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Exploring Wine from Unexpected Countries

There are many things we love about the world of wine, and to list them all would require far more space than a blog like this allows. However, near the top of that list would be the fact that wine inhabits a sphere which is constantly evolving, always expanding, and which never fails to keep you on your toes. Every year that passes throws up new surprises, and it seems that the number of countries and regions stepping up their viticulture game is rising exponentially. If that means more and more great wine to explore, there’s no way that can be a bad thing.

New opportunities for wine production worldwide are always arising, due in part to changing climates, as well as being due to a growing demand for wine in countries where there hasn’t been much of a historic wine scene. As such, it’s an exciting time for all of us wine enthusiasts, as there is always something new to discover, and new regions for us to encounter and champion.

While it would be more than fair to say that a lot of the newer wine producing countries of the world have a lot to learn, it’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to their produce. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that wine buffs were looking down their noses at the ‘new’ wines of Australia and New Zealand… and look at how far we’ve come in the meantime! Many of these newcomers may well end up stealing the crown from some of the more established wine countries we know and love – you really never know what lies around the corner, or what tomorrow might bring.

So, without further deliberation, let’s take a look at the latest and most surprising new wine regions on the global scene, and consider what the future might hold in store for them. Who knows? Maybe your next favourite wine might come from somewhere you’d least expect it to!

England

It would be impossible to write an article about great new wines from unexpected countries without making some reference to England. British wine isn’t actually a new phenomenon – grapes have been cultivated in the southeast of this country since the times of the Roman occupation. However, generally speaking, the past century saw the English wine scene as something of a joke; an industry run by over-enthusiastic hobbyists, producing wines which were considered undrinkable by the English themselves, and nothing short of laughable in the eyes of their French neighbours.

How the winds have changed over the past decade, though! Since the turn of the millennium, English sparkling wine has taken the world by storm, led by top labels like Nyetimber who are sweeping the boards at international wine competitions (much to the chagrin of the maisons of Champagne). Beautifully dry, perfectly balanced, effortlessly elegant… it’s no wonder wine bars, restaurants and collectors across the globe are clamouring to get their hands on a case or two. Indigenous grape varietals are also making a comeback in the UK as well, and the red and rosé scene is even starting to get a look in. Who’d have thought it?

Mexico

If you’ve ever had a messy night drinking tequila (and let’s face it, who hasn’t had one of those?) you might suppose you know all about the drinks scene in Mexico. However, you’d be more than wrong – there is a rapidly-growing wine industry in Mexico which, by all accounts, is set to take the wine world by storm.

The idea of a Mexican wine industry might seem surprising at first, but it really shouldn’t be. The vast majority of Mexico’s vineyards are situated right up close to the California border, and they benefit from very similar climatic conditions, soil types, and overall terroir as you’d find in the world-beating region of Napa Valley. As a result, the grape varietals flourishing in Mexico are similar to the Californian classics, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. With Mexican street food currently very much en vogue, it’s no stretch to imagine that Mexican vino may well be the next big thing, too.

India

Sometime over the past two years, Indian wines began appearing on some of the swankier and more daring wine lists of the world, much to everyone’s surprise. However, this was no novelty flash in the pan – Indian wines (especially their Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon) were proving to be very good indeed, and early successes have prompted a boom in Indian viticulture.

The majority of Indian wines are coming out of vineyards planted in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the cool climate and shelter from the monsoon rains have proven to be ideal for characterful grape cultivation. It may well be some time before Indian wine really hits the mainstream, but India is a country which doesn’t shy away from a challenge, and their launch onto the international wine scene simply couldn’t have got off to a better start. Expect to see some bottles appearing in a wine store near you soon!

Japan

Although the Japanese drinks scene has long been focused on beer, sake, and whisky, wine production in the land of the rising sun is actually nothing new at all. Grapes have been cultivated in Japan for at least a thousand years, with Buddhist monks first planting them in imperial gardens, and then Portuguese and Dutch traders on the spice route setting up a burgeoning wine industry in the 16th century.

The principal Japanese wine grapes are descended from those initial European plantings, but there are some fascinating indigenous varietals, too. The most prominent of these is Koshu, which is planted in the beautiful Yamanashi Prefecture. It results in gorgeously floral and aromatic wines, which pair superbly with the unique national cuisine.

The Netherlands

What do you think of when you turn your mind to the Netherlands? Clogs, wet and windy weather, windmills, a relaxed attitude towards narcotics… but wine? Probably not. However, here’s an example of where climate change really is opening opportunities for vineyards to be cultivated in countries where this once seemed impossible (amazingly, Sweden and Finland are also experiencing similar changes in this regard).

Let’s not forget that the Dutch have had an obsession with wine for centuries – they were among the first to plant grapes in Australia, and almost single-handedly kick-started the South African wine industry, after all. What’s more, they’re a hardy and inventive people, who seem to be able to turn their hands to any task, no matter how unlikely it may seem. In the end, is a native Dutch wine industry really such a surprise? Let’s keep an open mind, and check out the bottles which may well hit a wine list near you in the coming years.

There you go – five countries producing fascinating and potentially excellent wines, which we’re willing to bet you’d never imagined were in the viticulture industry. Some might end up being brilliant, some may fall wide of the mark… but we’re more than willing to give them a go, and judge them for ourselves!

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