The most expensive wines come from France. Many love South American and Napa wines. Want a sweet Riesling? Then you want to grab one from Germany. These are tried and true facts about wines and they have something in common: they’re regions most of us have heard of and probably sampled from. But the world is seeing wine regions developing at an insane pace. Which regions should you watch? Which might you like? Here’s a primer on emerging regions and also some tips to find wines and wine regions that might just bring you a new favorite.
Get In A New York State Of Mind
When it comes to US wine regions, let’s face it: California is king. Napa, Sonoma, and Calistoga – they’re home to some of the best reds you can find and we love them, too. After California, though, the west coast is still what we think of with the cooler climates of Washington and Oregon being large producers.
On the other side of the country, though, New York is growing as a serious producer. While the east end of Long Island has been on the map for a while, the real region to watch is The Finger Lakes. For years, many serious wine drinkers turned up their noses at the idea of wine from this area. It’s cold. Really cold. And for a while, decades really, the quality of wine in the Finger Lakes was more than a tier or two below the rest of the country. But recent years have seen an explosion in winemakers who know the area and know wine – meaning they are taking advantage of the area’s unique micro-climate and growing grapes that work, including hybrids.
Proof that the area is gaining in notoriety? The 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference was hosted by The Finger Lakes and yes, the bloggers went crazy over the awesome offerings.
Stars of the region include Riesling (go for dry or semi-dry varieties to get a sense of a wine that really works with the climate of the area), and red hybrid grape varietals that are cold hardy. Not into the idea of hybrids? Try blaufränkisch from the area. The late producing grape produces great, spicy wines that are taking the area by storm.
Start Seeing Red
Believe it or not, one of the regions that should be on your list is China. The huge, populous country has had a long love affair with fine red wines, specifically bordeaux, as explored in the Tribeca Film Festival documentary entry, Red Obsession.
In addition to loving good reds and using them as lucrative investment (including trading not unlike the stock market) the country recently became the world’s second largest producer of red wine – overtaking France who had been number two.
Chateau Junding is one of the pricier chateaus in China. It is located in Shandong province and thanks to the climate able to grow popular vitis vinifera varietals. They currently grow and use Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, and Shiraz and use them in varietals and blends.
Bolongbao is the producer for those drinkers who love organic, sustainable growing techniques and also fine bordeaux. The wines are certified organic by the US, China and the EU and have very little impact on the earth. These boutique offerings are not cheap, due to small production and high quality. They are also tough to find outside of China but talk to your local wine shop – locally owned, small shops often either know where to find wines like these or love the challenge of tracking them down.
You’ll Never Guess
Despite phylloxera, religious challenges over the years, and very little information being shared about it, India has produced wine since around 400 B.C. and is now starting to hit the world stage, although very few everyday drinkers are familiar with this region.
India’s climate means that grapes have to be grown in specific ways to resist fungal diseases and rot, frequent pruning to avoid loss of flavor from too high yields, and extra space between rows for increased airflow. This hot temperature, especially in the southern region, though, also means that there can be two harvests – which is great for a country with low production.
While many vinifera are grown, India also has some indigenous grapes that it uses in wine – these are the ones to try to track down if you want something really different. A horizontal tasting, though, that includes Indian wines is also a fun experience. Horizontal tastings look at the same varietal and vintage but different producers, regions, etc. So you’ll taste the difference between a Merlot from Argentina, one from California, a French Merlot and a Chinese or Indian one. This is a great study in region, climate and terroir.
Location, Location, Location
The more you taste, the more you’ll appreciate all types of wines but for new drinkers, it’s good to start with what you like before branching out. A great way to do this is by discovering two things you prefer: one that is easy to tell, the other is a little trickier but we’ll get you there.
Do you find yourself leaning toward whites or reds? If you have a distinct preference (I didn’t touch white until about five years ago), it’s okay to stick to reds before branching out. You can whittle it down to a varietal if you want… many people like a BIG Cabernet Sauvignon, or a lighter pinot noir. That’s a great way to start.
The Specific Preference to Learn
If you want to start experimenting with new colors and varietals, figure out your climate preference. The wine world is divided into two climates: warm and cool. This greatly influences the taste of your wine. So if you figure out that you like cool climate wines, you can start by trying new colors and varietals from the same climate – chances are there will be crossovers between what you like about that climate among the different wines.
Here’s how to figure out which climate you like:
Cool Climate Wine
Cool climate areas experience larger fluctuations of high and low temperatures. New York State is a good example, if you’re looking at emerging regions. While it may get as hot as California, throughout the seasons there is a much wider swing. The dramatic drop in temperature right before harvest is what gives cool climate wine its character: just like you freeze something to keep it fresh, the grapes getting chilled on the vine keep them “younger” tasting. Cool climate wines are going to taste of more tart fruit and have higher acidity – it’s warmer temps that sweeten the grapes, dropping the acidity. Because these grapes do not produce as many sugars, and sugars are what raise alcohol content, cool climate wines often have less ABV (alcohol by volume).
If you like a little tart, some zip, and a less sweet wine, try a few cool climate wines and chances are you’ll like them.
Warm Climate Wine
Just like cool climate doesn’t mean a place that is colder all the time, warm climate doesn’t mean a place that is hot all of the time. Warm climate areas have less of a temperature change during the year. Rather than temps dropping dramatically before harvest, the weather only cools slightly. This gives the fruit time to fully ripen. More ripe means sweeter, less acidic, and because of higher sugar content: a higher ABV.
Now it’s your turn – go out there and think about what you love in your favorite wines and try to find the climate that best fits your palate. You may find that you like cold climate reds and warm climate whites. Or that you only want cold climate whites. Learn your preference and then explore similar climates as you broaden your knowledge of wine.