarribi Beltza grape–makes a glorious Rosé wine – curious thing about the name of Txakoli is that the name of denominations. Originally the word was Txakolin as this is consistent with Basque words of liquids end in “n” not in “i”. A delighted region for wines. So wonderfully food friendly wines. A point of departure wines.
- Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – an ancient producer of wines; you will find mainly Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. Handsome wines are coming from Lebanon.
- Bierzo – the Mencia grape is king here and produces lovely and memorable wines; Godello is the white grape most associated with this DO. I have been fortunate to visit this DO.
- Calabria – Gaglioppo is the king of red wine and the most planted of both red and white wine. Last year I found an exciting bottle of a white Calibrian blend called Chora. This blend is composed of Mantonico Bianco, Garnacha Bianco, and Pecorello. An Italian region that is easy to get to Rome via train but it is on the other side of the world in terms of finding these wines outside of Calabria in Italy. Worth seeking.
- Campania – this Italian regions produces phenomenal wines. You will find Falanghina, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, Piedirosso, Greco di Tufo and Aglianico. Gorgeous wines from this region to grace your tasting table. I love this region and have found good value in these wines.
- Canary Islands – I like the Listan wines red and white. Hard to find but worth the hunt.
- Catalunya: Costers del Segre, Empordà, Penedès, Terra Alta – I have been tasting wines from this region for years; they should have a greater presence both on and off premise; fantastic high quality wines at approachable price points. And I gave Montsant their own point–I tell you more below. Garnatxa and Carignan represent the region well and create dynamic wines. Price points are quite approachable. Do you love Barcelona? Extend your stay by pouring wines that are easily found in Barcelona on your table–seek this region’s wines out.
- Cava – What?!? Cava?! Yes, Cava – when I was in Spain recently I was reminded about the many wonderful bottles that never hit the North American Shore. I saw so many Brut Nature–I was in heaven. Brut Nature in my Hamlet of San Francisco is as rare as spun gold. Cava has a place at the wine table. So many are at reasonable price points and definitively a great sparkler from the Iberian peninsula. I think Cava is not just about price point but high quality and distinctive. Many people think of sparkling wines and Cava should be thought of as well as a place to source sparkling wines.
- Corsica – While a French island it is not quite French and not quite Italian. Absolutely lovely wines; you’ll find Rhone varieties and native varieties like Nielluccio, and Sciacarello. And of course Vermentino. More widely available today but always great to ask your wine merchant if they will bring some in.
- Croatia – the birthplace of Zinfandel; there are many grapes that are indigenous to Croatia only and even within the nation very limitedly planted. Wines to seek out: Pošip, Debit, Babić, Plavac Mali, and Vranec as they are more likely to be distributed.
- Czech Republic – I visited Praha only a couple of years ago and expected only to drink Pilsner. I didn’t expect to find so many wonderful wines that I have never seen a single bottle in the United States. The quality of wines were excellent and ready for export to any wine appreciating country. I loved the Svatovavřinecké (St. Laurent), Frankovka (Blaufrankish), Rulandské modré (Pinot Noir), Ryzlink rýnský (Riesling) and Veltlínské zelené (Grüner Veltliner). Most of the countries wine grapes are grown in the south in Moravia. So when you are in Prague (Praha) be sure to seek out Czech wines–it may be a long time before they end up in North America.
- English Sparkling Wine Country – have finally got acclaim and while easier to find the UK they are not as plentiful as one might think. The Burgundy varieties that compose English sparkling wine have found a great home for on point sparklers. On a recent trip through the UK these wines can be found in Duty Free shops. I have only found one label ever in the US.
- Friuli Venezia-Giulia – a fantastic wine region with many smaller regions like Collio, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Isonzo, and Carso. The entire region has international varieties planted. Lovely Cabernet Franc. I am in love with grapes from this region like Schioppettino, Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo, Refosco and Tazzelenghe. So unique and a world apart from many people taste today. Keep on your radar–ask your wine merchant to bring them in.
- Germany – known for Rieslings; but I would say in addition to Riesling try the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is not to be missed; these wines rarely ever make US shore. I love Pinot Noir and these wines are great values and are superb wines. Germany produces many wines and it’s export identity is known only for Riesling. Try the Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Lemberger (Blaufrankish)
- Grand Valley – I have been to Colorado many times– I have tasted a number of Cabernet’s from this region in Western Colorado. The wines are promising and I hope to taste a wide array from producers in the future. The wines are truly a representative of high elevation, continental climate of Bordeaux varieties.
- Greece – Greek producers have worked so hard to bring their wines to the US and I wish I found them more plentifully. A great way to enjoy food with the many lovely Greek varieties. An ancient wine producer. Don’t think of Greek wine only with Greek food. Be creative–I enjoy Greek wine with seafood.
- Hungary – I think Hungarian wines are a treasure that still needs to be celebrated. Yes, Furmint has been receiving lots of praise as it should. I would like to see Furmint on more wine lists… a great opportunity to serve by the glass and of course I want to see many more bottles on wine shelves at wine retailers. I love love love Furmint and I think there are some other wine varieties that are so special and wish to taste more often: Ezerjó, Hárslevelű, Irsai Oliver, Cserszegi Fűszeres and Királyleányka, Juhfark–don’t let the names or diacritical worry you about pronunciation. Sterling varieties and what I have tasted have all been stellar wines. There is Törley sparkling wines – inexpensive and featuring grapes like Királyleányka, Riesling, and Grüner Veltliner – bring out the oysters. You will also find red wines like the well known Bull’s Blood (Kekfrancos), Blauer Portugieser, Pinot Noir and other international varieties.
- Jura – a wine region in eastern France specialising in the grapes of Poulsard and Trousseau. Macvin du Jura is a region that specialises in late harvest wines–dazzling wines. Like spun gold – hard to find but worth finding.
- Lazio – Rome so heavily visited yet the wines are lesser known outside the Lazio. I love the Bellone grape and it may have been what the Roman’s drank 2,000 years ago. On Wikipedia is says it is a red grape–it is not and clearly in the white camp. You will also find Vermentino, Cesanese, Grechetto and other varieties. I have found so approachable and generally inexpensive wines from the Lazio.
- Liguria – When I was in Cinque Terre I was dazzled by the charming Italian villages along the Italian Riviera; I was dazzled as well by the Vermentino from this region. There was no finer moment for me to sit down in Monterosso (one of the five villages in the Cinque Terre) and enjoying Vermentino along with the regions dish Pesto. Delightful wines–a hint of salinity; gorgeous and I can also imagine this wine with oysters.
- Loire Valle – Loire Valley is an outstanding large region with many subregions. The crémant from the region is wonderful and I think a majority of these wines inexpensive, high quality and reflect this areas character. Lovely Chinon, Touraine, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. I think the price points are very approachable.
- Macedonia – I have reviewed a number of Macedonia wines. I have referred to Macedonia as the Republic of Macedonia to not confuse the region in Greece with the same name. I have tasting several Vranec wines and loved them. Vranec has a DNA relationship to Primitivo– a very important grape to this region. Also Rkaciteli (Rkatsiteli) is an important white wine grape. All of these wines are such a great value.
- Marin County – just north of San Francisco–across the Golden Gate bridge–while on the map it is a smaller California County and of course land pressures will always keep viticulture as a very small activity. I have tasted several Pinot Noir and so very different from it’s brethren county in Sonoma. If you get a chance taste a Marin County Pinot Noir.
- Mexico/Valle de Guadalupe – just across the border and down the Baja coast highlights most international varieties as well as Iberian and Italian varieties. I have only tasted wines from this only a handful of times and loved everything I tasted.
- Molise – on the Adriatic coast sandwiched between Puglia and Abruzzo it is a region known for it’s Trebbiano and Montepulciano. There are four DOCs: 1) Biferno 2) Molise 3) Pentro di Isernia 4) Tintilia – I have never tasted wines from Pentro di Isernia and Tintilia and I do ask my favourite wine merchants and wine directors to locate. The wines I find most often are Molise DOC and have all been lovely wines and a very approachable price point.
- Montsant – I could have easily placed Montsant in the Catalunya entry but I specifically call this out because it’s neighbour Priorat gets all the acclaim and Montsant is sometimes referred to as the ‘baby Priorat’. It is not a baby on any level. Wine grape cultivation has been happened here for at least two millennia – polished and superb wine country. The grapes mainly in this DO are Garnatxa, Samsó (Carignan), and Garnatxa Blanca. I was certainly impressed on a recent visit of this region of it’s heritage and excellence in wine making. Gorgeous wines.
- Murcia: Jumilla, Yecla, Bullas – a giant in southeast Spanish wines producing Monastrell (Mourvèdre) – glorious wines and when I tasted years ago loved then and still today. Such an outstanding wine region and to seek out these wines.
- New York – the regions of the Finger Lakes, North Fork of Long Island and Hudson Valley all producing high quality and delightful wines. Outstanding Cabernet Franc and Merlot from Long Island; Long Island is producing many international variety white and red wines. I tasted a delightful Albariño and wish there was more planted in New York. The Grüner Veltliner as I have read “shows promise” but I would posit that it is not just a proof of concept but instead are lovely wines to seek out. Definitive Grüner Veltliner from the Finger Lakes is something to look out for. Riesling is of acclaim to Finger Lakes seek out these wines as well… and well be sure to pair with oysters. I am due back for a visit to New York—I have been in sometime.
- Portugal – the top of mind for some people is the fortified wines from Portugal–I appreciate Ports and I also look to the non-fortified of Portugal to appreciate. Portugal has many styles and varieties make for a unique bottle—all approachable and appreciable. I have always found Portuguese wines very approachable in terms of price point.
- Okanagan Valley – British Columbia’s wine region. Scenically gorgeous wiht the very giant and deep and life giving Lake Okanagan; it is region that has very beautiful international varieties. The dominance and share of mind is the Vitis vinifera grape in the region. With a car it is an easy and friendly place to visit–no dramatic lines. I love for example Tantulus Rieslings (I still have a bottle) I will only open when I know I will be going back to Okanagan Valley. I have tasted lovely Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Tempranillo, and Petit Verdot to name a few. While the ice wines make their way down to California the still and sparkling wines don’t. You will find these wines readily available in Vancouver–so when you visit be sure to taste.
- Paso Robles – in San Francisco my base; I can go through many a wine store and wine list and never find a Paso Robles wine. Paso Robles is only 204 miles away but it might as well be on the far side of the moon as it relates to on-off premise availability in the Bay Area. Known most often for the Rhone wines. There is such a great plethora of varieties and they all do well in this area. Most people I know in the Bay Area do repeats of Napa and Sonoma through the year without ever giving Paso a passing thought. While 3 hours each way is a deterrent for some. I do think it is a great weekend getaway. And even if I don’t have time to visit-I still seek these wines out.
- Puglia – a region I fell fond for many years ago. Having been fortunate to visit several times. The alluring and unusual Negroamaro is a representative wine of this region; Negroamaro means (negro) black/dark and (amaro) sour/bitter. Primitivo and Nero di Troia are also grown here and are important grapes to the region.
- Santa Barbara – A lot of people pay attention to Sta Rita Hills and yet there is so much more in this vast county of Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. You do see Santa Barbara wines on wine lists in California–I would say more often in Southern California than in Northern California. A wine country that certainly deserves more attention.
- Santa Cruz Mountains – just south of San Francisco and boarding the Bay Area and some might argue it is part of the Bay Area. A very large AVA with small amounts of wine grapes planted. Rugged, pristine and beautiful. Great examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and other varieties. So many outstanding wines and these wines are unfortunately not plentiful at any wine retailer in San Francisco or wine list. I know that is the case across the US.
- Savoy – I love the wines from this small French region–near Switzerland. The wine varieties are Altesse AKA Roussette, Pinot Gris, Mondeuse, and Pinot Noir.
- Sicily – the Italian Island of intrigue and beauty; a lot of attention goes to Etna wines which are sterling of course. Sicily has so many wonderful wines to offer and I recommend to try if you haven’t ever or even recently: Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Grillo, Cataratto, Inzolia and Perricone. Also not to be missed are the Passito de Pantelleria. You can also find wines that are also blended with international varieties – a very lovely origin for wines. And very nice price points I might add.
- Sierra Foothills – I only taste at media/trade or consumer events and yet these wines in my home base of California of course are not easy to find. This region produces delightful Bordeaux and Rhone varieties but also Iberian and Italian varieties and all at reasonable price points.
- Slovenia – a wine world that produces mainly white wines; consumes most of them domestically and exports some precious bottles around the world. I love wines like Ribolla, Vitovska, Zelen, Laški Rizling, and Ravenec and also international varieties. Lovely food and stand alone wines.
- South Africa – while South Africa has gotten a lot of attention in the past decade it would be great to see that translate to wine lists. I have rarely seen a South African wine on a restaurant wine list. Wine retailers may have a few bottles but a full spectrum of what South Africa has to offer would be ideal. I love so many wines from South Africa–I have tasted outstanding Rhone varieties, red and white blends. Seek out South African wine not to be served just with Bobotie but anything you might be serving.
- Southern Oregon – Umpqua Valley, Applegate Valley – Oregon is often thought of as Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris state which of course produces outstanding Pinot Noir and Gris wines. To the south is Oregon’s region where Bordeaux, Rhone, Italian and Iberian varieties grow nicely and sculpted into beautiful wines. These wines deserve a lot of spotlight and of course a taste.
- Valle d’Aosta – this Italian DOC in far northwest with unique varieties of Petit Rouge – bright and earthy and Petite Arvine a lovely white wine for seafood and cheeses
- Virginia – The Commonwealth of Virginia and producers have worked hard to promote the states wines. It is a state known for it’s Cabernet Franc and Viognier. I would point out that there is considerable variation–Petit Verdot, Vermentino, Verdejo, Chadonnay, Pinot Noir and Petit Manseng to name a few.
- Washington State: Wahluke Slope, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge (Oregon/Washington), Puget Sound – Washington is known in many areas of producing acclaimed Bordeaux and Rhone varieties and other variety sets as well. I wanted to look at smaller and lesser known AVAs. I went to a wine merchant here in San Francisco and asked for a Syrah from Wahluke Slope. I got a response of “where’s Wahluke Slope.” So I do want to highlight these regions and the entire state as well. From my San Francisco home base Washington State is just up the coast but from the on and off premise side it might as well be on the opposite side of the planet. I remember I was at Pullman Wine Bar in Montreal and found an amazing Wahluke Slope Syrah.
Next time you are looking for something different give one of these regions a taste. Do you taste wines from these regions? What are your thoughts on this list? What region might you add or even remove?
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
© 2018 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.
Follow, subscribe, like, browse: