5 lesser-known wine regions
The world is filled with interesting wine regions from Japan to Patagonia. Everybody knows Bordeaux, Champagne and Napa Valley but outside these classic regions it’s a sea of unpronounceable grape varieties, quirky winemaking techniques and vineyards that have not yet reached their full potential. Things have changed since the wine maps were first drawn. Some regions were forgotten, others lost in the turmoil of history. These smaller wine regions might not be significant when it comes to quantity but they bring much desired personality into the world of wine and without them connoisseurs worldwide would die of boredom. Here are 5 lesser-known wine regions that not only make good wine but are great places to visit if you are thirsty for an adventure.
Istria – Croatia
This beautiful peninsula nestled in the Adriatic Sea, a short drive from Venice, is one of the most interesting up-and-coming wine regions at the moment. Croatian wine has been widely ignored in the past but Istria has decided to put an end to it. This small but diverse wine region produces everything from quirky wines made in amphoras and wines aged in acacia barrels to sparkling wines and classic Bordeaux-blends. Local wines made from varieties such as Malvazija and Teran are everything but boring. If the wines and picture-perfect blue ocean are not enough, Istria also produces outstanding olive oil and apparently truffles grow there like potatoes. Not a bad place to spend a week or two.
Elqui Valley – Chile
If you really want to go off the beaten track go to Elqui Valley (picture above), the antechamber of the Atacama Desert. This relatively new wine region is located approximately 500 kilometres north of the capital Santiago de Chile. Lodged between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, this dry wine region produces some of the best Syrah wines in the Southern Hemisphere. Elqui is known for its clear skies and there is a handful of observatories in the region. This attracts all kinds of stargazers to the valley and some say there has even been UFO sightings. The area is also famous for the grape-based spirit pisco which might explain the extraterrestrial visitors. So, grab a bottle of some local vino or a pisco sour and enjoy the mystical vibe of Elqui.
Südsteiermark – Austria
Südsteiermark or Southern Styria is often called the Tuscany of Austria and it’s not hard to imagine why. The rolling green hills close to the Slovenian border and their annoyingly idyllic villages actually look more like the Shire from Lord of the Rings than Tuscany. Südsteiermark is considered as one of the best regions for Sauvignon Blanc but you can find a wide range of fresh varietal wines like Morillon (Chardonnay) and Muskateller. The steep vineyards are nice to look at but working them is another story. Let’s just say tractor accidents are not uncommon. It’s perhaps because of the backbreaking terrain and the extra attention to viticultural practices that makes the wines of Südsteiermark stand out.
Mornington Peninsula – Australia
Australia is well-known for big and powerful red wines but the country is ridiculously big with plenty of diversity to go around. This narrow peninsula just south of Melbourne is making waves in the world of wine. Mornington Peninsula’s vineyards are pretty much surrounded by the ocean, creating a cooler maritime climate which is why the region is big on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These varieties, especially Pinot Noir, are really picky when it comes to ideal vineyard sites. It looks like they have found a home in Mornington Peninsula and luckily so because some of these wines are phenomenal. The beautiful landscape and close proximity to one of Australia’s greatest cities makes it an ideal place to visit.
Colares – Portugal
In the mid-19th century when the nasty little bug called phylloxera was busy destroying most of the vineyards in Europe a few areas here and there survived. Colares was one of them. The vineyards were and still are cultivated close to the beach on sandy soil. For some reason phylloxera couldn’t handle all the sand and the wines of Colares were spared. For a moment it looked like the region was on a path to greatness. Now, many decades later, the wines of Colares are almost extinct. There are still a handful of producers in the region keeping the tradition alive and producing incredible wines from ungrafted vines. The thing about the wines of Colares is longevity. If you visit the region you can still find some bottles from the early 1900’s that are in stellar condition. Colares is definitely one of the best kept secrets in the world of wine.