11 Great Wine Regions You May Not Know About
Burgundy, Napa Valley, Marlborough, Tuscany -- true wine fans have probably already ticked the great grape regions off their lists. Thankfully, these days, there are even more wine worlds to conquer.
Recent years have seen new or lesser-known vineyards produce outstanding vintages that are redrawing the wine map. Here are 11 hidden and beautiful wine locations ripe for exploring:
1. Inle Lake region, Myanmar
Myanmar possesses only two wine estates, both located near Inle Lake, famous for its Intha fisherman who row standing up with one leg while manipulating their conical fishing nets. A 30-minute drive from the lake into the Shan mountains is the Aythaya wine estate, opened in 1999.
Wine tasting takes place in the Sunset Wine Garden restaurant, where the sun drops over the vineyards for an otherworldly feel.
The Red Mountain Estate opened in 2002, and is the only other winery in Myanmar. Its 400,000 plants were imported from France and Spain after experiments to determine which would grow best in the hilly region.
2. Kakheti, Georgia
Located at the intersection of Europe and Asia, Georgia is not known for succulent peaches, but for its grape varieties. Georgia, the country (not the US state) is one of the world's oldest winemaking regions.
Archaeologists have found evidence of wine production from 6,000 BC, which has earned it a place on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Kakheti is Georgia's most famous wine region: highlights include sipping wine at Pheasant's Tears (+995 355 23 15 56) in the quaint hilltop town of Sighnaghi.
Rather than producing wine in wooden barrels or steel containers, Georgian-grown grapes ferment in clay jars known as qvevri. The resulting sweet taste is pleasing and distinct from the usual palate of Western wines.
3. Brda, Slovenia
The 72-square-kilometer (28 mile) wine region of Brda sits along the Italian border and has been described as a "mini Tuscany" -- even the cuisine is influenced by Italy.
An hour's drive from Ljubljana, most of the vineyards are small, family-run operations, and almost all offer some combination of wine tastings, tours, meals, accommodation and wine sales. Best way to experience Brda? A slow, multicourse meal on a terrace overlooking the vineyards.
4. Douro Valley, Portugal
Northern Portugal is home to the Douro region and is the birthplace of port wine. There has been wine production in the region for more than 2,000 years.
The new Six Senses hotel -- the group's first in Europe -- presents a renovated 19th-century manor house set high on a hill overlooking the Douro Valley and the river below. (Quinta Vale de Abrão, 5100-758 Samodães,Lamego; +351 254 660 600)
Its highlights include panoramic views while lounging in the pool, or leisurely strolls through the property's organic garden.
5. Okanagan Wine Region, Canada
Situated in British Columbia and a 4-hour drive from bustling Vancouver, the Okanagan Wine Region is the perfect place to do a bike tour through a vineyard.
The Fairview Trail Network is a 6.2 mile loop that begins at Tinhorn Creek Winery (537 Tinhorn Creek Rd, Oliver, BC; +1 250 498 3743), where it's possible to bike through the vineyards and Fairview Townsite, a former Gold Rush town.
Afterward, enjoy wine tasting at a number of vineyards with a view of lovely rolling hills.
6. Finger Lakes Region, New York
The Finger Lakes Region of New York State is a 9,000 square mile picturesque landscape of waterfalls, gorges, rolling hills, and miles of shoreline encompassing 11 glacial lakes and one Great Lake.
White wines are the main draw, as the Finger Lakes has burst onto the scene with its tasty Rieslings.
The region has more than 100 wineries and is the largest wine-producing region in the US east of California.
7. Franschhoek, South Africa
Located 45 minutes from Cape Town, Franschhoek is gearing up to be South Africa's next great wine destination.
The valley was originally known as Olifantshoek (Elephant's Corner) after the huge herds that roamed the area, and is now a premier vino destination in the Cape Winelands.
The new Leeu House is an exclusive boutique hotel with six of the rooms opening to private gardens, and guests can enjoy a complimentary tasting of the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram offers a hop-on hop-off tour that passes by pretty vineyards with stops at several wineries.
8. Tenerife, Canary Islands
With its rich volcanic soil, Tenerife, the largest island in the Canaries, produces tasty red and white wines. The island offers grape varieties that were wiped out from mainland Europe during the Phylloxera epidemic in the mid-1800s.
It also has many vineyards for wine tasting including Bodega Monje (Calle Cruz de Leandro, 36, El Sauzal, Santa Cruz de Tenerife; +34 922 58 50 27) in the North of the island, and Bodega Frontos (Calle Lomo Grande, 1, Granadilla, Santa Cruz de Tenerife; +34 922 77 72 53) in the southern part.
The red Listan Negra is similar to a hearty Spanish wine while the white Listan Bianco is a dry, crisp wine that complements the island's fresh seafood and shellfish.
9. Marche, Italy
Perched in the central part of Italy, Marche offers a beautiful landscape next to the Adriatic Sea, minus the heavy tourism of neighboring Tuscany or Umbria. Every year, about 18 million bottles of its famous wine, Verdicchio, are sold globally.
In the small town of Offida, Pecorino is the most important grape. Estates such as Ciù Ciù(Contrada Ciafone, 106, 63065 Offida; +39 0736 810001) have thrived and maintained a sense of local tradition.
10. Healdsburg, California
Instead of following in the footsteps of the oft-mentioned Napa Valley vacation, one alternative is to visit Northern California's emerging wine scene in Healdsburg. Located one hour north of San Francisco, Healdsburg celebrated 40 years of the Wine Road organization last year, where 200 wineries are dotted along the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys.
The aim behind the Road's establishment was that decades ago, Napa was the only place to have tastings in the region and Californians wanted some variety.
Guests can join the husband and wife team, Herald and Kirsten Jones, that lead the Wine Country Walking Tours in downtown Healdsburg and taste some of the area's wines.
They lead the tour with a fun twist on wine tasting while visiting several tasting rooms like Williamson Wines (134 Matheson, Healdsburg; +1 707 433 1500) and Stephen & Walker (243 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg; +1 707 431 8749.)
11. Door County, Wisconsin
The "Cape Cod of the Midwest" is the affectionate term given to the wholesome, tranquil lakeside destination of Door County, Wisconsin. The Midwestern locale has eight wineries that are part of the Door County Wine Trail.
One of the oldest in Wisconsin, Door Peninsula Winery (5806 WI-42, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; +1 920-743-7431), opened in 1974 and is one of the largest producers in the state.
The area is known for its fruit wines, particularly with locally grown tart cherries. The Orchard Country Winery produces a number of estate wines from grapes, cherries, apples and other fruits that they grow on their 100-acre farm near Fish Creek.