5 Must Try Under the Radar Wine Regions

Georgia is one of the oldest if not the oldest wine producer in the world. Again like Jura it uses more traditional methods such as making the wine in clay pots in the ground.

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If you have read my blog before it might be a tiny bit obvious that I have a thing for French wine. You know, just a tiny thing. In fact out for drinks this past Friday night with friends, i was splitting a bottle of wine with some at the table. ” what are we drinking?’ she asked. Before I could answer, my other friend piped up ‘You know its French.’ she was right it was and it was delicious. We all have our wines we love, our go to wines or wine regions, but I also find it is incredibly rewarding to go out of our comfort zone and try new wines, wines we aren’t sure if we’d like, from a country that makes us say ‘really they make wine?’ or simply something you haven’t tried before. Sure there is a chance you won’t like it but what if you love it? There are so many under the radar, under valued, undiscovered wines out there. Here are my top 5 picks for the must trys

  1. Vin de cuit- Provence. i know I know, we are still in France. But this sweet wine produced in Provence has grape must cooked over an open fire for 10 hours. It is traditionally served at Christmas with the 13 desserts. Here is the thing, sweet wine, especially in North America has had a bad reputation. Due in large part to the culture of the late 80s and early 90s that had heavy emphasis on wine coolers, bad and I do mean bad sweet sparking wines, sweet red wines that tasted like cough syrup mixed with sugar (double shudder) and the worst offender….white Zinfandel , a wine so ridiculously sweet and disgusting it almost ruined Zinfandel grapes and rose for me. Luckily for me I like roses (thanks to Provence and 2benton8tor) and Zinfandel now but i almost didn’t try them. Sweet wines are the same. Whether it is port, sherry, or the sweet sauternes of Bordeaux, sweet wines have an undeserved bad rap. Good sweet wines are meant to be drunk after a meal with dessert or cheese. Yes they are sweet often with flavours of honey, prunes, plums ect but they are nuanced, they can have high acid to offset the sweet and are flavourful complex wines to be enjoyed. Vin de Cuit is no different. Try it as soon as you can.
  2. Sparking Wines from England. What you are probably asking? and yes yes yes I say. England does a have a small wine industry. In fact in Kent, the chalky soils and cliffs share the same soil as the famed Champagne region.Albeit a distinctly different climate. England is starting to produce some very interesting sparking wines. Not overly expensive but they can be hard to find. But definitely worth it.
  3. Green Wine from Portugal. Before leaving this year to go to Portugal, I was hearing a lot about Green wine. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t do to much (read any ) research into what it actually is. I am even more embarrassed to admit I thought it was wine with a greenish tinge. Well it is not. Green Wine is in fact more commonly known as Vinho Verde is a DOC wine region f Northern Portugal. it is usually slightly sparking due to malolactic fermentation that happened accidentally in the bottle in early years of production, consumers liked it so it stayed although the effervescence is produced differently today. 157Not all Vinho Verde is slightly sparking, it can be still, white, red, or rose. I have tasted both still and sparking. Both were good but I prefer the sparking, paired with a bifana YUM!! It is an easy to drink wine, light in the glass and on the palate with slightly fruity notes, an excellent summer wine. Next time I will try the red Vinho Verde rumored to be dark and peppery.
  4. The Jura wine region. Yes another French wine region but with excellent reason. Jura borders both Burgundy and Switzerland. A fairy small wine producing region but one of the most interesting. Jura is at the forefront of ‘natural wine production. really meaning they have kept the tradtional methods. All Jura still wines should be decanted for at least 4 hours before consuming. These wines are complex. The red and and whites age for a considerable time in oak with controlled oxidation, giving the wine interesting and unexpected flavours as in the case of whites, strong almond flavour. But Jura has 3 wine stars:                                                                                                                               -Vin Jaune literally translating to yellow win. This wine ages in oak barrels under yeast with controlled oxidation for 6 years. It has interesting nutty flavours.           -Macvin du Jura a sweet fortified spicy wine ages 14 months in the barrel.               -Vin de paille or straw wine. grapes are dried on straw allowing the grapes to almost dry, once pressed the flavours are concentrated producing a unique sweet wine. Jura also happens to be incredibly beautiful so….

5. Georgia, the republic not the state. Though there are arguments over where grape vines and viticulture began (was it Croatia? Was it Georgia?) Georgia is one of the oldest if not the oldest wine producer in the world. Again like Jura it uses more traditional methods such as making the wine in clay pots in the ground. Georgian wine can be hard but worth it. The wines have a different mouth feel and flavor on the palate most likely due to the clay pots and grape varieties but they are easy to drink and even easier to enjoy. Georgia like Jura is stunningly beautiful so maybe a wine vacation is in order.

Honorable mentions should go to : Croatia also a wine originator and produces some very good wines, Bulgaria and Uruguay both producers of some very interesting wines. Also Romania Lebanon, China, and India are worth a try. Where do you get these wines? Well if in London, try Gordon’s wine bar, one of the best stocked wine bars , I have ever visited.  https://gordonswinebar.com/ Wine Quay in Porto Portugal is another option with excellent wine selection and knowledgeable servers. .http://www.winequaybar.com/ But do your  research on wine bars, wine stores and tastings. Most importantly don’t be afraid to ask.

 

 

 

 

Port, Portugal’s Wine Gift to the World

Port is a fortified wine from Portugal. If it isn’t from Portugal, it isn’t port.

I was out for dinner last night with some friends and we were chatting about my recent trip to Portugal and the port tastings. As my friend noted, her dad loves to finish a meal with port but she hasn’t been able to develop a taste for it. ‘ Why do you like it’ she asked as I ordered a Taylor Fladgate 10 year old Tawny to finish the dinner. It was this question that inspired this post. Why do I like port? When did I start to like it? It is a good question, one I am not sure I have the answer to. One thing is for sure, I didn’t always like port, in fact for a certain period of my life, I am quite sure I hated it. In fact bad port ( or port posers) can often taste like sugary cough medicine but good, interesting ports, well they can blow your mind. Port is a fortified wine from Portugal. If it isn’t from Portugal, it isn’t port.

I can pinpoint when I started dipping my toe in the port waters, and it wasn’t in Portugal but a small town in Suffolk England, Bungay. It is the town where @bentn8tors grandfather retired and we were visiting old haunts back in 2015. Maybe it is because it was rainy, maybe because it was cold and maybe just maybe I have associated ports with old English manor houses, smoking jackets and fires that when passing the Russell and Newness wine shop advertising port tasting I convinced @benton8tor we needed to check it out. http://www.russellandnewnes.co.uk/

It was obviously surprising to Ben that I would want to taste port but he gamely accompanied me. I will also point out that he got easily distracted in the shop by the whiskies, leaving me mainly on my own with the proprietor to taste the ports. And it was a fabulous experience. Port actually varies exponentially in flavour. I learned the difference between ruby and tawny ports that 2 months later I promptly forgot. (but I know again now). We went home with a port that tasted like drinking Christmas cake and paired beautifully with blue cheese. Or so I thought @Benton8tor hates blue cheese so he can’t back up my claim. Probably because it isn’t meat.

So fancying myself a port expert I served a port at my wine club that could be best described as Buckleys cough syrup. It was then I realized if I was going to dish out money on port and enjoy, I better figure out what it is. Flash to Portugal April 17 ( a mere 4 weeks ago) We are in Porto the heart of the Douro Valley and port country and I recommend these 5 tours/ tastings to help anyone understand and grow to love port.

5. The Douro Valley wine tour

The Douro Valley is beyond beautiful and that alone would make it worth it but the 3 tastings on this tour were fabulous.224 Often favouring smaller producers, you can really get a taste for the Douro Valley wine but more importantly the port. We had 3 stops and tasted a total of 12 wines (4 of which were wine and 8 were port) I quickly discovered that tawny ports get their flavour from the process of the wine making and time spent in oak barrels. Also I infinitely  prefer tawny’s to ruby ports which I found sweeter and less complex but also less strong in taste. Also there was such a thing as white port which was also delicious.

4. The Wine Box. Located just off the Douro River in Riberia District of Porto, the Wine Box is a fabulous place for wine tasting. In fact it is where I would take my wine loving friends to taste Portuguese wines and warm up their palates for the ports that followed. Beautiful, cozy and full of choice, it is a great stop for wine tasting.

http://thewineboxporto.com/

3. Sandeman With a port house in Porto but also a port house in the Douro Valley, Sandeman is one of the bigger producers of port. It also offers beautiful views of the Douro Valley or if in Porto a fabulous tour. There are many times available for English tours and Sandeman is easily identifiable for the black capes

( Porto university students were them and inspired the capes in Harry Potter) and black hats. Sandeman also produces a wide range of ports, beautifully served. The 20 yr old tawny remains my favourite.

2. Kopke Port House is right along the river and though smaller than Taylor or Sandeman it has a fabulous introduction to port. 170Rather than pay for a tour, it is set up like a restaurant and you pay for your tasting. Their port menu is extensive, interesting and bold. They will pair your choices with chocolate to enhance your experience. It makes a huge difference and if you want to start understanding port, this is the place to go.The staff really know their port and will do their best to introduce to it and help you enjoy it. http://www.sogevinus.com/lkopke

1.The Wine Quay Bar. By far my favourite Porto wine experience. Located on the Douro River but slight elevated, the Wine Quay Bar has the best views, best service and best selection of wine. Since we were in Portugal I wanted to drink Portuguese wines but also I wanted to know more about them. The sever asked which wines I usually drink and I told her French, Rhone or Provence are my favourite (that I can afford ahem Burgundy). She then recommended a couple of wines from the south of Portugal and her recommendations were spot on.

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view from the Wine Quay Bar

the wines were beautiful, well balanced, bold but not overpowering. Later I asked her recommendations for port and she again was spot on with a white port and a beautiful tawny. Bonus points, they give all their guests water pistols to keep birds away from stealing food. As a bird phobic, i was elated. http://www.winequaybar.com/

There are many Ports, Port houses and tasting opportunities at home and when traveling. I strongly recommend a port tastings as an introduction, especially paired with food (or you know a rainy English day). But I also recommend Porto to try Port, all the Port houses are there (there are so many try as many as you can!) We often don’t get all the interesting ports or smaller producers in Canada so visit Porto,iIntroduce yourself to all the different types of Port and enjoy a fruitful relationship. And apparently bad puns.