Get ready to explore the world of wine beyond the usual suspects! While Napa and Bordeaux may be the go-to regions for wine enthusiasts, there are lesser-known areas making waves in the wine industry. These hidden gems are producing some of the most excellent and affordable wines. From the lush vineyards of Friuli, Italy to the rugged coastline of South Africa’s Western Cape, we’ll take you on a journey through 5 wine regions that deserve a spot on your radar. Be prepared to expand your palate and discover new favorites.
Friuli, also known as Friuli Venezia Giulia, is an up-and-coming region with a strong reputation for producing fine wines at affordable prices. Located in the northeast of Italy, the appellation benefits from a unique terroir influenced by the Adriatic Sea to the south and the Alps to the north. The vineyards are planted on a variety of soils like marl, sandstone, clay, and limestone, creating a diverse range of flavor profiles in the wines.
The region is known for its crisp white wines but also produces notable red wines from grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The prominent grapes produced in Friuli include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Friulano, and Ribolla Gialla. These grapes thrive in the appellation and yield wines with a distinct minerality, bright acidity, and complex aromatics.
Friuli has a long winemaking history dating back to the Roman era and prospered under the Venetian Republic and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, many small, family-owned wineries there produce fine wines that are gaining recognition on the international stage.
Fun fact: The growing zones of Friuli and Veneto are the birthplace of the famous Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco. Prosecco is a unique sparkling wine because of its production method, which involves secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks rather than in the bottle like Champagne. This gives it a lighter, fruitier flavor and a less bubbly texture compared to other sparkling wines. If you’ve never tasted Prosecco, our WTSO recommendations are Prosecco Superiore Serre Colsentà Valdobbiadene NV and Prosecco Bosco dei Cirmioli Veneto NV.
Languedoc is a wine region in southern France that is quickly gaining popularity for producing high-quality wines at a budget-friendly price. The region benefits from a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild winters, making it an ideal terroir for growing grapes. The soils in Languedoc are diverse, ranging from limestone and sandstone to clay and schist, allowing for various grape varieties to thrive.
Some of the most prominent grapes produced in Languedoc include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault. These grapes create a range of red wine types, from light and fruity to full-bodied and complex. The winemaking history of Languedoc also dates back to the Roman era. Today, the region is home to many small, family-owned wineries and larger, more established producers.
Fun fact: Languedoc is home to one of the world’s oldest living vines, the “Piquepoul” vine, which is over 400 years old and still producing grapes today. This vine is a testament to the region’s long and storied winemaking history and symbolizes the quality and longevity of Languedoc wines.
Western Cape, South Africa
The Western Cape of South Africa is quickly emerging as a top wine region, offering exceptional wines without breaking the bank. The appellations’s unique terroir, with its Mediterranean climate and diverse soil types, provides ideal conditions for growing a wide range of grape varieties. Chenin Blanc, in particular, has become a signature grape of the region, known for its crisp acidity, bright fruit flavors, and mineral notes.
The winemaking history of the Western Cape dates back over 350 years, with the first vines planted by Dutch settlers in the 1600s. Today, the region boasts over 100,000 hectares of vineyards, producing a wide range of varieties, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Pinotage.
The region’s focus on sustainable farming practices and innovative winemaking techniques has produced high-quality wines that have gained international recognition. As a result, South African wines from Western Cape have experienced a rise in popularity and are increasingly considered top-tier wines worth investing in.
Stay tuned and keep an eye on the WTSO monthly wine subscription! The Premium Wine Club will soon feature four premium wines from the Western Cape of South Africa. If you are a fan of affordable and delicious Chenin Blanc, subscribe and join us for an expert-led wine tasting.
Fun fact: The Western Cape is the only wine region in the world that contains an entire floral kingdom, known as the Cape Floral Kingdom. This rare ecosystem has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and its unique features contribute to the distinct flavors and aromas found in the region’s wines.
Margaret River, Australia
Margaret River is a Western Australian wine region that offers fine wines at low prices. The region’s terroir is characterized by temperate weather and a maritime climate. The soil is mainly composed of gravel, which provides outstanding drainage and allows for the production of premium wines. Some of the most prominent grapes produced in the region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Semillon.
Margaret River is a unique appellation in Australia for several reasons. Its location on the southwestern coast of Western Australia provides a unique maritime climate perfect for growing high-quality wine grapes. The soils in the appellation are diverse, ranging from gravelly loams to sandy soils, which allows for a wide range of grape varieties to be grown. Plus, the wine region strongly focuses on sustainable viticulture and minimal intervention winemaking, resulting in wines that truly reflect the terroir of the region.
Overall, Margaret River offers a first-rate opportunity to taste exceptional wines at affordable prices while also experiencing the unique beauty of Western Australia.
Fun fact: Margaret River produces only about 3% of Australia’s total wine output, but it accounts for over 20% of the country’s premium wine market.
Finger Lakes, New York
The Finger Lakes region in New York is a hidden gem for wine lovers seeking excellent wines at discount prices. Deep glacial lakes, which moderate the climate and create ideal growing conditions for grapes, define the region’s terroir. The primary grape varieties produced in the Finger Lakes are Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. Still, the region also has success with other wine types like Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner.
The winemaking history of the Finger Lakes dates back to the mid-19th century, and the region has since become a leader in cool-climate winemaking. Despite its relatively low profile compared to other wine regions in the United States, the Finger Lakes has been recognized for producing some of the best Rieslings in the world, hosting multiple wine festivals each year.
Fun fact: The Finger Lakes is home to one of the world’s largest wine bottles, which holds 1,200 regular-sized bottles.