Ljubljana, Slovenia (Dreamstime)
List 28 September

5 of the world’s most offbeat and intriguing wine regions to explore

From otherworldy Slovenia to Chinese chateaux, wine buff Bianca Bosker selects five regions around the world making brilliant wine you need to know about, just ripe for exploring…

 

1: Sicily, Italy 

Olive tree and vineyard, Sicily (Dreamstime)

Olive tree and vineyard, Sicily (Dreamstime)

Any wine would taste delicious on the shores of Sicily, where herbs are sold in bunches the size of umbrellas, the air smells like salt, and fishermen on the docks offer up octopus plucked from still-glistening nets they’ve just pulled from the water. But it helps that Sicily’s wines are phenomenal in their own right. I can attest to that from drinking them on stressed Wednesday nights mid-deadline.

Sicilian producers like COS, Arianna Occhipinti, and Tenuta delle Terre Nere have deservedly earned great acclaim overseas. But my pleasure comes from exploring bottles I couldn’t easily find back home, preferably on a rocky beach somewhere.

I’ve never met a Grillo I didn’t like. 

 

2: Yantai, China 

Yantai city at night (Dreamstime)

Yantai city at night (Dreamstime)

I first came to Yantai, a city overlooking the Yellow Sea in what ranks as a top Chinese wine-producing region, to explore China’s thirst for wine by judging a wine competition. Somewhere in between devouring barbequed squid in a parking lot, getting sloshed with winemakers at late-night karaoke and tours of elaborate castles inspired by Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, I fell in love with the place.

This is a place to savour the wine. Local bottles will often include Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot served up with feasts of sea cucumber, fried silkworm pupa, abalone and steamed whole fish.

But also savour Yantai for the glimpse into China’s emerging wine culture: think wine Disneylands, more Chateaux than the French countryside, wineries inspired by traditional Chinese siheyuan (residences) and even a new estate built by the producer of Chateau Lafite Rothschild. 

 

3: Portland, Oregon, USA

Wine barrels in Portland's Willamette Valley (Dreamstime)

Wine barrels in Portland's Willamette Valley (Dreamstime)

I grew up in Portland and maybe it’s some illicit thrill of being able to drink here legally, but Portland wines make me dizzy with pleasure.

The Willamette Valley, just south of Portland, has received most of the glory, but Portland has pioneered an urban wine scene that holds its own. Teutonic, Southeast Wine Collective, Bow & Arrow and more are making wines that have the funky, fiercely independent vibe Portland brings to everything from weed edibles to tacos.

On the few days a year Portland isn’t rainy and overcast, I find there are few pleasures as great as picking up a couple local bottles from Liner & Elsen, grabbing a bratwurst and pint of blueberries at Kruger's Farm on Sauvie’s Island, and driving out to the (clothing-optional) Collins Beach on the Columbia River. 

 

4: Ljubljana, Slovenia 

Dusk in Ljubljana (Dreamstime)

Dusk in Ljubljana (Dreamstime)

I dream about the wines I've drunk in Slovenia. Whether that was overlooking the ornate bridges of 

Ljubljana, or beside solemn cows grazing by alpine lakes, I always seemed to drink them in settings with an otherworldly, Brother’s Grimm feel.

Wines from Sloveni, a tiny parcel of land nestled between Italy, Austria, and Croatia, stubbornly resist being classified in such staid terms as red, white, or rosé. They are eccentric, extreme, elegant, floral, gloriously bizarre, hazy, happy, dizzying, savoury, luscious and, without fail, surprising.

Make Ljubljana a home base from which to explore Ribolla Gialla and Pinot Grigio with Aleš Kristančič and Marjan Simčič in Goriška Brda, or Refosco with Santomas and Rojac in Slovene Istra. Be sure to save room for a plate of goulash and hazelnut potica. 

 

5: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Lebanon's Bekaa Valley (Dreamstime)

Lebanon's Bekaa Valley (Dreamstime)

Here's the honest truth: I've never been to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, but I regularly fantasize about traveling there. Although Bekaa Valley isn't as synonymous with wine as Burgundy or Barolo, it should be. Lebanon's wine industry dates back more than five millennia, from the Phoenicians through the stalwart winemakers who recently persevered in making wine through the country's years of civil war.

Perhaps it's the romance of inhaling, through wine, the smells of a part of the world I've never visited, or perhaps it's as simple as the fact the wines are delicious. Either way, Lebanon's bottles have had me enthralled.

Among other wineries I'd love to visit, there's the eccentric, iconic, and elegant Chateau Musar; Domaine des Tourelles, and Massaya, whose rosés went down like Gatorade among the clientele at the wine bar, Terroir, where I used to work. 

 

 

Bianca Bosker is the author of Cork Dork: A Wine-Fuelled Journey Into The Art Of Sommeliers And The Science of Taste, published by Allen and Unwin. For more info, see www.allenandunwin.com/Cork-Dork.

Follow Bianca on Twitter at twitter.com/bbosker.

 

     

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