There are the classic wine-making regions: the Rhône Valley, Chianti, Douro and many more. Prestige has often dictated that the most famous and respected vineyards lie within a relatively small corner of Western Europe, with notable exceptions. However, grapes are being grown in some seemingly inhospitable climates and strange locations all over the world. These regions also happen to produce some of the most flavoursome wines: read on for the most unusual tasting tour you could ever take.
The Canary Islands
The mass of grey-black volcanic soil which characterises the islands might suggest that wine crop would be the last thing you’d find growing here, but grow it does and in many cases, has done so since the 15th century. Green crops burst from the middle of grey, alien-like craters in an unreal demonstration of nature’s micro-climates at work. Tenerife produces fine reds from Listan Negro varieties, whilst La Palma’s Fuencaliente region works wonders with young whites. It’s certainly something to think about if you find yourself on a winter break here.
On the Niagara peninsula between Lakes Ontario and Erie, lies a cold-climate region which produces 70% percent of Canadian wines. With plenty of mineral enrichment and temperatures as low as -7, these so-called ‘ice wines’ are rare and subsequently expensive. Hand-picked and yielding only a drop per grape, the white wine varieties developed here definitely qualify as the most unusual Chardonnay or Riesling you’ll ever drink.
Gaining notoriety not least because it’s one of the world’s southernmost wine regions, this desolate desert landscape is 400 miles away from its more famous neighbour, the Mendoza region and receives just seven inches of rainfall per year. The windswept, dry terrain is great for battling mildew and the crop here is slow to bloom on account of extreme swings in temperature. But the Merlots and Cabernets from Bodega del Fin del Mundo have won awards and you’ll also find white varieties abundant on the Rio Negro plantations.
Astounding as it may be to learn that this Eastern country is one of the biggest wine-producers in the world, its beautiful rolling countryside has been home to vineyards for over 4000 years. Since the fall of Communism, Romania has steered away from cheap export and concentrated on top quality production. Wines from Transylvania, contrary to its bloody reputation, tend to be white, whilst reds in the form of Syrah and Pinot Noir are found in Murfatlar. And it’s hard to turn down the chance to taste some of Jidvei Winery’s best at their magnificent, turreted fortress in the Târnave.
International vineyards are growing in strength in a whole host of other unlikely places, from the floating vineyards of Thailand, to the reputable Chateau Musar winery in Lebanon. Whether through lack of distribution or a propensity to undervalue them, wines from such places are largely unheard of. Indeed, with many not exporting outside the immediate area, it may be necessary to do some travelling yourself. It’s true that these underdogs of the wine world are well-deserving of more notoriety however, so it would be a shame not to give them a try.
Photo Credit – Dave Morrison Photography