Up-and-Coming Wine Regions to Try in 2015
By Kevin Pelley
Now is a great time to be a wine lover. Never in history have there been so many quality wines being produced from around the world. Amazing wines are now coming from far-reaching places around the globe that were not even on wine lists or in wine shops just a decade ago. Interesting grape varietals, new regions and different wines from well established regions, are giving wine lovers an all new set of options to try. While there is always room for enjoying the classics, now is the time to explore some exciting, up-and-coming regions that are producing incredible wines that are destined to be the next generation of classics.
While the French AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) for Sancerre Rouge has been in existence for over 50 years, the region is mostly known for the crisp, minerally white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. But about 20 percent of the region is planted to the Pinot Noir grape varietal that rivals Burgundy at a fraction of the price. High quality Sancerre Rouge can be found for around $30 per bottle, sometimes less. One fine example is the 2012 Yves et Pierre Martin ‘Chavignol’ Sancerre Rouge with its tart red fruit flavors of raspberry, cranberry and cherry, with earthy notes of mushrooms and damp earth. All the fruit comes from the village of Chavignol, which is also famous for tremendous, unpasteurized goat milk cheese. Just like in Burgundy, the soils in this particular cru are pure limestone which adds a mineral complexity to the red wines. Given Burgundy’s recent price increases, now is the time to explore the captivating, aromatic wines from Sancerre.
Italy has been called the bottomless well of amazing wines. With twenty distinct wine growing regions and over 1,000 indigenous grape varietals, exploring Italian wine can be a lifelong passion. Given all of Italy’s exciting regions and grapes, perhaps the most intriguing are the wines coming from the Etna Rosso DOC on the island of Sicily. The Etna Rosso DOC, established in 1968, is located between 1,500 – 3,600 feet above sea level on the biggest active volcano in Europe – Mount Etna. The principal grape of the region is Nerello Mascalese which bears a striking resemblance in the glass to Nebbiolo, the grape in Piedmont that is used in Barolo and Barbaresco production. Though pale in color, Nerello Mascalese has high acid and high tannins, making it an ideal candidate for long-term cellaring. The wines it produces are highly aromatic, loaded with mineral flavors, undoubtedly from the volcanic soils, and are delicious with red fruits, dried flowers and spice notes. Though not inexpensive, the red wines from the Etna Rosso DOC are a must try for wine lovers this year. One favorite is from the famed importer Marc de Grazia’s own Le Vigne di Eli winery. The 2011 Le Vigne di Eli Etna Rosso ‘Moganazzi – Volta Sciara’ ($50) is a single cru wine that rivals a Barolo twice its price.
The Central Otago District is located on the southern tip of the South Island of New Zealand. It is the southern-most grape-growing region in the world, located on the 45th latitude south. It is so far south, that grapes wouldn’t normally ripen in such a cold climate, but the region is essentially a large bowl surrounded by mountains that trap heat and make it one of the world’s best places to grow Pinot Noir. Though the first wine-grapes were planted in 1864, it wasn’t until 1972 that the modern day winemaking started in this region. Not unlike Burgundy, Central Otago enjoys a cool climate along with clay and limestone rich soils, but doesn’t experience autumn rains that often mar vintages in France. The results are spectacular with bright, fresh, fruit-forward wines that still possess earthy, terroir notes that combine the best parts of Old World and New World styles in one wine. Perhaps the top wine from the region comes from the Cloudy Bay winery with their ‘Te Wahi’ Pinot Noir ($80), this hand-picked wine is a must try in 2015.
On the Greek Island of Santorini there is a true up-and coming grape varietal that exhibits all the hallmarks of a classic with high acidity, aging capability and a friendly price. The grape is Assyrtiko and is among the noblest white varietals on the planet. The best examples of Assyrtiko possess a full-bodied white wine with delicate aromatics, citrus flavors and a mineral driven finish. Due to the windswept conditions on the island of Santorini, Assyrtiko producers weave the vines into basket-like bundles to protect the vines from suffering wind damage. Though hard to find, Assyrtiko wines are still a great value with many costing under $20 per bottle. One to look for is Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko with its flavors of lemon, white flowers and minerals. M
—Kevin Pelley, Certified Sommelier
Wine Merchant: Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits
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