Wines from Around the World

Wine is grown all over the world. Here are some wines from lesser-known regions.

Washington State

The irrigated desert regions of Washington State Columbia River Basin produces surprisingly high quality wine. Winemaking is relatively new here, but the Washington Wine Quality Alliance, a sort of industry cartel, enforces the strictest wine quality and labelling standards in the United States.

Two large producers dominate nationally distributed Washington wines: Chateau Ste Michelle and Columbia Crest, both in the Columbia Valley. Chateau Ste Michelle in particular is known for award-winning fine wines, such as their "Eroica" Riesling, a collaboration with Dr. Loosen of Germany.

Red Hogue Cellars, Merlot 1999 (Columbia Valley, Washington)
6 February 2002 Moderately spicy, some smoky oak flavor. A bit weak and muted.
$18 / bottle
White Hogue Cellars, Late Harvest White Riesling 2001 (Columbia Valley, Washington)
2002 Strong peach and apricot juice flavor with very light tangerine. Sweet. Light dessert wine style.
$9 / bottle
White Chateau Ste. Michelle, "Eroica" Riesling 2001 (Columbia Valley)
2003 Very sharp and crisp, with strong floral and apricot flavors and hint of grape skin and mineral. Very dry, very high acid, lively mouthfeel. Very lively.
$21 / bottle
White Chateau Ste. Michelle, Johannisberg Riesling 2001 (Columbia Valley, Washington)
6 February 2002 Extremely fruity, with grape, apple, pear, pineapple flavors. Very good.
$12 / bottle
Red Columbia Crest, "Grand Estates" Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Columbia Valley)
11 December 2009 Bright young fruit with very heavy wood. Lots of cherries, currant, and plum with a somewhat confected finish.
$8 / bottle
Red Columbia Crest, "Grand Estates" Merlot 1999 (Columbia Valley, Washington)
December 2009 Soft tannins, very strong wood spice. Simplistic.
$10 / bottle
Sparkling Domaine Ste Michelle, Methode Champenoise Brut NV (Columbia Valley)
9 January 2010 Bracingly crisp with sour apple and yeast notes. Very acidic.
$10 / bottle

Oregon

Oregon's wine industry is relatively young, but they are establishing a good reputation for Pinot Noir. Most wine is grown in the Willamette Valley.

Red Lemelson, "Thea's Selection" Pinot Noir 2007 (Wilamette Valley)
2010 Smooth tart cherries with vanilla and smoke on the wood.
$27 / bottle
Red Argyle, Pinot Noir 2000 (Willamette Valley)
?? Light fruit with firm tannins, with oolong tea, mint, and very light earth. Pleasant.
$18 / bottle
Red Elk Cove, Pinot Noir 2001 (Willamette Valley)
12 July 2004 Well balanced but tangy. Sharp fruit over salad greens. Dances on the tongue.
$22 / bottle

New Mexico

Red Vivac, Barbera 2004 (New Mexico)
19 July 2008 Big earthy nose with smoky leather and barbeque flavors. Moderate tannins and limited fruit.
$?? / bottle
Sparkling Gruet, Methode Champenoise Blanc de Noirs NV (New Mexico)
31 December 2009 Crisp and clean with prominent red grape skin flavors and berry essence. Minimally yeasty.
$15 / bottle
Sparkling Gruet, Methode Champenoise Demi-Sec NV (New Mexico)
4 November 2008 Sharp and slightly yeasty with very clean fruit. More like a brut than a demi-sec; not a hint of sweetness.
$15 / bottle

Indiana

Indiana definitely isn't wine country; the summers are too humid and the winters aren't friendly. That doesn't stop a few producers from trying. Many Indiana wineries import some of their grapes from outside the state to help meet demand and to make varietals that do not grow well in Indiana.

Red Oliver, Merlot 2002 (USA)
January 2004 Very round and juicy fruit, with mild smoky peppers. Very soft, young, and excessively fruity.
$19 / bottle
White Oliver, "Creekbend Vineyard Estate Bottled" Chardonel 2002 (Indiana)
January 2004 Tangy and fruity, with a short buttery finish. Like a sharp but simplistic chardonnay.
$17 / bottle

United States

Here's the catch-all for wines made from a mix across state lines and therefore cannot recieve an appelation other than USA.

Red Manischewitz Concord Grape NV (USA)
14 July 2003 Incredibly sweet but still a touch bitter. Fairly vile.
$3 / bottle
Red Kedem Concord Grape NV (USA)
13 December 2003 Sweet and juicy, but somewhat hollow. Soft grape juice. Not vile.
$4 / bottle
Red MD 20/20 Red Grape Wine NV (USA)
22 June 2010 Sweet, with flavor between grape cough syrup and cheap artificial grape juice, with a dose of ass. Lowers the bar and then limbos under it. Label is not kidding about "Serve Cold." Feels more alcoholic than most wine (but only 13%) and warms the stomach. I am not even sure that it is USA appelation or that it is even grapes, but it is bottled in New York.
$3 / bottle
Sparkling Baron Herzog, American Champagne Brut NV (USA)
24 April 2008 Dark apple and yeast flavors. Large soda-like bubbles. Unimpressive.
$11 / bottle

Canada

In high-end wine, Canada is best known for ice wine.

White Jackson-Triggs, "Proprietor's Reserve" Vidal Icewine 2002 (VQA Niagara Peninsula)
?? Dense (but not overwhelming) sweetness with phenol, apricot, and nectarine notes. Hints of tropical citrus or pineapple in an ever-shifting fruit blend.
$19 / 187ml

Argentina

Argentina has one of the highest per capita wine consumption rates in the world. However, they aren't very well known for producing top quality wine. This situation may or may not change in the coming decades. Argentina's specialty varietal is Malbec, which tastes vaguely like Merlot or Cabernet.

Red Terrenal, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Mendoza)
18 February 2011 Dark currant and berry fruit with a hint of raisins. Unsuble and heady but still fun. Good value.
$4 / bottle
Red Conquista Malbec 2006 (Mendoza)
10 May 2008 Lots of smoke, barbeque, wood, potpourri, chocolate, and other flavors forward but unexpectedly short finish and thin body.
$?? / bottle
Red Bodega Elena de Mendoza, Malbec 2009 (Mendoza)
27 July 2011 Plump juicy cherry fruit with hints of chocolate and leather. Light wood. Smooth mouthfeel with occasionally hot finish.
$10 / bottle
Red Antis, Malbec 2004 (Mendoza)
12 March 2010 Silky smooth with perfumed fruit and slight hints of leather. Medium body and short finish. Pleasant, but should have been drunk younger.
$11 / bottle
Red Byblos, Bonarda 2006 (Mendoza)
20 September 2009 Bright fruit with notes of plums and blackberries over incense. Young yet musty.
$12 / bottle
Red Terroso, Malbec-Merlot 2006 (Mendoza)
11 September 2009 Moderate fruit and oak. with light currant and blood flavors. Smooth but unremarkable.
$8 / bottle
Red Layer Cake, Malbec 2007 (Mendoza)
16 April 2010 Zippy and spicy attack with perfumed fruit. Bold and flavorful.
$16 / bottle
Red Terroso, Malbec 2006 (Mendoza)
2 March 2008 Forward plummy fruit and moderate wood. Heady. Soft tannins and medium body.
$11 / bottle
Red Bodega Weinert, "Cavas de Weinert" 1997 (Mendoza)
27 February 2002 Very fruity, fairly intense, spicy flavors. Numerous hints of blackcurrant, berry, leather, and other complex flavors. Cabernet Saivignon - Malbec - Merlot blend.
$18 / bottle
White Zolo, "Gaucho Select" Torrontes 2010 (Mendoza)
23 March 2011 Crisp and clean fruit, with hints of tangerine and pineapple over shart and tart fruit. Refreshing.
$16 / bottle
White Layla, White (Chardonnay / Pinot Noir 50/50) 2007 (Mendoza)
25 June 2010 Bright strawberries and apricot with a hint of spiciness. Off-dry. Unusual and fun.
$13 / bottle
White Urban Uco, Torrontes 2008 (Cafayate - Salta)
12 August 2009 Extremely fruity with light red berry notes. Very tart and acidic.
$9 / bottle
White Bodegas El Porvenir, "Laborum" Torrontes 2004 (Cafayate Valley)
2008 Very tropical, with grapefruits and lychees. Crisp.
$16 / bottle

South Africa

During the Apartheid era, it was politically impossible to get South African wines in the United States. Now that Apartheid has ended, Americans are slowly being introduced to South African wines.

White Eshkol Winery, "Izimbali White" 2004 (Paarl)
29 May 2009 Crisp and bursting with apples, with a buttery texture on the finish. A blend of 75% Chenin Blanc / 25% Chardonnay.
$14 / bottle
White Glen Carlou, Chardonnay 2000 (Paarl)
27 February 2002 Medium intensity, very dry but very buttery texture, strong oak and vanilla flavors, with a medium to long oak finish. Regal.
$15 / bottle
White KWV, Steen 2003 (Western Cape)
21 May 2004 Plain, crisp acidic fruit, with pear and citrus and a tropical nose. Balanced and refreshing but extremely simplistic.
$7.50 / bottle
Red Sebeka, "Cape Blend" Shiraz Pinotage 2007 (Western Cape)
24 May 2010 Tart and fruity attack, with prune, youngberry and violets on the palate. Medium bodied with no wood. Very fruit forward and easy drinking. Fun.
$8 / bottle
Red Excelsior, Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Robertson)
6 April 2010 Strongly tannic with sharp fruit and stemmy notes. Bold yet undistinguished.
$9 / bottle
Red Urbane, Shiraz 2003 (Western Cape)
21 October 2006 Dense red fruit with moderate wood and smoky essences, almost Spanish.
$8 / bottle

Austria

Austrian wine has the misfortune to live in the shadow of Germany, but they grow certain varietals (especially Gruner Veltliner) that the Germans do not focus on.

White Weingut Felsner, Gruner Veltliner 2009 (Lossterrassen)
21 February 2011 Bright crisp fruit with lots of slate and hints of citrus. Very bracing.
$12 / bottle
White Undhof Salomon, "Hochterrassen" Gruner Veltliner 2001 (Kremstal, Niederosterreich)
10 April 2002 Soft impression, slightly yeasty flavor, off-dry, and a very short finish. Light pear and melon flavor, Very light even for white wine.
$10 / bottle
White Weingut Allram, Gruner Veltliner 2002 (Kamptal)
24 July 2004 Sharp with very smoky flavor. Grill-like.
$16 / bottle

Romania

Red Vampire, Pinot Noir 2002 (Regas / Transylvania)
3 July 2004 Dark cherry and plum fruit. Smooth but a little thin.
$8 / bottle

Bulgaria

I'm told that Bulgaria is actually a pretty big source for wine. Unfortunately it isn't always the best stuff.

White Balkan Hills, Muscat 2005 (Targovishte)
30 July 2008 Tastes like a generic white, more like a pinot grigio than a muscat. Dry with some citrus and the faintest hint of melon.
$7 / bottle
Red Brezovo Winery, Mavrud 2004 (Tracia Valley, Assenovgrad Region)
?? Moderate tannin with stemmy texture and flat fruit.
$9 / bottle

Armenia

Red Proshyan, "Pomegranate" Semi-Sweet Red NV (Armenia)
11 November 2006 Sweet grape and raisin, with light tannins.
$8 / bottle

Hungary

Red Marika, Nemes Kadarka 2006 (Kunsagi)
4 June 2010 Off-dry and soft with mellow fruit and a perfumed flavor with hints of muddled leather and mushrooms. Unusual and very quaffable.
$8 / bottle
Red Promontorbor, Egri Bikaver "Bull's Blood" 2001 (Hungary)
28 May 2004 Minimal fruit. Smoky, tannic, stemmy, and harsh. I can't read Hungarian very well but as near as I can tell from something that purports to be their website, their Egri Bikaver is a blend of Kefrankos (aka Blaufrankisch), Cabernet Sauvignon, Kekoporto (aka Blauer Portugieser), and Pinot Noir.
$4 / bottle

Moldova

Red Granat, "Stradivari" 50/50 Cabernet/Merlot Off-Dry 1998 (Trifesti / S Moldova)
2004 Cloyingly, almost artificially sweet, with round blackberry and grape juice over wood. Violin bottle.
$?? / bottle

Georgia (Former Soviet Republic)

White JSC Kindzmarauli, Tsinandali Dry White NV
12 March 2008 Flat mouthfeel, odd barnyard scents and flavors.
$10 / bottle

Greece

The ancient Greeks must have drunk great quantities of wine to see the strange things they did to name our constellations. Unfortunately, many centuries of Byzantine, Ottoman, and other foreign rule have all but erased the ancient traditions. The Greek wine industry has been making strides in putting itself back together and rediscovering the old ways over the last few decades.

Greek wine are made primarily from obscure local varietals. This gives Greek wines a uniqueness that the common international varietals can't do. One of the most common Greek wines is retsina, which is made with grape and pine resin, giving it an unusual flavor.

The Greek wine laws define several levels of quality, typical of most EU wine regulations. They are

  • Onomasia Proelefseos Anoteras Piotitos (OPAP), roughly "Appellation of Origin of Superior Quality" in EU terms. Pink seal on neck of bottle.
  • Onomasia Proelefseos Eleghomeni (OPE), equivalent to most appelation of origin designations. Blue seal on neck of bottle.
  • Topikos Inos, roughly equivalent to the French Vin de Pays.
  • Onomasia Kata Paradosi (OKP), which means "traditional appellation," is used for traditional wines like Retsina.
  • Epitrapezios Inos, unregulated table wine. As with the Italian Super-Tuscans, many of the best nontraditional wines fall into this category.

On better wines, the regulated label is often translated for us ("Appelation of Origin of High Quality" or "AOC" or others).

White Skouras, White (Roditis 60 / Moscofilero 40) 2007 (Peloponnese)
2 June 2010 Bright and crisp, with hints of green apple and melon. Very acidic finish.
$11 / bottle
White Boutari, "Kretikos" (white) 2008 (Crete)
31 May 2010 Light and extremely crisp grape with faint citrus hints and a mineral finish. Blend is 70% Vilana, 30% miscellaneous native grapes (Thrapsathiri, Athiri, etc).
$10 / bottle
White Boutari, "Dionysos in Winter" Moschofilero 2001 (OPAP Mantinia)
March 2004 Smooth and buttery, with bright apple flavors, lively fruit and flowers, and mineral. Slightly green, with faint melon and spice, and a medium crisp finish. Pleasantly surprising.
$13 / bottle
White Boutari, Retsina NV (OKP)
1 August 2004 Watery, with strong camphor and pine essence. Unpleasant.
$5 / bottle
Red Boutari, Nemea 2007 (OPAP Nemea)
13 June 2010 Very mellow, with faint incense fruit and leather. Almost soft, but completely bone dry. Made from the Agiorgitiko grape.
$14 / bottle
Fortified Kourtaki, Mavrodaphne of Patras NV (OPE Mavrodafni)
9 June 2010 Plump raisin grapes with a slight hint of nuttiness. Like a port trying to be sherry, but not as intense. Made from (red) Mavrodafni and Korinthiaki grapes solera-style.
$10 / bottle

Lebanon

Red Chateau Kefraya, Red (Cabernet / Mourvedre / Carignan / Grenache) 2000 (Bekaa Valley)
5 May 2004 Dark plums and dates, with moderate oak and hints of leather, tar, and tobacco. Very heady and astringent, meaty and substantive.
$20 / bottle

Turkey

I know very little about Turkish wine save for what is below. Cankaya is a region (Western Anatolia? Ankara?) and Emir is a local varietal. Nevsehir is a sub-region.

White Kavaklidere, Emir de Nevsehir 2007 (Cankaya)
8 November 2009 Crisp citrus and fruit with a slightly sour finish. Pleasant floral and mineral nose.
$10 / bottle

Morocco

Apparently they grow grapes here as well. I haven't had enough to make any statement about whether being a former French protecorate rubs off on the winemaking.

Red Zniber Vineyards, "Amazigh" Beni M'Tir 2008 (AOG Beni M'Tir)
28 November 2009 Straightforward grape with the faintest hint of plum. Moderate wood and potpourri. Light-bodied attack with moderate finish, like a thinner cabernet.
$12 / bottle
Red Les Trois Domaines, Guerrouane Rouge 2003 (AOG Meknes)
?? Zesty fruity and spicy attack with little finish.
$10 / bottle

China

China has never had a particularly strong grape-wine tradition. The local specialties were mostly grain-based, such as the sorghum-based Maotai and its Taiwanese counterpart, Kaoliang, which are incredibly potent concoctions that make ouzo and absinthe taste like soda pop. They are difficult to find in the United States unless you are near a large Chinese community. In the Bay Area, the Ranch 99 Supermarket chain carries a selection of exotic Chinese and Taiwanese liquor.

Demand for wine has exploded in China and Taiwan; during my 2004 visit to Taipei I was struck by the high prices that very mediocre foreign imports were commanding. Part of it is a status thing (like the cognac fad in Taiwan that preceeded it), where we try to show our refinement by consuming the best Western products. Unfortunately, as for grape wine, I am told that the local stuff makes Manischewitz taste like Chateau Petrus. There is not a developed "wine culture" like there is in Europe, so we hear horror stories of status-conscious but wine-illiterate rich Chinese businessmen mixing Lafite with Coke and other atrocities that would make any wine lover cry.

The biggest (only?) Chinese player on the international export market is China Silk (the export name of Suntime Winery), which operates mostly out of the Tian Shan mountains in Xinjiang (in western China, along the Silk Road, a fact they use heavily in marketing). They've brought in Western experts to revamp everything.

Recently, I've started seeing Chinese grape wines at my local Asian supermarket. For those concerned about the safety of Chinese products, rest assured that Chinese law requires that grape wine consist of not less than 51% grapes! (I wish I were kidding, but I'm not)

White China Silk, Marco Polo White NV (Xinjiang)
19 April 2009 Thin undistinguished grape flavors with a slight hint of flowers. Flat but drinkable.
$9 / bottle
Red China Silk, Marco Polo Red NV (Xinjiang)
10 December 2009 Sour grapes with a touch of plums. Dark and musty. Ages into a very muddled "Chinese medicine" sort of flavor, with difficult to classify vegetal notes and aromas.
$9 / bottle