A wine region need not have been born yesterday to be considered up-and-coming. Across the world, ancient winemaking regions from Armenia to Italy have been in the midst of transformation due to changing political and environmental factors. Some fairly well-known, but underrated regions have been growing and evolving at a rapid pace, with expanding vineyards, changing winemaking techniques, increased exports or surges in tourism. Others have simply lived in the shadow of their more famous neighbors for too long, but have more recently been coming into their own, taking advantage of shifting consumer preferences where novelty and value outrank prestige or brand loyalty.
Whatever the case may be, many wine-producing parts of the world are worthy of far more recognition than they’ve been receiving. Whether you’re looking for your next great bottle, an unforgettable vacation destination or both, put these up-and-coming wine regions on your radar right now.
Image Courtesy of Douloufakis Winery
Crete’s winemaking history dates back to the Minoan period, but the area’s modern wine industry is effectively less than 50 years old, having dealt with phylloxera as late as 1977. Yet, in the last 25 years, Greece’s largest island has seen a true wine renaissance. Production has moved from bulk quantities of international varietals made by large cooperatives toward small-scale fermentation by a new crop of ambitious winemakers who are committed to the resurgence of Crete’s native varietals.
“Native grape varieties offer a sense of novelty and adventure for wine enthusiasts who seek out new taste experiences and learn about different wine regions and cultures,” says Nikos Douloufakis of Douloufakis Winery, who has been credited with reestablishing the white varietal Vidiano on Crete. The aromatic grape, which was nearly extinct, has been a main driver behind the island’s new crop of terroir-driven wines. Many believe its may become the island’s answer to Santorini’s Assyrtiko grape.
But Vidiano is not the only indigenous grape on the island in the midst of a comeback. There are 11 in total, all of which are now being used in mono-varietal bottlings. Keep an eye out for Vilana, a versatile, citrusy white that has barrel-age potential; Liatiko, a light and juicy but grippy red; and Mandilari, a full-bodied red with plummy and earthy characteristics.
Cretan wines would have been extremely difficult to find anywhere but the island a couple of decades ago, but that’s no longer the case. According to Wines of Crete, export sales have more than doubled over the past 20 years. And even on the island, they’ve become far easier to access, with most wineries now offering on-site tasting rooms that cater the rising number of tourists. Numerous cruise operators have also begun to include Crete’s wineries, a majority of which are accessible from the port cities of Chania and Heraklion.