- Flickr / James Daisa
Older might be better when it comes to wine, but not necessarily when it comes to wine country. Ditch the well-known spots and check out these under-the-radar wine countries that feature equally exceptional vino.
Instead of Burgundy, France, try visiting Traverse City, Michigan.
Burgundy is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but because the area is so famous, the wine is often overpriced. Check out Traverse City in Michigan, which is located on the same parallel as Burgundy and Bordeaux. While the region, which ranks 13th in US wine production, became internationally known for its white wines, like Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, it’s increasingly becoming known for its French-style reds like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Instead of the Rheingau in Germany, try the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.
Riesling is no doubt one of Germany’s economic mainstays, and its most well-known grape. The usually sweet white wine originated in the Rhine region of Germany, which is home to the largest vineyard area devoted to Riesling in the world. However, it’s getting some stiff competition in New York, where the famous Finger Lakes region is specializing in award-winning Riesling, as well as Gewürztraminer.
Instead of Napa Valley, California, visit Texas Hill Country.
With more than three million tourists a year, Napa can get crowded, touristy, and expensive. Instead, head to Texas Hill Country: the Lone Star state is the fifth-largest wine producing area in the United States, and it’s said to be both one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the country as well as one of its fastest growing tourist destinations.
Instead of Rioja, Spain, visit Mendoza, Argentina.
Rioja is well-known, as is Tempranillo, which is both its own wine and the main grape used in Rioja. Switch it up with an Argentine Malbec from Mendoza instead, another warm-climate grape, with an equally dark and full-bodied palate.
Instead of Champagne, France, visit Catalonia, Spain.
While many call any ol’ sparkling wine champagne, only bottles from the Champagne region of France are allowed to call themselves that, and those are expensive – you’ve probably heard of some of the region’s more famous wineries, like Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Dom Pérignon. For an alternative that’s easier on the wallet, visit the Cava-producing Catalonia region. Cava is the Spanish answer to French champagne, and fruity but less sweet than Prosecco.
Instead of Bordeaux, France, visit Lavaux, Switzerland.
Bordeaux is as famous for its wine as it is for its beautiful chateaux and ancient heritage. But Lavaux in Switzerland, besides sounding similar, has similarly stunning medieval architecture, and its precarious-looking hillside terraces have even been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2007. Overlooking beautiful Lake Geneva, Lavaux is Switzerland’s largest wine region, and its most famous grape, the white chasselas, is so popular locally that it barely makes it to the export stage.
Instead of Santa Ynez, California, try Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Sidewaysfans tend to make the pilgrimage to Santa Ynez to drink Pinot Noir, but Oregon’s Pinot is a force to be reckoned with, as Willamette Valley is said to be one of the premier Pinot Noir producing areas on the planet.
Instead of Rhône, France, try Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
Rhône Valley is a famous wine region is as old as time. Instead, check out the actually ancient wine region of Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, said to be the oldest wine-producing region in the world. Historians believe that wine was being produced here 5,000 years ago, plus the area is home to the Temple of Bacchus, the god of wine. While the region produces popular local varieties like Musar White, they’re increasingly focusing on French vine varieties like Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay, and specifically Rhône varietals like Cinsaut, Carignan and Grenache.