12 under-the-radar wine destinations that fall

Everyone knows the Bordeaux and Tuscan vineyards, or the Napa Valley. But there are many other wine regions, no less attractive, which deserve to be known.

Scattered around the four corners of the globe, none of the following twelve regions are alike; each has its own strengths and all are worth a detour. Follow the leader.

Spain and its sherries

Brought up to date in recent years, sweet wines, similar to liqueurs, are once again on the rise. Sherry, or sherry among our British friends, has lost its somewhat old school connotation, and is making a comeback. As Ashley Santoro explains: “The areas of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria are definitely worth visiting. Sherry has had an old-fashioned reputation for a long time, but it can be reinvented with cocktails or at the end of dinner.” Jerez enjoys a warm and sunny Mediterranean climate, the other two destinations are small seaside towns. She continues “The terroir is truly unique, dominated by the Albariza, a soil rich in limestone whose color is almost bright white.” Maturation is also an essential element in the elaboration of sherry and it will be an essential point of any cellar visit. “For a tasting in the region, my favors go to Emilio Hidalgo, El Maestro Sierra and Valdespino, specifies the specialist. 

Kartli, Georgia

A former republic of the USSR, Georgia is the oldest wine region in the world. Rachel Sign, a journalist specializing in natural wine, explains that if many people don’t know it well despite its long history, it’s because “the country remained under Soviet domination for decades, and wine culture was greatly affected. Only four grape varieties (out of more than 500) were authorized in production; the others were kept alive in secret”. “With independence, continues the expert, Georgia rediscovered its wine culture and began to share it with the rest of the world.” If you are an orange wine fanatic, you are probably already familiar with Georgian macerated wines. “This method consists of harvesting the white grapes and letting them ferment, instead of squeezing the juice right away. This fermentation allows the juice to gain color, flavor and texture thanks to the skin of the grapes”, Rachel Sign. “The result is a completely different wine, which has the floral elements of a white but the tannins of a red.” The journalist also points out that Karthli is relatively easy to reach, since it is less than an hour’s drive from the capital Tbilisi. During your stay, pay a visit to Iago Bitarishvili of Iago’s Wine , who produces a wine called Marina, in honor of his companion and collaborator, Marina Kurtanidze . “It’s hard to imagine more enthusiastic than these two about the idea of ​​making natural wine. Georgian wine is notably made according to a traditional method with kvevri, terracotta amphorae buried under the ground, you can see some in Iago’s cellar and Marina. The atmosphere there is amazing, with messages left on the walls by visitors from all over the world.” His advice for getting a tasting? Send an email well in advance. “Allow some time to get there, don’t be in a rush, and make sure you see the whole area, the kvevri method is exciting to experience. And if they offer you a meal, don’t refuse under any circumstances!”

Puglia, Italy

Puglia is no longer such a well-kept secret as it once was: the heel of Italy has become a popular destination over the past decade, with its whitewashed villages, ancient olive groves and turquoise waters. But have you thought about wine? If not, now is the time to fix it. “The calling card wine of Puglia is undoubtedly the primitivo”, according to James Butler , head of wines for Delfina and Hilda and Jessein San Francisco, which cites Nero di Troia, Aleatico, Susumaniello, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera for the reds and Verdeca and Fiano for the whites. “That said, if it is one of the most widespread grape varieties, there are other very interesting grapes in Puglia by going a little off the beaten track. “The wine of southern Italy has long been much criticized, he continues. For years, the grapes were over-grown there and the bulk wine market has taken a toll on the quality of what was produced in the region.” But today, a new generation of winegrowers is emerging. For a vineyard visit, James Butlerrecommends Masseria Li Veli, but points out that potential visitors are better off planning their itinerary in advance. “Traverse the area in one direction only, without retracing your steps,” he says. And don’t forget to plan a few stops to enjoy the cuisine and cultural or historical highlights.”

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Mexico’s wine-growing past dates back to the 17th century, notably with the Listán Negro and Tempranillo grape varieties, yet this region remains largely unknown to oenophiles. “Valle de Guadalupe, in Baja, is less than 150 km from the border with the United States: if you are on the West Coast, it is worth pushing a little,” explains Allison Luvera , co-founder of Juliet Wine . “Although vines have been cultivated here for hundreds of years, a new wave of winemakers with modern methods has emerged in recent decades, led by visionaries like Hugo D’Acostawhich has generated a renewed interest in more qualitative and terroir-oriented wines.” The Valle de Guadalupe is making a name for itself for its culinary scene and vast landscapes, which has already earned it the nickname of “Mexican Napa Valley”. “Wineries in the valley are especially experimenting with European red grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo and Tempranillo, which are often blended,” says Allison Luvera . Book a stay at Bruma Vinicola, hotel and winery overseen by winemaker Lulu Martinez Ojeda, which produces El Vino wines. “If you’re looking for the best European-style wines, Villa Montefiori is renowned for its Brunello and Nebbiolo, while Torres Alegre y Familia is a great destination for French varietals,” says our expert.

Okanagan Valley, Canada

British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley sits between two mountain ranges, dotted with breathtaking large glacial lakes and rolling hills of vineyards. “The region produces world-class wines that are hard to find outside of Canada, so the best way to taste them is to travel there,” says Allison Luvera . “It’s a relatively new wine region and most of the wines produced here are consumed at home. They are nonetheless beginning to attract leading winemakers from France, New Zealand and South Africa, and to gain notoriety.” During your stay, Allison Luverasuggest you go wine tasting at Quails’ Gate, Okanagan Crush Pad and Painted Rock. And while you’re in British Columbia, extend the adventure: “Enjoy the landscapes and the outdoors: hikes, bike rides or kayaking on Okanagan Lake. At the south end of the lake, the Osoyoos Desert Center boardwalk provides an opportunity to experience Canada’s only desert.”

Middleburg, Virginia, USA

California, Oregon, Washington DC, and New York State dominate wine production in the United States, but other states are not left out and are just waiting to be discovered. “Virginia was probably one of the first places in America to produce wine, but it remains little-known nonetheless,” says Lorenza co- founder Michèle Ouellet Benson , who produces her own wine alongside her mother, Melinda Kearney . , in Lodi, California. “The wine community here is pretty much just small winemakers. appointmentproduces wines that have nothing to envy to the greats and presents the best Virginia has to offer.” Wines that she describes as a meeting between those of Napa Valley and Bordeaux. “There is fruit, a nice maturity, but also structure and tension in these wines,” she explains. The region is at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an hour from Washington DC. Michèle Ouellet Benson  : “It’s very accessible, when you visit RdV , it’s like stepping into another world, with its farms, green hills, and incredible panoramas. Try RdV ‘s Lost Mountain. It is their signature wine, a Bordeaux blend, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, which was recently crowned ‘American Grand Cru’ by renowned consultant oenologist Eric Boissenot . It is a very great honor, whatever the field and the region.”


Swiss wines suffer from a lack of notoriety, probably due to the proximity of France, Italy, and even Germany, all major producers. “For me, however, it is one of the most incredible countries to visit in terms of wine, between the French-speaking cantons of Valais and Vaud, those of Graubünden and Thurgau, German-speaking, and Ticino, Italian-speaking, in the south, Switzerland offers a staggering array of styles, crafted with pinpoint precision,” says Victoria James , sommelier and beverage manager at the starred Cote in New York.

She also points out that if her wines are poorly known outside her borders, it’s because the country has no particular need to export. “I remember when I was studying for my sommelier exams, the chapter on Switzerland was less than a paragraph!” One of the explanations for this quality lies in its climate. “For example, Valais is bathed in sunshine on average 2100 hours per year, for comparison, that would make it the third region of France in terms of sunshine,” explains Victoria James . “So the wines always strike me as very jovial, like a Swiss farmer picking flowers from the fields on the nearby hills – very open, juicy, fresh wines, rich with the scents of alpine herbs.” Natasha Patterer, Head of Wines for the Bowery Group, also points to impressive local sustainability efforts. “In recent years, the Swiss viticulture sector has started experimenting with underutilized cultivars and unique new biodynamic practices to adapt to climate change,” she explains. The region, once too cold, is now among the innovators of climate research in the wine industry.” For a stay in Switzerland, Natascha Pattererrecommend taking the Golden Pass to travel by train and admire the centuries-old terraces of the UNESCO-listed Lavaux vineyards overlooking Lake Geneva. In terms of tastings, she has a weakness for the Domaine de Colombe, the Domaine Louis Bovard, the Domaine de La Crausaz, and the Domaine de Maison Blanche. “Switzerland is a paradise for wine and food lovers, be sure to visit the cheese cellars to taste Étivaz, Tête de Moine, Appenzeller and of course Gruyère”, suggests Victoria James (whose the choice of cellars also extends to the Cave Caloz, that of Serge Roh, the Cave du Vieux-Moulin, or the Cave des Tilleuls, among many others).

Szekszard, Hungary

About 150 km south of Budapest, Szekszárd is a Hungarian wine region. “Not many people venture outside of Budapest and I discovered this place on a river cruise in Eastern Europe,” says freelance journalist Jillian Dara . “There are very old vines there (some are over 2000 years old), but the production is limited, often family-run, resulting in reduced exports and a lack of recognition for the region.” Here, wine styles range from very muscular to more consensual. “The most popular grape variety is Kékfrankos (or Blaufränkisch), which produces an extremely tannic and spicy wine, explains Jillian Dara. It is clearly not for everyone, but it is the most characteristic of the region. We can also mention the local Kadarka grape variety, the complete opposite of Kékfrankos: it gives fresh wines, with good acidity and aromas of red fruits, intended to be tasted young.” Reserve a spot on your itinerary for Fritz Winery and Estate, the area’s family-owned winery. “In 1990, they dedicated 30 hectares to the Blaufränkisch grape variety, to put it back on the map in Hungary and Europe. They blend it with Cabernet Franc in their extremely structured and rich Kék Dudás (Blue Horn).

Chinon, France

It is not for nothing that the Loire Valley is nicknamed the “garden of France”, the valley is full of vast gardens and parks, elegant castles and historic vineyards. However, the region’s wine remains less well known abroad than its very popular counterparts in Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Chinon appellation, in particular, deserves our full attention. “Many go to the Loire Valley for its whites, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumés, and overlook the Chinon region,” says travel journalist Kristin Braswell . The king grape variety? Cabernet franc. “Chinon produces lively Cabernet Francs, grown on the sandy-gravelly soils of the banks of the Vienne.” She recommends planning a tasting at Olga Raffaultand its 24 hectares of organically grown vines. “The vineyard is located in the commune of Savigny-en-Véron, on the banks of the Vienne, and produces wines with expressive black fruits. I highly recommend ‘Les Picasses’, with smoky blackcurrant notes and a nice minerality.”

The Pedernal Valley, Argentina

With the Andes as a backdrop, Argentina’s wine region is very spectacular. And while Mendoza is the international star of the scene, about a two-hour drive north is a lesser-known region not to be overlooked: the Pedernal Valley. “The country’s wine regions have an incredible diversity that has yet to be fully recognized by the international wine community,” says sommelier and founder of Vino Concierge, Lydia Richards .. “San Juan, and the Pedernal Valley in particular, has what it takes to establish itself as a premier wine region.” She notes that the Malbec from here, very marked, can compete with the greatest, and clearly differs from its neighbors. “The region is still developing and I’m sure it will become a major player in the global landscape,” she adds. As for the essentials, she cites the Bodega Graffigna Yanzón, which offers visits to its cellars, tastings and accommodation on site. She also recommends trying Pyros “which paves the way for a new breed of wine from the region”. Also not to be missed during your visit: the wide open spaces. “When you are in the San Juan area,

Mendocino County, California

Less than four percent of the vines planted in California are in Mendocino County, but one-third of the state’s certified organic vineyards are there. “This area is a hotbed of organic farming, just beyond California’s wine tourism hotspots,” says winemaker Martha Stoumen. The amount of old vines, planted after World War II, makes this region incredibly unique. Little is known, but some of the best wineries in California source their fruit from Mendocino.” The Russian River originates in the county, while the soil in the interior is rocky. This, along with the dry-farming practices introduced to the region in the early 1900s by Italian families, “creates concentrated, balanced, quintessentially Californian wines,” she adds. According to the winemaker, the region is not yet identified as a “cool” place, but its large accessible parks and hidden culinary treasures give it a delicious picturesque atmosphere. For tastings, she advises Idlewild Wines and Ruth Lewandowski Wines. “Oz Farm is one of my favorite places to stay when I want to connect with the land,” says this lover of the region. “Handcrafted accommodations, geodesic domes and a lush organic farm nestled among the redwoods: what more could you ask for?”. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, she suggests the historic MacCallum House, or dining at the Harbor House Inn and Fog Eater Cafe.

Bugey and Savoy, France

Nestled in the Alps, the wine regions of Savoie and Bugey are prime destinations for their wines. “In some areas good food is sorely lacking despite exceptional wines, in others hospitality and gastronomy trump wines (Napa Valley, we’re talking about you),” says Grant Reynolds , co-founder of Parcel. Despite everything, the region remains poorly represented outside of France. “Only 5% of its wines are exported, which represents barely 8000 bottles per year, a drop in the ocean on the scale of world wine production.” About an hour to the east is Bugey. “Breathtakingly beautiful, with its blue light falling on the mountains at the end of the afternoon”, enthuses Stefanie Djieof Skin Contact, a New York nature wine bar. “There is a very tight-knit community of small winemakers, they are striving to improve their image and produce very energetic wines. I think it’s that spirit that makes it a thriving region.” She particularly recommends the Château des Éclaz, run by Michaël “Mickey” Dulac , originally from Bugey, who worked for The Ten Bells in New York. “The castle itself is an old tithe barn built by the Cistercians of the Abbey of Saint-Sulpice in the 12th century, which then belonged to Joseph Bouvier des Éclaz, general and baron of the first French Empire”, specifies Stefanie Djie .

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