Christopher S. Miller
A wine’s most important attribute (to me anyhow) is its sense of place. Does the wine I just paid $30 for taste of the place where it was grown? If not, then I feel ripped-off. With that in mind, I thought it was time for a preview of the new(ish) wine regions we have to look forward to in the next decade or so. To get a picture of what wine regions are being discovered, it helps to have a look at what has happened in the past. Wine’s history is based in central Europe, especially in France. Mention Bordeaux and most people know what you are talking about, but mention Barolo and you lose them. French wine dominated the market for several centuries, till now anyhow.
The first threat to France’s wine dominance occurred thirty years ago (1976) with a famous France vs. America blind wine tasting. The Americans placed at the top of the rankings and the next twenty years saw Californian wines compete and sometimes dominate the fine wine market. As Californian wines crept up in price, losing their great value, other regions stepped in. First Australia, then Italy and New Zealand. Hot new values are being found in non-traditional regions of Spain. By non-traditional, I mean any region other than Rioja and Ribera del Duero. What is next? While Spanish wines continue to escalate in price, the next great regions are being discovered and planted, such as Portugal and New Zealand. New Zealand has been important for Sauvignon Blanc for many years and is making a name for itself with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. One great area for New Zealand (NZ) Pinot Noir is in the southern most wine region of the world, Central Otago. Another place for fine NZ Pinot is in Martinborough. Don’t look for bargains though, most fine NZ Pinot Noirs from those two regions start at about $25. Marlborough (NZ) Pinot Noir is less expensive, but also less expressive and impressive. Look for Amisfield, Mount Difficulty and Craggy Range for some of the best examples. For those of you skiers who are into wine, check the Central Otago area out for world-class skiing too.
Portugal is very exciting, because of all the wonderful indigenous grapes they have planted. I have been on the Portuguese wine “band-wagon” for at least five years now. Some of those wonderful grape varietals include oddities like Periquita, Tinto Cão (red dog), Trajadura, Touriga Frances, Touriga Nacional (considered the best grape of Port) and my favorite name for a grape Esgana Cão (the dog strangler). All Portuguese wine regions need to become a wine powerhouse is cash and technology. The country has plenty of diverse climates, soils and grape varietals to keep any wine consumer happy for many years. Currently, wines from Portugal are very good values and they will remain that way until more people discover them. My favorite producer is Luis Pato of the Bairrada region. Both his reds (made from the Baga grape) and whites (Maria Gomez grape) are excellent. They may be a touch difficult to find, but well worth it. Two other producers of note are Jose Maria da Fonseca, who produces pretty reds from the Periquita grape in the Setúbal region, and Quinta do Carmo, who uses a blend of indigenous and international grapes in the Alentejo region.