Most wine drinkers welcome new taste experiences, and it’s exciting to find quality in a region that’s off the beaten path. Those who don’t venture beyond basic varietals and brands have less of a chance to stumble onto something new and exciting, but if you’re willing to experiment a little, there’s plenty to discover. Most importantly, there are known regions unrecognized for their hidden, superb wines that are just waiting for your attention.
There are some surprises in the following list. Surely many more wines and regions offer the opportunity for discovery, so this is just a place to start your journey.
Salta – This tiny region with about 18 wineries offers stunning taste experiences. With Argentina’s first winery founded here in 1831, Salta has the highest vineyards in the world, from 5,000 to 9,000 feet in elevation.
At this altitude the fruit gets increased ripeness, color, mouth feel from additional pigmentation and piquant acidity. Water is limited, so Salta will never have a large output. Torrontes for white grapes and Tannat for reds do well on the hillside sites, while Malbec and Cabernet do better in the shaded vineyards.
Greece – if your experience with the wines of Greece is based only on the resin-infused Retsina, try a bottle of Moscophilero, one of the country’s distinctive crisp and aromatic white grapes. The dessert Muscat from the island of Samos is lovely and aromatic and deserves your attention.
Known as St. George’s, the red Agiorgitiko is similar in style to Pinot Noir, with rich, supple flavors, complex aromatics and a hint of earth. Mavrodaphne is used to produce the delicious, lightly fortified dessert wine of the same name. It blends well with Refosco, Agiorgitiko and Cabernet Sauvignon to produce dry reds.
Don’t hesitate to try different Greek wines. Do some research and talk to local retailers and restaurateurs to see what is available and recommended.
Spain – Old vines and new technology lead to some exceptional wines being produced, from value price points to releases competing with the best from classic regions.
Look to Rueda for some stunning whites with crisp, floral notes and rich texture produced from old vine Verdejo. The Basque region is releasing some unique wines bottled directly from their lees with a hint of spritz and delicacy, perfect with light entrées and for sipping.
For reds, Jumilla’s warm climate brings out the best in Cabernet and Monastrell, with dark, lush fruit and firm structure. Using blends of Syrah, Cariñena, Garnacha and Cabernet, Priorat and the surrounding Monstant region produces full, complex and long-lived reds.
Canada – While known primarily for ice wines, the Niagara Peninsula and British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley are making some lovely dry whites and reds. The Okanagan has even seen some investment by a Bordeaux firm, resulting in a premium red blend of surprising complexity.
The standard cool climate varietals are recognized, but Pinot Blanc, Auxerois, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Semillon are the news for whites. Bordeaux varietals for reds are being increasingly planted. Wine ripeness, acidity and balance are currently being handled quite well.
Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York are making some exceptional dry whites and reds, using many of the same grapes as Canada, along with some unusual varietals, such as Agawam.
In Ohio, the regions by Lake Erie are the safest for vineyard establishment due to the water’s climate moderation. However, southern Ohio vineyards are also making some excellent wines.
If you haven’t tried some of the top releases of the last few vintages, you owe it to yourself to investigate wines from our home state and surrounding region.