If we look at history, tradition, reputation, and name, there are certain regions around the world that are known to produce world-class, long-lived, sought-after wines that any wine lover would want to drink such as a great French Bordeaux, an amazing Italian Barolo, or an unleashed Napa Valley Cult. But for most of us, those are wines we enjoy on special occasions…. But, what other wines can we drink on a daily basis that can be just as good with a lower price tag? Follow me around the world to look at some of my favorites.
Since we’re here, let’s begin with the USA. For me, right now, it is all about Washington State, specifically Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, Rattlesnake Hills, and Horse Heaven Hills. Here, Syrah is king, although great Cabernet Sauvignon, and outstanding Grenache are also being made. A Syrah from WA State is full-bodied, yet elegant with its dark fruit, spicy, peppery, and floral notes, balanced with high acid and silky tannins. If you haven’t had one yet, you are missing out!
Now, let’s fly to the Southern hemisphere to land in Argentina. All of us know Argentina for Malbec, but they also have their signature white wine, Torrontes. This tends to be a love/hate kind of wine because of its profound, in your face aromatics. I love it because it tricks your senses. When you smell it, you get these aromas of ripe peach, candied citrus peel, jasmine, rose petals, etc., but when you try it, you noticed it is a dry wine with a light-medium body and good acidity. Look for those that come from the Salta region, which is a cooler climate; and, the best part, you can find a great bottle for under $15.
Heading over to the land of Kangaroos: Australia, they have a mixed reputation here in the states, but I had the privilege to live there for some time, and realize that their wine country has many different sub-climates, and that a lot of their wines are outstanding…. Unfortunately, most of their wines are either consumed locally, or exported to the Asian market. Some of my favorite Aussie wines are those full-bodied, ripe, with eucalyptus-like aromas coming out of the tiny Coonawarra region is South East Australia. These great Cabs will battle those from Napa and even those from Bordeaux. I also really enjoy the Rieslings coming out from Eden Valley and Clare Valley, ranging from bone-dry to sweet. Hint: Aussie Rieslings will have a sweetness scale in the back label, letting you know if it’s a dry, off-dry, or sweet style.
Now, let’s go to the old world, where iconic wines have been setting the bar for every other wine around the world. Beginning in France, where Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cote-Rotie, etc. have made it to every wine collection, finding a comparable wine with a lower price tag becomes quite harder. If I am in the mood for a full-bodied wine, I love a Gigondas or a Vacquyeras from Southern Rhone. These wines are typically Grenache- based blends mixed with Syrah, Mourvedre, or 25 other allowed grapes. They tend to be rustic, with fine tannins and bursting with aromas of dark fruit and some minerality. A good bottle of Gigondas or Vacquyeras will cost you around $25.
However, if I am more in the mood for a lighter red with some funk, I will look for a Chinon. This is a region within the Loire Valley that makes 100% Cabernet Franc. They tend to be light and tart, but they also have this funk that I love. It’s these aromas of delicate Violets along with some tar-like, liquorice hint that makes it very interesting and unique.
Finally, arriving to the land of tapas, bulls, and flamenco: Spain. It is best known for its great long-aged wines from Rioja, but I am very interested in the amazing region of Priorat, or it’s little-brother region, Montsant. These side-by-side regions make red blends composed primarily of Grenache or Carignan, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. These tend to have a light to medium acidity, high tannins, and high alcohol, although those coming from the higher elevation, cooler sub-region are less tannic and more floral. Keep in mind that Priorat wines tend to be expensive, but some Montsant can be as good for a fraction of the price.
These are just some examples of great wines around the world that are trying to develop its reputation, character, and niche in the immense world of wine. My suggestion to you… Don’t be afraid to spend $10-$15 in a bottle from a region that you are not familiar with, or from a grape that you might not know… you might be pleasantly surprised. Cheers!