Trying to stay current in the wine world is hard. There’s seemingly an endless supply of new wines, and figuring out which ones are worth your time and money is hard…fortunately for you, it’s also my job, so all you have to do is read this column! Here are four regions I’m super excited about.
Maule Valley, Chile
It’s not exactly hard to find good Cabernet Sauvignon these days. The grape is grown the world over, and often to much success. Yet the Maule Valley is one of the few “new” sites (a misleading phrase, since there’s a long history of viticulture in the area) that I genuinely think can stand among the world’s best. They’re strikingly textural and engaging wines, yet not overwhelmingly fruity. It’s also one of the few remaining places you can find Carmenère, which serves as a more herbal and aromatic counterpoint to the Cabernet.
Home to some of the most exciting white wines in the world, Friuli’s greatness comes in part from being a historical crossroads in Europe. A wide range of white grapes, from the familiar (Sauvignon Blanc) to the less so (Ribolla Gialla), create a broad palate for winemakers to work from, but there’s also an incredibly interesting range of winemaking styles as well. You might have heard something about orange wine (white wines made somewhat like red wines), and Friuli is one of the epicenters of this stylistic movement. Wines from just across the border in Slovenia are similar, and also fascinating.
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
You’d be excused for thinking that Kiwi wine started and ended with Sauvignon Blanc, but recently the diversity of their wine industry is starting to show up on American shores. Hawkes Bay is perhaps the region best suited for red wines, and it shows in their Cabernet- and Merlot-based wines, as well as Syrah. Restrained, yet complex and elegant, they’re still quite affordable, if you can find them.
Basically All Of Spain That’s Not Rioja
That isn’t to say Rioja isn’t great: it is, but you’ve probably at least heard of it. The rest of Spain though…goddamn. Whether the dynamic whites from Rueda, or the Monastrell of Jumilla, or the Carignena of Catalonia, you can get fascinating wines made from old vines at a killer price.
Finding wines from these regions might require a bit of looking, but you should be able to uncover some gems at your local wine shop, or with a bit of online sleuthing. Good luck out there!