6. Bio-Bio, Chile
There is no question that Chilean wines have a strong presence in the United States wine market. Much of the quality wine from the country comes from the Central Valley. However, innovative producers like Cono Sur have ventured further south to Bio-Bio to make some remarkable wines.
Bio-Bio is one of the most southern wine producing regions in the world. Its location, a similar latitude to that of Otago region of New Zealand, provides a cool climate. Varieties like Pinot Noir and Riesling are producing some fresh, balanced, delicious wines. As Bio-Bio's quality and fame continue to rise, we will see more producers planting vines in the region.
7. Rio Grande do Sol, Brazil
Brazil is the fifth largest producer of wine in the Southern Hemisphere behind Argentina, Australia, South Africa, and Chile. The country has been making some variation of wine for centuries, but only in the last twenty years have we seen quality turn a corner. In the 1970's, large producers like Moet & Chandon, Seagram, Domecq, Martini & Rossi and many others established wineries in the area. Like many young regions the best wines were sparkling, however today many quality reds are being made with grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot.
Brazil, along with many regions across the globe, is benefiting from the concept of the "Flying Winemaker,” basically a winemaker who travels to the Southern Hemisphere in his off season to consult. With popularity and interest from quality winemakers comes investment, better equipment and more education. We will see more Brazilian wines in the domestic market in the next 5 years, much of it good quality.
8. Salta, Argentina
Salta has seen a surge in production in the last few years. Many producers in Argentina focus on one grape from one region: Malbec from Mendoza. But Mendoza is cool and won't ripen all grape varieties. To expand their portfolios, many producers have sourced fruit from the warmer northern Salta region. The wines produced here are usually whites like Torrontes, but more varieties are being experimented with including Cabernet Sauvignon, which is known for its ability to thrive in warm climates. If you’ve ever tried a Torrontes, you may have had a wine from Salta and not even realized it. It’s my prediction that we will see more variety and an increase in quality from Salta in the next four or five years.
9. Okanagan Valley, Canada
The Okanagan Valley is the oldest and most important wine region in British Columbia. It's also one of the world's most northerly wine growing areas. The region is Canada's best chance at producing world-class varietal wines from grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir.
A recent dam break caused over a million gallons of water (enough to fill 8 Olympic sized swimming pools) to rush down the mountainside into the Okanagan Valley. The water took with it boulders, trees and plenty of mud burring some vineyards up to 25 feet. Only 40 total acres of vines were affected, but experts say the new soil deposited is better than the existing, so I guess there's a silver lining. This region produces wines of good quality, but you have to pay for them. Not the most value packed, but certainly an up-and-comer.
10. Long Island AVA, United States of America
The Long Island AVA (American Viticulture Area) is located in New York. Its climate and position to the ocean make it a great place to grow cool-climate grapes like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Recently, producers have been experimenting with grapes like Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (only in the sunniest spots).
Producers like Bedell on Long Island have begun to receive international attention. Their flagship wine, Musee, is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. The wine received a 90-point rating (out of 100) from Wine Spectator for their 2005 vintage. The region is gaining recognition, but it's hard to find wines from the area. Many of the producers make small amounts and only sell their juice at the winery. If you are in a state that allows direct-to-consumer shipping, look up a few wineries and order a bottle. Like the wines of the Okanagan, they are not cheap, but they make some damn fine examples of Riesling.
There you have it, a list of the top ten up-and-coming wine regions in the world. While there are certainly many that one could argue would fit into this category, especially ones from Italy, this list looks at some of the lesser known places and their promising future. I wanted to put this together to help promote wines from these lesser known regions. Without a market to sell its juice, a producer has no drive to increase its quality. With awareness comes buying power, when we support these regions we encourage growth and ultimately more variety in our market.
I hope you have a chance to try wines from a few of these regions, and please let me know if there are any "up-and-coming" regions you like by emailing me, posting a comment on the blog here or contacting me on Facebook.