We’ve all heard about — and probably tasted — French Chardonnay and California Pinot Noir, but the wine industry expands much further and high quality bottles can be found across the globe. New locations for viticulture are currently being developed and old ones are gaining popularity thanks to an international rising middle class with increased disposable incomes demanding high quality drinks. Here’s a look at some promising up-and coming regions that make for interesting lesser-known wine escapes.
Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Settled between the Great Lakes and a large escarpment, the Niagara Peninsula is home to breath-taking Canadian scenery. To add to the natural beauty, the area has begun to establish itself as a great destination for viticulture.
With freezing and unpredictable Canadian temperatures, Niagara may not initially sound like traditional wine country. While the quality and consistency of traditional harvests can be affected by the cold Canada climate — which is much more temperate in the nation’s famous Okanagan region — Niagara has found another way to excel. Taking influence from Germany, the region has instead turned to icewine.
Growing this type of wine begins like any other, with growing grapes at a temperature of around 65° F. The twist with icewine is the grapes then need to be harvested at a temperature of 17° F, when they’re in a naturally frozen state. If grapes are collected while frozen, they become sweetened and intensified, producing a luscious exotic fruit and floral flavor. This is one that works on its own as a dessert, or in a pairing with patés and cheeses.
New tasters and long-time fans alike will be able to get the full icewine experience at the annual Niagara Icewine Festival (this year’s dates are January 10 to 26, 2014). Held every year in January, wineries from all over the Niagara region come to show off their best selections, with drinks available both by the bottle and by the glass for tasting. In addition to the great wine, the festival also showcases local culinary and art talents to create a well-rounded — if not chilly — experience. The next Niagara Icewine Festival will take place from January 10 to 25, 2014.
Israel definitely isn’t a new comer to viticulture by any standard. All the way back in biblical times, Moses was said to be the first to grow grapes for wine production in the area. However, the region has just recently begun making a bigger mark with its kosher wines. New pasteurization techniques ensure wines are still produced at a high quality while fulfilling preparation requirements in order to remain kosher.
In addition, Israel’s newest wine area, Galil, has proved to be an ideal area for grape growing with its cooler, high altitude. Nearby volcanoes and the Sea of Galilee not only make for fertile ground, they also offer plenty to do when visitors aren’t in the vineyards, from outdoor adventuring to relaxing in hot springs.
To get a full taste of Galil wine, check out Beshvil Hayayin Festival. Meaning “for the wine / following the wine route” in Hebrew, the festival takes place every year in May. It showcases a wine fair and includes several events featuring local cuisines as well.
Sula wine from India. Photo courtesy of Marco Zanferrari.
Having had a Prohibition after becoming an independent country in 1947, India was only able to begin producing wine again in the 1980s. At this time, however, most domestic taste was for whiskey and harder alcohol. Today, a rising middle class is rediscovering a love of wine and the country has begun producing a variety of great white wines such as Chenin Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.
Consistently hot and humid temperatures mean vines have the potential to produce two harvests per year, but monsoon season usually limits harvest season to February through April when grapes are irrigated and canopied to protect them from drying out.
Located northeast of Mumbai, the Nashik region’s wine production is centered on Sula Wineries. As only one of the original Indian wineries, Sula is gaining a reputation as a high-quality reputation, which it proudly flaunts during its Sulafest. This wine festival not only includes basic tastings, it also offers the chance to get down and dirty doing some wine stomping ( before being cleaned up in a foot massage). Music performances and dances set a lively tone for the festival, making it non-stop fun. The next Sulfafest will take place February 26, 2014.
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
While much of Brazil is too close to the equator to be suitable for wine production, the southern mountainous Rio Grande do Sul is far enough away to be suitable for grape production. Still tying into the tropical spirit of Brazil, many of the wines are fresh and fruity with sparkling wine dominating production. The industry here is extremely localized, as many of the country’s 1,100 wineries are small in size and family-owned.
With the World Cup and Olympics making their way to Brazil, the country has really started to push its wines into the international scene and establish itself as a wine destination it can promote at these events. Rio Grande do Sul even celebrates Dia Do Vinho (Wine Day) on May 24, where towns across the region hold a range of festivals to show off their best bottles.
Montalto Vineyards in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Montalto Vineyards.
Mornington Peninsula, Australia
While most wine enthusiasts heading to Australia go straight to South Australia’s Barossa Valley and surrounding wine regions, Victoria is home to a worthwhile yet lesser-known vino escape: Mornington Peninsula. Located about an hour outside Melbourne, the area takes you away from the city and immerses you in rows upon rows of signature Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays and about 50 cellar doors growing diverse grapes in Mornington Peninsula’s martime climate. Wineries of the area are artisanal and experiential. For example, while Green Olive at Red Hill offers tastings of boutique wines as well as dukkahs, salts, oils and jams, Montalto Vineyards is home to an upscale restaurant with views of the vineyards and an outdoor sculpture garden.
One event to make your way to Mornington Peninsula for is the annual Winter Wine Festival, held on the Queens Birthday long weekend in June each year. Here you’ll be able to taste over 200 premium local wines from around 50 wineries.
Contributed by guest writer Judi Zienchuk who has lived everywhere from Southeast Asia to Northwestern Canada.