New World Wines
There are no bragging rights in serving your guests a fine Bordeaux. But what about uncorking a top-tier red, quite literally, from Shangri-La, or a delicate koshu white—it’s a Japan-only grape, you know. Across the world, there’s a raft of noteworthy wine regions on the rise that jostle for space in your cellar with the classics. Here are the key names to know.
In the last two decades, the temperatures in England’s southern reaches, the counties of Sussex and Hampshire, have risen almost 3 degrees—just enough to reliably clinch ripeness for the grapes planted on the loamy soils here. The focus is almost entirely on sparkling wine, which some claim was perfected in England in the 17th century before France’s Champagne region finessed the process.
KEY GRAPES The holy trinity of Reims and around: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier.
PARALLEL POURS Champagne. The chalky soil here is geologically identical to that French fizz-making region, just 60 miles across the channel. Water-retaining, yet rarely waterlogged, its terroir is where vines both strive and thrive.
BRANDS TO BUY The family-run Ridgeview (ridgeview.co.uk) held its own against Champagnes in a blind tasting (try its Louis Roederer–like whites and the strawberry-forward rosé). For richer, deeper flavors, uncork some Hambledon (hambledonvineyard.com).
During the Soviet era, millennia-old winemaking traditions were sidetracked into producing schlocky plonk. In the last two decades the country has reemerged as an impressive producer of top-tier wines, especially skin-contact orange. Many contemporary producers have revived old-school techniques, using the clay amphora or qvevri for fermentation.
KEY GRAPES A dizzying list of unfamiliar names includes whites like rkatsiteli and kisi, or reds like the syrah-esque saperavi.
PARALLEL POURS None, thanks to the dominance of orange wine here: The skin-contact whites and reds have a heartiness that few regions can match and that taste best with robust dishes.
BRANDS TO BUY Founded by expat American musician-turned-winemaker John Wurdeman, Pheasant’s Tears (pheasantstears.com) is named after an old Georgian proverb that says only the best wine can make those birds cry. Sample the best saperavi from the Jakeli brothers’ vineyards; Jakeli Wines (georgianwinehouse.com) resides in the ancient district of Khashmi.
The hot summers in Baja California are offset by cooling sea breezes to make the high altitudes here ideal for grape growing. It’s a recent development, kick-started two decades ago, largely by expats from other winemaking centers attracted by the low costs and fine conditions. They have transformed the region over that period: Now, Valle de Guadalupe’s 100 wineries produce 90 percent of the country’s wines.
KEY GRAPES It’s a red-wine mecca: petite sirah, malbec, cabernet sauvignon, and tempranillo are widespread.
PARALLEL POURS Comparisons are made with Napa, of course, but it’s better to think of this as akin to Paso Robles in central California, with its freewheeling production and superb reds.
BRANDS TO BUY Try Bodegas Henri Lurton (bodegashenrilurton.com), which winemaker Lourdes Martinez Ojeda steers for the namesake Bordelais family. Bodegas Magoni (casamagoni.com), owned by the experiment-prone Camillo Magoni, is also intriguing: He is trialing more than 100 varieties to see which are best suited to the terroir here long term.
For the last two decades, China has dominated the wine-collecting market, and is the world’s top consumer of reds. It has also been the world’s second-largest wine grower since 2015, featuring six renowned regions, including Shanxi and Ningxia.
KEY GRAPES Thanks in part to cultural traditions, any reds—think merlot, cabernet gernischt, and sauvignon; white is the color of mourning, an association that dampens such wines’ deliciousness in the market.
PARALLEL POURS Ningxia’s dry, high-altitude vineyards have commonalities with Argentina’s, while the four-season climate in Shanxi echoes other inland growing areas, from Texas to Eastern Europe.
BRANDS TO BUY Zhang Jing, the Chinese winemaker who co-founded the Ningxia-based Chateau Helan Qingxue, trained in France’s Rhône Valley and South Africa, so it’s no wonder her products earn accolades from Decanter; Grace Vineyard (en.grace-vineyard.com) in Shanxi is arguably the country’s best-known. One other noteworthy vintage: the surreal but delicious Ao Yun (lvmh.com), produced by Bordelais winemaker Maxence Dulou under the auspices of LVMH, in the stepped vineyards close to the real-life Shangri-La in the Himalayas.
It was phylloxera that demolished India’s winemaking industry in the late 19th century. Until then, the Mughal rulers had relished the vintages made in Kashmir and Maharashtra. The British Raj, though, discouraged their replanting in part as a social control. By Independence, wine was no longer consumed widely, other than fortified ports in once-Portuguese Kerala. In the 21st century, entrepreneurs have looked to revive this tradition.
KEY GRAPES Classics dominate here, notably cabernet sauvignon.
PARALLEL POURS The finest wines in India are produced in Karnataka, an unusual region close to the equator. The latitude is a rarity—in part because vines thrive too easily, and fruit twice-yearly. To avoid such flavor-reducing abundance, they’re heavily pruned so the single, three-month harvest starts each January.
BRANDS TO BUY Look for Fratelli Wines (fratelliwines.in), founded by the late Indian industrialist Kapil Sekhri in partnership with a Tuscan winemaker; it has lands in Karnataka as well as Pune and Maharashtra. The cab sauv from Krsma Estates (krsmaestates.com) is arguably the finest in the country, and limited to 5,000 cases per year.
Buddhist monks first brought vines from Georgia to Japan 1,300 years ago. They didn’t thrive, though, until the Meiji period, when Japan imported European viticultural know-how. The industry here is centered on Yamanashi prefecture, 90 minutes west of Tokyo by train. The grapes are grown in tiny plots of steep hillsides, trained onto tall pergolas so that growers can walk beneath them—shading them from the damp summers that leave the ground muddy.
KEY GRAPES More than half the production is koshu, a fat, fragrant grape that produces a very light, drinkable white. The locally developed muscat bailey is the basis of a delicious, equally light-bodied red.
PARALLEL POURS Compare the growing conditions and grapes to the mountainous, chasselas-heavy production in Switzerland, where much of the output is also consumed domestically.
BRANDS TO BUY The oldest winery in Japan is Marufuji (rubaiyat.jp), first opened by the Omura family in 1890, though the Maruki Winery (marukiwine.co.jp) has a rival claim. Both offer superb koshu-powered whites. Château Mercian (chateaumercian.com) is a modern vineyard known for its reds.