Forget France, Drink Wine From These 7 Unexpected Countries Instead

Monday, 21 August, 2017
vinepair.com, Courtney Schiessl
The wine world landscape is pretty well laid out at this point: There’s the Old World and the New World, and while new wineries are popping up daily, the countries from which quality wines come are well established.

Sure, there are esoteric winemaking countries like Slovenia and Croatia thrown in there, thanks to a new crop of young, hipster somms, but there aren’t any new winemaking countries just popping up out of nowhere, right? Wrong.

Just when you thought there were no new wine countries to discover, influences such as climate change, new energy and investments, and changing political conditions are throwing new regions into the mix. From the Middle East to Africa to South America, these seven unexpected winemaking countries are just a few offering new discoveries to spice up your wine drinking. And best of all,  you’ll seem seriously wine-savvy when you bring a bottle to the next wine and cheese night. Feel free to take all of the credit — we won’t tell.

England

For those who need proof that climate change exists, look to the winemaking culture of England. While rising temperatures are cause for concern about the future viability of the world’s classic wine regions, climate change has actually allowed areas previously inhospitable to vine growing to become regions with winemaking potential. Previously too cold to grow quality wine grapes, England is now an emerging producer of quality sparkling wine, with over 450 vineyards in the southern part of the country.

The country’s cool climate gives traditional-method sparklers from ChardonnayPinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier the highest potential here – two-thirds of all English wine is sparkling – and the resulting wines bear a remarkable similarity to those of Champagne. In fact, the geological basin that gives Champagne its characteristic chalky soil also runs through the southern part of England, which may contribute some of that distinct Champagne-like minerality to English wines. Currently Ridgeview, located in Sussex, is the only producer available in the U.S., and the quality of its cuvees has set a high standard for other producers to follow.

Morocco

While most wouldn’t expect quality wine to come from North Africa, remember that a mere eight miles of water separates the southern winemaking regions of Spain from these northern African countries. While Algeria leads the pack in overall wine quality, Morocco by far has the greatest potential for quality winemaking due to its high mountains and cooling influence of the Atlantic. Formerly occupied by the French, Morocco has a fairly long history of winemaking, but with most of the country’s vineyards having been ripped out after the 1950s, it is only in the past 25 years that vintners have begun to replant grape vines. Morocco’s winemaking regions are located near the coast, where this maritime influence is most significantly felt, and one of the most promising regions, Meknes (near Fez) is actually midway between the mountains and the Atlantic Coast, moderating temperatures with cool ocean breezes.

That’s not to say that this is cool-climate winemaking, however; temperatures can reach over 100 degrees in the summer, so hardy red grapes found in southern Spain and France such as Carignan, Cinsault, and Grenache work best with this climate, making powerful, fruit-forward wines. International varieties like SyrahCabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are also grown, as well as tiny amounts of the white grapes Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Clairette, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. While winemakers in Morocco have a fair amount of European influence, they also have traditions that are inherently Moroccan; at the winery Ouleb Thaleb, established nearly 100 years ago, the vineyards are tilled not with horses, but with camels!

To read more online, click here.

Thomas Davidson

Thomas joined wine.co.za in May 2019 after graduating from Stellenbosch University with a BA in History & Ancient Cultures and completing a certificate in Business Management and Entrepreneurship at the Graduate School in Stellenbosch. He moonlights as a radio presenter at MFM - and has an incredible passion for wine. 
We are delighted to have him on the team.