The lesser-known sub-regions hiding in plain sight. Let us walk you through some of the wine powerhouses from the best winemaking sub-regions.
I may be fervently showing my millennial colours here, but remember when Tamagotchi was the cool new thing on the scene? The tension in the lead up to Christmas that year was palpable.
The agitation as to whether your parents would pull it out the bag. And for the lucky recipients, the immense feeling of superiority upon entering the school playground post-holidays. Amongst your peers, you were a pioneer. You were cool.
We still to this day get that stride, regardless of age, when we’ve discovered a “cool” new arrival on the scene. The reason we are so attracted to such trinkets is due to the social status it generates. To our friends, we come across as exploratory, adventurous and bold.
The world of wine though seems to have a tendency to play it fast and loose with the perception of “cool” compared to the rest of us. A 50-year-old Bordeaux that sets you back a year’s salary is deemed “cool”. I’m sorry, but a product that is rampantly unattainable is not “cool”. To be fair, whether I’m the appropriate mediator to judge what is “cool” or not is highly questionable to start with, given I write a wine blog at the ripe old age of 27…but I feel in this instance most would be in agreement with me.
This antiquated view of what is cool in wine does not align with the interests of the majority of people who consume this glorious beverage. But owing to wine’s long history and its vast complexities, discovering what is cool, and accessible, tends to be nigh on impossible.
This is largely down to the fact that the less mainstream regions and producers of interesting wines are so dedicated to their craft, and distanced from the commercial norms that engulf most of us (very jealous of that), that their deserved noise goes unheard.
So we are here to do the heavy lifting for them, to provide some thoroughly warranted airtime to a few gems hidden behind the more predictable powerhouses of wine, and to make you look bloody impressive at your next soirée.
King Valley, Victoria
Victoria is more than renowned for housing an array of quality wine-producing regions, but King Valley is yet to receive its just recognition. You would have imagined with a name so majestic, that this Australian treasure would have been lauded the world over. Alas, that is yet to be – for now.
If you are a fan of either Italian or Australian wine, then this pocket of land will really get you going. Known to some as “Victoria’s Mediterranean”, King Valley is home to countless dynamic wineries nurtured by generations of Italian migrant families.
In this way, you’ll encounter stalwart italo-varietals, from Sangiovese to pinot grigio, Arneis to Nebbiolo. So to borrow some clever wordplay from a majestic Peckham-based drinking establishment: it’s King Valley Forza wine.
Wrattonbully, South Australia
Continuing with the Mediterranean theme, a key feature of Wrattonbully is the “terra rossa”, Italian for “red soil”. This vibrantly coloured terroir isn’t just aesthetically pleasing – it also provides a great base upon which vines can do their best work.
Combine this with an inland yet simultaneously maritime climate, and we fall upon some honking great conditions suited to the growing of top-shelf grapes.
Plenty of your traditional faves will flourish in Wrattonbully: think big, punchy cabernet sauvignon, soft merlot with exceptional structure, and intense, spicy shiraz.
Adelaide Hills, South Australia
A tempestuous vinous history once addled Adelaide Hills. Vines were first planted here as early as the 1870s, but by the 1930s most were removed, owing to the lack of ability to overcome the challenges posed at the time by the cool climate. Come the 1970s, a few intrepid winemakers chanced their arm once again, and with this rebirth of the Adelaide Hills wine region began.
Breaking free of its shackled past, it is this cool climate that nowadays sets Adelaide Hills apart from its South Australian counterparts, and the melange of boundary-pushing creativity in line with the region’s rise has culminated in rieslings, chardonnays and sauvignon blancs of finesse and charm.
Given its proximity to Burgundy, Jura tends to lie in the shadow of its neighbouring wine behemoth. Though their climates are not too dissimilar, the Jura region can occasionally experience bitterly cold winters, even extending into spring. The knock-on effect is harvests that might not be primed until November. To have the nerve to pick that late and still nail it, a steady hand at the tiller is a must, and the Jura region has winemakers of this sort in abundance.
The area is certainly one for the eccentrics. Whilst Burgundian staples of pinot noir and chardonnay are popular varieties, the likes of poulsard (a delicate and fragrant red wine) and Savagnin (a fresh and full white) are the region’s shining lights and absolute must-tries.
Located in Aragon (unrelated to the Lord of the Rings legend, but just as impressive), the unremitting summer heat here is calibrated by the location of most vineyards, that being at a cool 400 to 800m in altitude.
The overly-punchy reds that some may know Cariñena for have more recently given way to wines of greater balance and elegance. When you combine that with a melting pot of both internationally renowned varieties such as merlot and syrah, and splendid local grapes, including the cariñena grape (it’s gotta be good if its moniker derives from the region itself!), then where else in Spain do you need to look for great wine?!
The guest author for this article is Fred Clelland, creator of ‘Wined Your Neck In’. His wine blog aims to cut through the complexities of wine, making it more relatable to you.