15 Upcoming Wine Regions

People tend to stick to the familiar and pleasurable in life, and while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your favorite Chardonnay or Zinfandel on a regular basis, remember the last time you tried a new varietal and were pleased by new and delicious flavors and aromas? It was probably an immediate addition to your favorites list. The same thing can apply to a new growing region. There are countries and viticultural areas that are doing terrifically exciting things, both with exotic native grapes and with familiar varietals, all cast in a completely different milieu than what you may be familiar with. Becoming familiar with a new region can be as revelatory and delightful as discovering that new varietal.

Along with their favorites, most readers will be able to list quite a number of regions, both Old World and New. But there are other wine regions neither perfectly “new” or “old” world, but rather composed of old-world regions that have either never held the world stage for wine or have fallen off it from past glory, or new world regions that are newer-than-new, never having produced wine on a commercial scale before.

One force behind these “new-old” and “new-new” regions is a sort of movement of winemakers, where a generation seems to have simultaneously determined that they would make wine in their home countries. They trooped off for training at wine universities and colleges and then apprenticed at some of the best vineyards in the world. They returned home with heads full of new winemaking knowledge and some serious winemaking chops and planted new vines, or rescued old ones, built new wineries or restored ancestral ones and generally got busy making a future for themselves and their region. Beyond that diaspora, there are other causes of renewed interested in opening up new wine regions. One has been the global increase in wine consumption, partly from a growing middle class in many developing nations and partly from a shift away from spirits to wine overall. Another is concerns about the changes to growing conditions in traditional regions, brought about by global climate change — many wine companies are starting to think it prudent to shift their eggs to a few more baskets.

The fifteen regions we’ll discuss here may not all be producing good-to-great wines yet, although many have already won major awards and started to carve out market share for themselves, but one thing is already perfectly clear, these new-new and new-old regions are coming into their own, and you could well be seeing more from them in the future.


England may seem like an entirely unlikely place for winemaking, given its chilly, damp climate and extreme northern latitude (the world’s northernmost vineyard is in Durham, at 55 degrees!), but it’s got a long history of grapevines — really long, as in archaeological evidence of grape pollen stretching back to the Hoxnian interglacial period, over 400,000 years ago.

Despite a few gentlemen-dilettantes pottering about in vineyards in the 1950s, contemporary English viticulture actually started in the 1980s, and every decade since has seen more professional winemakers making better wine, with more than 300 vineyards and more than 100 wineries.

Most of the grapes planted are hybrids of varieties that can both withstand the cold and make it to decent ripeness, such as Seyval Blanc, Reichensteiner, Müller-Thurgau and Bacchus. There are also some fascinating possibilities on the horizon: the terroir of Southern England is almost identical to the Champagne region of France. Sparkling wine actually benefits from slightly under-ripe grapes with bracing acidity, and plantings of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are being made into some very credible fizzy wine. In addition, more sophisticated élevage techniques, such as malolactic fermentation, barrel aging and sur lies are producing drinkable dry table wines.


If anyone knows the first thing about Canadian wine, it’s usually that Canada is one of the big producers of Icewine, the sweet dessert wine made by pressing grapes that have frozen solid on the vine. And frozen grapes are no surprise: although most Canadian vineyards are in the same latitude as Chianti or the Languedoc, they experience much lower temperatures and a greater variation
in weather, making grape growing a real challenge.

But there’s more than sweet, syrupy wines to the land of hockey and moose: the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia produce a very sophisticated portfolio of wines today. Nova Scotia, planted solidly between the equator and the North Pole, has concentrated on hybrids that can ripen in the short growing season, while Quebec concentrates on making some very nice wines from Seyval Blanc and Vidal, along with Chardonnay and Riesling. Ontario has much larger plant-ings of grapes than the other provinces, and more vinifera vines — although it has its share of interesting vines, including Zweigelt and Auxerrois, as well as hybrids. With more degree days of heat to ripen grapes than Burgundy or New Zealand, it would seem an ideal location, but the continental climate can be very wild, with scorching hot daytime temperatures and very cool nights during the growing season. However, the microclimate of the Niagara Peninsula can produce some very good Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as Rieslings that challenge the Germans. In exceptional years they can ripen Bordeaux varietals as well.

With approximately one-third of the planted acreage of Ontario, and about a quarter of all Canadian wineries, British Columbia is small but scrappy. The Okanagan Valley’s sandy, well-drained soils around the gigantic Okanagan Lake dominate, producing excellent German varietals and sparkling wines. With no strict appellation rules to speak of, more than 60 grape varieties are planted, with some very credible Bordeaux blends, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gris being produced.


Despite having vines introduced by the Portuguese just shy of five centuries ago, Brazil only started making serious investments in wine in the 1970s. The quality regions are concentrated in the south, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, most of that in the high, Serra Gaúcha region, north and inland in Alegre and also in the new Campanha wine region on the border with Uruguay and Argentina.

Serra Gaúcha is mainly planted with non-vinifera or hybrid grapes, although they do have traditional Italian varietals like Barbera, Bonarda, Moscato and Trebbiano. The newer regions have attracted investment from European wineries and multinationals, planting Chardonnay, Sémillon, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. With the creation of Ibravin, the Brazilian wine institute, the last ten years have seen both domestic consumption and exports rise.


Pretty much ground-zero for wine culture since Neolithic times, wine has been inseparable from Greek culture, driving religious observation, literature, economics and trade. Greeks pioneered almost every winemaking technique we know today, from propagating, pruning and vine training to pigeage (the punch-down), the use of free-run juice, passito (using partly dried grapes to enrich a wine), blending, flavoring and even making concentrated juices.

By the last half of the 20th century, in a market dominated by gigantic wine conglomerates, the reputation of Greek wines fell to encompass mainly light, tart whites meant to be drunk well-chilled with Mediterranean food, or pine-tar flavored Retsina, a curiosity at best. In the 1980s Greece saw the work of its first trained oenologists come to market, and in addition to a resurgence of interest in wine from traditional varieties like Assyrtiko, Rhoditis, Robola, Savatiano, Malvasia, Xinomavro and Muscat of Alexandria, there are new plantings of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Trebbiano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. These new plantings have gone in at much higher vine densities, and the wineries have added new high-tech equipment and increased barrel aging.


Romania is Eastern Europe’s highest-volume producer, growing more than a half a million tons of wine grapes per year. Yet its potential is barely tapped. Like Greece, it has a history of winemaking going back thousands of years (some archaeologists say over 6,000), but history hasn’t been kind to the country: colonized by the Greeks in the 7th century BCE, conquered by Romans, and overrun by Hungary, the Turks, Russians and Austrians, it eventually became a socialist republic with a centrally planned economy and wine made by poorly incentivized state workers.

That all changed in the 1990s when the body controlling agriculture handed over a half-million acres of vineyard back to private citizens. These were often very tiny plots, many less than 5 acres. Investment from western European countries flowed in, and reforms moved quickly: by 2014 Romania will have pulled up all of its hybrid vines, replacing them with vinifera. Modern vinification equipment, especially temperature controlled tanks and new presses are now in place, and aging in the old Carpathian casks (and subsequent oxidation and volatile acidity) has been replaced by new Hungarian barrels.

Traditional Romanian varieties still planted include Grasaă (‘fat’), the aromatic ‘Tamâioasaă Româneascaă, Busuioaca (Purple Muscat), Galbena (light, crisp white), Rosioaraǎ (medium red), Babeascaǎ (light, fruity red), and Feteascaǎ Neagraǎ (dark, tannic red), along with some small plantings of Kékfrankos, which is more familiar to us under the German name, Lemberger. New varieties planted include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rkatsiteli, Muscat Ottonel, Aligoté, and Gewürztraminer, with many of these whites vinified to perceptible sweetness. There are also plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, but while there are a lot of plantings labeled Pinot Noir, not all can be confirmed as such. Perhaps the most interesting new plantings are the Riesling vines being grown in the Transylvania region — who knew vampires drank white wine?


Another winemaking country with thousands of years of history, China has recently seen vast changes, with a relaxation of international trade, new investment from foreign wineries and the rise of a middle class which can afford to drink wine — and wants to be seen doing it.

Fifth in vineyard plantings in the world (over 200,000 acres more than the USA) and seventh in wine sales, China has gone on a fantastic growth spurt, with sales increasing 20% per year for the last six years. The largest producing region is Yantai-Penglai with over 140 wineries. Other regions include Beijing, Yantai, Zhangjiakou in Hebei, Yibin in Sichuan, Tonghua in Jilin, Taiyuan in Shanxi and Ningxia.

The last one is especially significant: in December 2011 in a competition in Beijing, experts from China and France tasted five wines from each country. Ningxia was the clear winner with four out of five of the top wines. The best of all was the 2009 Chairman’s Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Grace Vineyards. The famed wine merchant, Berry Brothers and Rudd, has predicted that in less than five decades, Chinese wine will rival the best of Bordeaux.


The Ukraine was an important source of wine for the court of the Russian Tsars, producing sparkling wine for Catherine the Great and Tsar Nicholas. During Soviet times, it was the largest supplier of wine to the USSR. More modern times haven’t been all wine and roses: in a doomed-before-it-started attempt to curb Russian alcohol consumption, Mikhail Gorbachev set fire to over 300 square miles of vineyards there. Oh, the humanity!

Interestingly, the United States owes the Ukraine a tip of the hat: Dr. Konstantin Frank was a Ukrainian-American viticulturist and was the winemaker instrumental in developing the wine industry of New York State. He got his experience growing the European Vitis vinifera varietals in his birthplace — the Ukraine.

The four regions are the Southern Ukraine, Carpathian Ruthenia, Bessarabia and the Crimea, the latter having the best soils and microclimate, growing Aligoté, Muscat, Isabella, Traminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Feteascǎ (red and white), Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Rkatsiteli (white). The quality is high, especially the whites. Their Sovetskoye Shampanskoye (Soviet Champagne) sparkling wine is based on Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Riesling and Feteasc. While not made from traditional varieties, it is quite good and was a favorite of Nikita Khrushchev, himself a native of the Ukraine—apparently it goes well with banging a shoe on a table.


Producing more than 25 million gallons of wine per year from its thirty-seven thousand acres of vineyards, the latitude of Switzerland is (on paper) perfect for quality wine production. However, the country is one giant alpine slope, with much of the land at too high an altitude to be cultivated.

Like most European countries, Switzerland has made wine since antiquity, but in recorded history medieval wines were pretty unpleasant, and usually had to be flavored or sweetened. As centuries progressed, wine imports from hotter climates threatened to swamp Swiss viticulture. It was revitalized by catastrophe: various mildew epidemics and the scourge of Phylloxera in the 19th and 20th centuries gave the Swiss the impetus to replant with modern varietals and to automate their hilly, tough-to-work vineyards.

While every single canton (governing region) produces wine, the country can be roughly divided into the German-influenced east, the French-influenced west, and the Italian-influenced south. While there is a new and rigorously applied appellation system, its minutiae rivals that of the French system.

The climate is fascinating, with the moderating effects of the countless lakes and a helping hand from the Föhn, a wind that can warm the southern part of the country, which can get in excess of 2000 sunshine hours. Other regions, like Ticino, have hot summer temperatures and violent rainstorms.

Swiss whites include Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Aligoté, Sauvignon Blanc, Kerner, and Sémillon, but the big three are Müller-Thurgau, Sylvaner, and Chasselas. Chasselas is the Swiss star, producing 60% of all Swiss wine. Chasselas produces clean, light, neutral-tasting wines that are very appropriate to sipping around a fire after a day of skiing.

Swiss reds are dominated by Pinot Noir, under its German name, Blauburgunder, along with lesser amounts of Gamay, Merlot and a very small amount of Syrah.


Texas is the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the USA, after California, New York, Washington and Oregon. The Spanish Missions planted the first grapes as far back as the 1650s, and production eventually rose to 200,000 gallons by the mid-19th century. Unfortunately, Prohibition wreaked havoc on Texas, wiping out the wine industry until the 1970s. Today, however, there are more than 200 wineries, and between three and four thousand acres of grapes planted.

Texas’ growing regions can be roughly divided into three parts. North-Central runs across the top third of the state (excluding East Texas), where the Texas High Plains AVA is located. With red loam and limestone soils, low-moderate fertility and enough elevation to ensure hot nights and (essential for quality grapes) cool nights, the area is sometimes compared to Australia’s Coonawara region. South-East is south of Austin and San Antonio and suffers from high humidity, which is very hard on vinifera grapes; a lot of Muscadines are harvested there, and vinifera plantings are seen mainly in the Texas Hill Country AVA. Finally, there is the Trans-Pecos region, whose high elevations and dry climate produce about a third of all Texas grapes.

While Cabernet Sauvignon leads in acreage, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc lead in tonnage. New plantings of Merlot, Syrah and Muscat Canelli are coming on, and Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Viognier plantings are showing real promise.


Another region more noteworthy for things other than wine, Lebanon is one of the oldest wine growing regions on the planet. In ancient times the Phoenicians, who spread viticulture and winemaking all through the Mediterranean, inhabited the region. Subsequent history has not been without upheaval, but it was the French influence in Lebanon that laid the groundwork for modern wine culture, spearheaded by the city of Beirut, a beautiful and cosmopolitan city once considered the “Paris of the Middle East.”

While there are experimental plantings around the country, the majority of grapes are grown in the Beqaa Valley in the southeast. The hot, dry climate is well suited to the Rhône varietals Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also planted, but interesting indigenous varieties such as Obaideh and Merwah (both white) are used as well. There are currently more than 35 active wineries.


The Kingdom of Belgium is an interesting little country, producing great chocolate, iconic fictional detectives, the inventor of the saxophone, waffles, Rubens, Magritte, Audrey Hepburn (yes, really) and some of the finest and most idiosyncratic beers in the world. But while the Belgians love their beer, they worship wine, and have traditionally been Bordeaux’s best customers. And their interest in wine is no longer solely in drinking it: they produce some 200,000 liters of wine (about 22 thousand cases) per year.

Due to the northerly climate, the wines are 90% white, and include Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Kerner, Optima, Auxerrois and Pinot Gris, mostly made in light, dry styles. The most successful reds are Pinot Noir and Dornfelder. Although there are geographical delimitations in place for Belgian vines, with vineyards mostly under five acres, there is very little to generalize about: indeed, a lot of the production is either for local sale, or is used by home winemakers — very smart folks indeed!

However, there are some fascinating inroads being made: on tasting a Chardonnay from Clos d’Opleeuw winery, wine writer Jancis Robinson commented, “I took it for a very sophisticated Puligny-Montrachet. I found it extremely difficult to believe that it was made so far off the beaten track. (. . . )Truly this wine has some major selling points. Unfiltered and unfined, it is very fine without being at all exaggerated in its expression of fruit with oak ageing and batonnage.” In a fascinating turn, that wine was partly aged in Belgian oak — making it sound more and more like the handiwork of a home winemaker!


Better known for making sake, Japan has also grown grapes for millennia, but they were consumed unprocessed, for medicinal purposes. It wasn’t until Portuguese missionaries arrived in the mid-16th century that the Japanese discovered that medicinal effects could be greatly enhanced by fermentation.

It took until the 19th century for a commercial wine industry to appear, but today grapes are planted all over the country. Japan has many different and challenging climate conditions, ranging from the monsoon rains and high humidity of Honshu to the bitter cold of Hokkaido. Throw in generally acidic, heavy clay soils, along with the occasional earthquake or typhoon, and vineyard managers have to be very determined. In the 70s and 80s Japanese wineries focused on improving their growing and vinting techniques, and quality has steadily risen.

Japan has no native vinifera grapes, although their Koshu, imported twelve centuries ago, could qualify as an adopted vine. One very interesting varietal grown in the north is Vitis amurensis, the Amur grape. With stems reaching more than 50 feet (15 m), it tolerates wet, cold and acidic soils well. The dark purple fruit can reach 22–23 °Brix, and makes an interesting, if earthy red.

Japan also grows a large number of hybrid grapes, many based on Muscat crosses, and has recently produced some very credible white wines from the Delaware vine — the original cuttings imported from the USA.


The eponymous Jurassic mountains in this French wine region, sandwiched between Burgundy and Switzerland, evoke thoughts of dinosaurs, and indeed there is a rare and strange wine lurking in this part of the world.

The region is a cold climate, and all the vineyards are located on south-facing slopes to capture every degree of heat and ray of sunshine. The best sites have limestone or marl (a loose or crumbling earthy deposit (as of sand, silt, or clay) that contains a substantial amount of calcium carbonate), and while lower slopes don’t have as much worry about soil erosion, they often have unsuitable heavy clay soils. Because of this, Jura has less than 5,000 acres of vineyards, making it the smallest department in France.

Jura produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, borrowed from Burgundy next door, but the grapes rarely reach the heights they do in warmer, friendlier Burgundy. Crémant de Jura, a high-quality sparkling wine is very well-suited to their lean, slightly under-ripe Chardonnay. Jura also has several native grapes, such as Poulsard and Arbois and Trousseau, which produce moderately quirky wine. Chaptalization is common, given the low ripeness levels, and reds are often tank-matured without oak, while whites are often oak-aged and late bottled.

Jura distinguishes itself with its celebrated Vin Jaune (yellow wine), made from the Savagnin grape, an antecedent to Traminer. It’s made in a fashion similar to Spanish Sherry. The fermented wine is aged for six years in barrels that are not topped off. As the barrels develop more and more ullage, the wine develops a protective scum of film yeast on its surface. The film yeast is not precisely the same as the Flor in Sherry, but it performs the same function, increasing the alcohol content and allowing for controlled oxidation of the wine. Crucially, this yeast can thrive in the cold conditions of Jura, where Spanish Flor requires extreme heat to do its work.

The result is a very dry wine, which can age for decades, and is described as having aromas of honey, nuts and roses, as well as a spicy, curry-like note which sounds odd but works extremely well in this mix.


Previously the punchline of a winemaking joke, (Ingrid Bergman holding up a bottle in a nightclub, dubiously exclaiming, “I didn’t know they made Champagne in Idaho!”) the state is nonetheless a full member of the Pacific Northwest wine area, alongside Washington and Oregon. Previously the vineyards would have been considered at the very edge of viability, with elevations above 2,500 feet and devastatingly long, cold winters. However, with global climate change, Idaho winters have tempered considerably, allowing plantings in warmer locales to thrive.

The adoption of good vineyard practices, including cluster pruning (removing fruit to reduce yields), managed irrigation and more open canopies have allowed the growers to augment some of their traditional winter-hardy varieties such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Viognier, as well as experimental plantings of Tempranillo.

The Snake River Valley, west of Boise, is one of America’s newest AVA’s, and the Sunnyslope area, with south-facing vineyards just above the Snake River, shows immense promise.


Argentina is recognized around the world as a major player in quality wine production, and indeed the Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja are excellent hot-climate regions. But many miles to the south, where Patagonia stretches to Tierra del Fuego, you’re more likely to see penguins and icebergs than you are grapevines — it is quite literally at the ends of the earth.

Just short of that are the growing regions of Río Negro and Neuquén. While they are very cool climates, their southern position allows for very long sunshine hours in their summer, just as with vineyards at very high latitudes. The chalky soils are under desert conditions — less than seven inches of annual rainfall, but as compensation there is little worry of mildew or rot. Other vineyard conditions include very wide day/night temperature swings, which preserve acidity and allow for long, slow ripening, and certain grape predators not seen in other countries — flocks of wild parrots and families of wild boars, for instance.

The vineyards of Argentina are planted with typical cool-climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (the Argentine sparkling wine industry sources many of its grapes from here), as well as the more ubiquitous Argentine varietals of Malbec and Torrontés, along with a bit of Sémillon, Traminer, Cabernet and Merlot.