NEW YORK (Reuters) - Beaujolais Nouveau has launched the 2011 French vintage, but if you’re interested in looking beyond the Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone classics for emerging wine experiences from all corners of the planet, then you’re in luck. Men’s magazine AskMen.com (www.askmen.com) has come up with a top 10 list for up-and-coming wine regions. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
The main mistake most consumers make is to assume that Austria is like Germany in its wine culture — and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course, both countries excel at Riesling, but stylistically, they are typically on opposite sides of the spectrum.
For all of Germany’s sweet bottlings, Austria finds its center of gravity with a typically dryer style. But it’s the great white grape variety Gruner Veltliner that’s made its reputation in recent years. The peppery, often stony character of these bracing whites has made them the darling of sommeliers and consumers for several years; they pair well with even the most difficult dishes. Also make sure to keep your eyes open for the great reds from Austria, including some serious Blaufrankisch, gloriously spicy Zweigelt and delicious St. Laurent.
2. South And South West France
Mention French wine, and thoughts of expensive bottles from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne are typically conjured. Fans of France, however, know that the old paradigm has been shifting for some time. In the classic, more famous regions, affordable bottlings from exciting producers have become the norm. Burgundy is still on the expensive side, but there are some fantastic wines from Bordeaux and Champagne that will blow your taste buds away without emptying your bank account. However, South and South West France are where it’s at right now in terms of value. The range of styles is tremendous. Depending on where your focus is, there are some spectacular wine options: the not-famous-enough Banyuls; the dense, perfumed dry reds crafted from Grenache, Cabernet, Malbec, and more; some unexpectedly expressive whites, especially those from native grape varieties like Petit Manseng and Mauzac; and springtime-perfect rosé. All of these wines call this part of France home and offer some of the best deals around.
It’s difficult to overstate the rise that Malbec has seen in the past decade or so. What once was a native French grape variety that did well on its own primarily in the appellation of Cahors is the star of the show in Argentina. From the lighter, more red-fruited bottlings of San Juan to the denser, more concentrated expressions of the grape in higher altitude vineyards in Mendoza, this is the red that made Argentina a household name all over the world. A visit in October, however, demonstrated how much more this country in the shadow of the Andes has to offer. From wonderful Tempranillos and Bonardas from Mendoza to the fabulous sparklers of Patagonia and the great aromatic Torrontes bottlings from the north of the country, Argentina has all the potential in the world. Keep an eye on it, and make sure to take advantage of the remarkably fair prices for such delicious wines.
If occasionally it seems as if Argentina gets the lion’s share of the media love, that’s probably because it’s an easier national wine culture to wrap your arms around. Chile, for better or for worse, hasn’t yet been identified with one well-known grape variety to the extent that Argentina has with its Malbec. But that’s about to change with Carmenere, the great up-and-coming red of Chile that, if there’s any justice in the world, will be a huge hit on the international market. Think of it as spicier than Cabernet Sauvignon, with just as substantial a tannic backbone and the ability to pair with a wonderfully wide range of foods. This sliver of a country between the Andes and the Pacific is also home to some great Cabernet, Syrah and, more and more, Pinot Noir.
Don’t even think of Manischewitz (that particular sweet thing is made in America, anyway). And don’t assume that it’s all kosher wine here. These days, Israel is finally taking advantage of the expressive, idiosyncratic terroir it’s been blessed with, and has been producing wines that, at their best, strike a delicate balance between the ripe fruit so typical of warm growing regions and the earthiness that great vineyard lands impart. As an added bonus, many ambitious (and often young) winemakers are training in places like Australia’s Barossa Valley, France’s Rhone Valley and Bordeaux, and even in California. The result is wine that, at its best, is made with technical care and is firmly rooted in the soils of this vinous oasis in the heart of the Middle East.
6. South Africa
This area at the far tip of Africa may have made its international name with the much-maligned Pinotage grape, but it’s expanding its audience to consumers at all points on the expenditure spectrum with amazing Bordeaux- and Rhone-style blends from regions as diverse as Stellenbosch, Paarl and Constantia, among others. A recently tasted Bordeaux-style blend was one of the top wines experienced in the month of March: the Xavier Flouret uQamata, produced by Amani Vineyards’ Carmen Stevens, the country’s first black female winemaker — and it is a showstopper.
Portugal is, of course, home to one of the greatest sweet wines in the world, port. But these days, it’s also blooming in the dry-wine department, too. And while you can certainly find some great bottlings produced with the more well-known international varietals, it’s the native ones that are really feeling the love, and that’s why it makes our list of the top 10 up-and-coming wine regions. Though perhaps difficult to pronounce, grapes like Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz are being vinified into dry reds of remarkable character. And best of all, you don’t have to spend a fortune to find a great one.
8. Galicia, Spain
Tucked into the northwestern part of this legendary wine-producing country, Galicia is experiencing a remarkable star turn as a result of Albarino, the wonderfully refreshing, gently perfumed grape variety that’s become a darling of white wine lovers all over the world. The sweet spot for this grape is Rias Baixas, where Albarino grows up to achieve all the peachy, brightly acidic personality it can. It’s hard to beat with seafood.
9. Jerez, Spain
Sherry’s moment has arrived. What once was perceived as a wine that your grandparents drank is finally getting the respect it deserves. From dry, briny fino and manzanilla, all the way to the sweet Pedro Ximenez, sherry is seeing its stock rise faster than Apple’s after the release of a new version of the iPhone. Mixologists are getting in on the action, too, incorporating sherry into all manner of classic and contemporary cocktails. If you’re looking for one wine to pair with every aspect of a meal, sherry is a great bet.
Italy may seem like an unlikely country to mention on a list of the top 10 up-and-coming wine regions, but the explosion of great wines from appellations that few people have ever heard of before is more than enough to warrant its inclusion. Oltrepo Pavese, Valcalepio in Lombardy, the entirety of Apulia, and Alto Adige in the north are just a small sampling of the places where this ancient wine land is hitting its stride. So, please, go exploring. You’ll be amazed by how many surprises Italy holds in store.
Editing by Paul Casciato