The world of wine is an old and well-established one.
The European wine-producing countries first planted their vines thousands of years ago, and in places like France, Italy, Spain and Germany, the leading wine producing regions have a history which stretches back into antiquity and beyond.
For generation upon generation, hardworking men and their sons tended their vines, pressed their fruit and produced wines which gradually formed characteristics and styles which went on to define their land, and instil a sense of identity that remains as strong today as it ever was.
This deeply conservative nature is obvious to see when walking into any wine shop. We naturally gravitate towards bottles which display the names of regions we know and recognise - places like Bordeaux, Tuscany, Alsace, La Rioja - household names which are synonymous with quality.
The same can be said of some New World countries, too - places like Napa Valley, Mendoza and Hunter Valley quickly established themselves as leading regions, dominating the shelves and reassuring wine-buyers that the content in the bottle is going to be representative of the place they’re from.
This is all very well and good, but it can make it difficult for excellent wineries from less famed regions to get their foot in the door, or to get their wines bought up by distributors willing to put their necks out and take a risk.
For example - I’m a huge fan of Romanian wine, and I strongly believe that the red wines from Western Romania are amongst the best found anywhere in Europe. Have I ever seen a bottle of Romanian wine for sale outside of Eastern Europe? Sadly, the answer is a definite no.
Thankfully, many wine distributors are beginning to take some risks and believe in the quality of the produce, rather than the fame of the name of the region.
Here are some of the truly up-and-coming wine regions of the world to look out for next time you’re hunting something different.
English wine was, for the longest time, something of a joke. The French, particularly, adored looking down their noses at the efforts coming out of the few English vineyards, and snorting with laughter at the very idea of a British wine industry.
To be fair, for much of the 80s and 90s, the derision was justified. English wines were dreadful. However, towards the end of the twentieth century, something interesting happened.
The English wineries of Kent and Somerset simply stopped trying to be French, and began looking elsewhere for inspiration, and found it in Austria. The warming weather saw a great series of years for dry, Germanic white grapes, and suddenly, English white wines were starting to win awards around the world for their steely minerality, crispness and acidity.
Sparkling wines were also hugely successful, and today, English fizzy wine is being served at some of the best restaurants around the world, adored as they are for their unique flavour and sharpness.
When we think of the Czech Republic, wine isn’t the first drink that comes to mind. This is the country, after all, that single-handedly brought lager to the world in the form of Pilsner, and more beer is drunk in Czech Republic per capita than in any other country worldwide.
However, travel to the beautiful, forested region of Moravia, and you’ll find a wine culture that stretches back several hundred years, and which produces some of the finest wines to ever come out of central Europe.
The Gruner Veltliner and Muscat wines of this region are, some say, the finest examples of wines made from these grape varietals found anywhere on earth, grown as they are in the cool slopes of the region, in the shadow of fairytale castles and traditional hamlets.
The region also produces wonderful Pinot Noir wines, celebrated for their smoothness and balance.
Italy needs no introduction as wine producing country. 5000 years of viticultural history, some of the finest wine regions in the world in Tuscany and Veneto… we all know what this country can do. Some parts of Italy, however, suffered from a less than desirable reputation for much of the late twentieth century, and Sicily was certainly one such region.
This island in the Mediterranean was mainly known for poor-quality, cheap-as-chips table wine, but things have changed, and they’ve changed dramatically.
While the north of Italy is all about refinement and subtlety, Sicily is about fire and passion and big, bold flavours. The Nero d’Avola wines produced here are the essence of sunshine and ripened fruit, and the newly established Sicilia DOC is making sure standards never slip again.
Let's not forget our own amazing patch of land. Tasmania is beginning to pose a threat to the wine producing regions of southern Australia, and for good reason. This tiny island, separated from Australia by two hundred and fifty kilometres of sea, is quickly proving to be prime wine growing country.
The cool, oceanic winds, fertile and untamed soils and long, warm days allow vines grown on the island to produce grapes of fantastic character and ripeness. Couple this with a bold, young, outlandish collection of winemakers, and the results are truly exciting.
In the north of Tasmania, we’re seeing some really vibrant white wines being produced. Germanic grapes such as Riesling thrive in the maritime climate, along with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Bekaa Valley Lebanon
Lebanese wine is hot right now. That it hasn’t really been before is odd, considering that this Mediterranean country has a strong claim to being the oldest wine producing country in the world, with a wine-making tradition that is said to span seven millennia.
The cool, temperate Bekaa Valley brings together reverence for the past with a new generation of Bordeaux-trained vintners, keen to put this historic region back on the map.
The results so far have been extremely promising, and the obscure quality of these wines have seen them become highly popular with millennials looking for something a little different from what their parents drink.
Bekaa Valley excels particularly in deliciously floral and aromatic white wines, such as the Viogniers which offer a real alternative flavour profile to their French counterparts.
The Bordeaux blends made here (Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot) are, again, lusher, softer deeper than the French style, and there’s little doubt we’ll begin seeing more of them on our local wine shop’s shelves before too long.
Now that you have made a mental note of 5 new, must-visit wine regions, it's finally time to meet your wine matches. Check out our quiz below and find out your top 3 favourite types of wine!