Part of the appeal of the Winter Games lies in the display of excellence from all corners of the world. Why not enhance your viewing experience with a survey of the world’s wines? Below is a list of some of the star wines from North America, South America, Eurasia, Africa, and Oceania. You can even host your own competition if you’d like. Which of these wines will earn the distinction of being crowned as your favorite?
Any event should start with a bottle of the world’s most festive wine: Champagne. Over the years, many wine regions have challenged Champagne’s preeminent reputation for sparkling wine, but so far, France’s great sparkler remains the champion. Serve your Champagne in a regular wine glass rather than a flute for more intense aromas and flavor. Perhaps you could compare white and rosé examples for an even more satisfying experience.
This red from Tuscany is made from Sangiovese and is often referred to as the “king” of Italian wines. Brunello features a full body, assertive tannins, and an earthy, complex finish. The “Riserva” designation is used for wines of particular distinction, made according to an especially stringent set of regulations that require – among other things – more than five years of aging in oak barrels. Serve your Brunello with food for optimal enjoyment. It is wonderful with steak, burgers, pizza, and pasta with tomato-based sauce.
Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc
South Africa’s Stellenbosch region has been a source for world-class wines for centuries, and the quality continues to improve. Among the most traditional wines of South Africa – although by no means the most famous – are those produced from the grape Chenin Blanc, known locally as “Steen.” Chenin Blanc in South Africa is usually dry with a bright, crisp edge similar to Sauvignon Blanc, but with a fuller body that is reminiscent of Chardonnay. It pairs beautifully with salads, seafood, and fermented vegetables like kimchi.
Moroccan Red Blend
Wine was probably introduced to Morocco by Phoenicians in ancient times and has a long, illustrious history from the Roman Empire through the French Colonial period, ending in the twentieth century. Currently, Morocco is almost unknown to American wine lovers, but if you can find a bottle of Moroccan red, you should try it. I am particularly fond of Rhône-style blends featuring grapes like Syrah and Grenache. The warm climate produces wines that are full and fruit-forward with a silky texture.
The Torrontes grape produces wines that are both underappreciated and delicious. The high-yielding vineyards and excellent viticultural climate of Chile combine with a good exchange rate, resulting in great value for American wine lovers. Torrontes is normally dry but fruity, with aromas similar to Gewürztraminer, and a crisp palate featuring flavors of green apple, lime, and kiwifruit.
The Malbec grape originated in France but has found a new home in the high-elevation vineyards of Argentina’s Mendoza region. Mendoza Malbec has a dark color – often with a slightly purple hue – and shows a texture similar to Cabernet with generous body and tannin. Malbec from Argentina complements hearty meat dishes but is often smooth enough to drink on its own as well.
Santa Barbara Chardonnay
The Santa Barbara area in southern California can be cooler than many areas farther north, due to its exposure to Pacific breezes. This moderate climate is perfect for the Chardonnay grape, which expresses delicacy and finesse under such vineyard conditions. There is a huge diversity of styles in Santa Barbara, but if you really want to experience the uniqueness of the area, look for a wine with limited oak treatment. That way you can taste the fruit itself and understand why Santa Barbara has made such a name for its Chardonnay.
Napa Valley Cabernet
Of all North American wines, few can match Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for either price or reputation. The distinctive climate and growing conditions of Napa Valley lead to wines of surpassing depth and richness. While it might be tempting to revisit an old favorite, you should try to challenge yourself to try a new bottle. The list of excellent producers in Napa continues to grow, and there are many exciting wines to be found off the beaten path. Try Cabernet with red meat dishes from traditional steak to Korean bulgogi.
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
New Zealand’s Marlborough region produces Sauvignon Blanc in an iconic style that has become famous worldwide for its friendly aromas and grapefruit flavors. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is wonderful on its own or paired with shellfish and other seafood. You could also try it with a Korean dish, like bibimbap.
The Barossa Valley in South Australia has been a source for wine since the British first began making Port there in the nineteenth century. It is currently famous for its Shiraz, which features massive textures, high alcohol, and intense spicy flavors. Wines with such an overwhelmingly New World style are currently out of fashion in the wine world, which offers a great opportunity for those of us who enjoy Barossa wine to find great-value bottles. While even inexpensive Barossa wine is delicious, you might find it worth it to splurge a little on some of the incredible wines from this excellent region.