Planning on visiting wine country during the next three or four months? If you’re tired of Tuscany and bored with Napa, we offer some stops to consider on the road less traveled.
Greece:Despite an assortment of internal economic problems, Greece is still a lovely place to visit, particularly out in the countryside. The best news of all is that Greek wine has gone through a transformation in recent years, with some producers that now rank with the world’s best.
Macedonia is one of the country’s oldest wine regions, featuring full-bodied reds made from the Xinomavro grape; among the many worthy stops are two properties run by Bordeaux-trained enologists, Alpha Estate (in remote Amyndeon) and Domaine Gerovassiliou (outside Thessaloniki). The Peloponnese region is home to two of Greece’s best wineries, Domaine Skouras and Gaia. Visitors who make the trek to the island of Santorini can sample cutting-edge whites from Domaine Sigalas and Hatzidakis Winery.
Portugal: Long known for port wine and Vinho Verde, Portugal has come into its own as a wine producer over the past decade. The people are friendly, the seafood-based diet is healthy, and travel within the country is a bargain.
The Alentejo region, located in the south of the country, is frequently cited as an area where outside investment and technology have revolutionized winemaking. Notable estates include Quinta do Carmo, which is the center of winemaking and production of the Alentejan Bacalhôa Group. The wines of the Dão also have been transformed, with producers such as Quinta do Perdigão and Flor das Maias leading the way. In the Douro, the home of port wine, dry reds such as those from Quinta do Crasto and Quinta do Vale Meão have set a new standard. And speaking of treks, the Madeira Islands—located 600 miles southwest of Lisbon, in the Atlantic—are home to some of the world’s greatest dessert wines.
England: No, it’s not a misprint. The southern part of England has been one of the main beneficiaries of climate change. Always a source for high-quality sparkling wine, this area has become known lately for red wines as the world has grown warmer.
Probably the best known winery is Denbies Wine Estate, in the Surrey Hills, long known for sparkling wine, but now equally famous for both whites and reds. Nyetimber, a relative newcomer, located in West Sussex, has led the sparkling wine field since its founding in 1988. Curious Grape is the brand name of New Wave Wines, in Kent, which is the largest (and many believe the best) winery in the United Kingdom.
Eastern Europe: Croatia may or may not have been home to Zinfandel, but famed California winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich surprised the world some years back when he returned to his native country and established a winery on the Peljesac peninsula. He has played a key role in helping Croatian wineries make the transition from local to global enterprises.
The quality of Romanian wine has been improving steadily thanks to the efforts of the Vinarte Group, along with estates such as Domeniul Coroanei Segarcea and Halewood (founded by John Halewood, an expatriate Englishman in 1978). Hungary is a sweet wine lover’s paradise due to the production of Tokaji. In addition, the reds are vastly improved from the days when Egri Bikavér, or Bull’s Blood, was the quaff of choice; the top regions for full-bodied, spicy reds are Villany and Szekszárd, and it’s possible to tour the wine routes in both areas.