Re-Post: Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Underappreciated Regions
During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project closed and even web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, so I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” you see here – I will continue re-posting them from time to time.
Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…
After spending some time looking at hard-to-find-but-worth-seeking wines (Jerez and Madeira posts can be found here and here), let’s go back to the “hidden secrets” series. We agreed at the beginning that in this “secrets” series, we are looking for great wines which will bring a lot of pleasure – but will not require one to dip into pension savings to enjoy them pretty much every day. We talked about Rioja, second labels, French Sparkling wines and wines of Languedoc. Where should we go now?
If anything, we are living through a wine renaissance period right now. Wine is very popular as a beverage among people of all ages and all walks of life, everywhere in the world. Wine is also made nowadays almost everywhere in the world – from China and India to downtown Chicago (I’m serious – you can read about it here). Does it mean that you can universally enjoy wines made anywhere in the world? Of course not (not yet? May be, but I can’t predict the future). Taking out of equation exotic wines made in exotic regions, what are we left with? There are a number of well know wine making regions – Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Rhone in France, Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, Germany (as one big Riesling-making region), Rioja, Ribera Del Duero and Priorat in Spain, Porto in Portugal, Australia and New Zealand (often taken as a whole), United States with Napa and then Sonoma being most prominent, and hopefully Washington and Oregon being also well known outside of the US, and Chile and Argentina, as still relative newcomers in the wine world. How did I come up with this list? Before someone gets upset for his or her favorite regions not being mentioned, or all 70+ regions of Australia not being accounted for, let me explain the logic here – it is simple. Each of the regions listed above (even with the whole country lumped as one) makes tens or may be hundreds of the wines which are in a high demand. How can we estimate the demand? When wine is in demand, it typically starts going up in price. Each one of the above mentioned regions has many wines priced in the hundreds or thousands of dollars per bottle (anyone who wants to check is welcome to look for Screaming Eagle, Chateau Petrus, Krug Champagne or Vega Sicilia on wine-searcher).
Yes, you are absolutely right – not all the wines produced in Bordeaux or any other famed region cost hundreds of dollars, there are many which cost between $10 and $20. True, but in many cases consistency of those wines might be in question – meaning, you never know what you are getting for your ten or twenty dollars. Of course probability of finding very good and reasonably priced wine is getting better and better in today’s world – but you can even further improve it by stepping out of familiar circle and looking for wines from under-appreciated regions.
So what are those under-appreciated regions? As you can imagine, there are lots of them. Again, all the exotic places aside, for each famous wine region, the same countries have tens of “under-appreciated” regions, consistently making good wines for hundreds of years, with majority of those wines being also reasonably priced. In France, great wines are made in Loire, Provence, Jura, Languedoc-Roussillon (we already talked about them) and many other places. In Italy, excellent wines are made in Umbria, Sicily, Lombardy, Marche and again in many other regions. Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Jumilla and La Mancha in Spain; Long Island, Virginia and Texas in United States, South Africa, Israel, Lebanon, Greece, Georgia and Hungary… There is no limit to the places where now we can look for consistently good wines.
As usual, time to open a bottle, right? Let me give you a few examples from the regions which I believe are under-appreciated.
Let’s start in Italy, in the region called Marche, which is located on Adriatic coast of Italy, near Ancona. There are a number of great wines produced in that region, which is still staying off the radar for the most of the wine lovers. Particularly, white wines made out of the grape called Verdicchio, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica are excellent white wines, with balanced acidity and fruit, perfect for summer day. The red wines are made mostly out of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes. This particular 2006 Casal Farneto Rosso Conero IGT is made of the blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, and it is an excellent red wine with lots of layers and luscious red and black fruit on the palate (think of blackberries and sour cherries), perfectly balanced.
Let’s move from region Marche in Italy to France. Here is our first wine, coming from Vouvray region in Loire valley. Loire is home for many different wine regions, all producing interesting but lesser known wines, may be with an exception of Sancerre (I might be really stretching this “may be”). Vouvray wines are made out of the grape called Chenin Blanc, which produces wide range of wines from very dry to very sweet. This particular 2009 Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray AOC is very nice and pleasant, showing some sweetness (probably equivalent to Spatlese Riesling). It is easy to drink and should be great accompaniment to many summer meals.
Last but not least for today is red wine coming again from Loire Valley, from the region called Chinon. As many other red wines in Loire region, Chinon wines are made out of the Cabernet Franc grape, with an addition of some other grapes. Cabernet Franc is typically used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and California, but it also produces great wines on its own, in all the different regions throughout the world. This 2007 Epaule Jete Chinon required extensive time to open up, but after three days, finally became drinkable, showing earthiness, fruit and acidity, all in harmonious balance.
Not sure if I was convincing enough, but next time you are in a wine store, look for unfamiliar wines from unfamiliar places – it is possible that you will make a great discovery. As subject of under-appreciated wines is almost endless, I will give you many more examples of great wines from no-so-well-known places. Until then – let’s drink to fearless wine tasting and great discoveries.