As any wine lover would be quick to tell you, the world of wine is one which never stops evolving, never stops expanding, and is constantly keeping you on your toes. Every year, it seems as if another country steps into the wine industry, keen to get involved in this ancient and endlessly satisfying drink, and eager to discover what secrets their soils can reveal.
As global temperatures change and technologies develop, new opportunities arise in nations where winemaking might once have seemed laughable. It’s an exciting time to be a wine enthusiast for this reason; there’s always something different, something pioneering, and more often than not, something delicious to discover.
While many of the newest winemaking regions of the world may have a lot to learn, it’s well worth keeping an open mind regarding the produce they come up with. It wasn’t so long ago people were looking down their noses on Californian or Australian wines… and just look at how far those places have come! What’s more, the constant winds of change in the wine world have an added benefit too; they ensure that the more established - and dare we say somewhat haughty - wine countries don’t rest on their laurels too deeply. After all, you never know what’s around the corner, and which new nation might rise up to steal at least a bit of their crown.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the latest and most surprising movers and shakers on the global wine scene, and consider what the future might hold in store for them.
No list of great wine from unexpected places would be complete without some mention of England. British wine isn’t really anything new - in fact, grapes have been cultivated in this ancient country ever since the Roman occupation. However, English wine was always seen as something of a joke; a hobbyist’s wine industry, with bottles deemed as undrinkable by the English, and as nothing short of offensive by their French neighbours.
However, things have changed dramatically in the past decade. English white and sparkling wines have taken the world by storm, with top labels like Nyetimber rocking the world of wine awards, and leaving their Gallic competitors red faced at many blind tastings. Indigenous varietals, too, are making a comeback, and there have even been some highly successful reds and rosé wines, too. Exciting times indeed!
Indian wines began appearing on wine lists for the first time last year, and people have been pleasantly surprised with the results. The majority of the vineyards on the Indian subcontinent have been planted around the Himalayan foothills, where the cool climate, shelter from the monsoon, and high altitudes have led to some serious impressive forays into the creation of fruit-forward Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
It might be some time before Indian wine is taken seriously by the world at large, but as anybody knows, when Indians really put their mind to something, great things usually follow. At least you’ll now know which wine to opt for when looking for a pairing for a curry…
Wine production in Japan is actually nothing new at all; there is an impressive history of viticulture in the land of the rising sun which stretches back several centuries, and which was kick-started by early Portuguese and Dutch traders in the once highly secretive country. However, contemporary Japanese wine is primed and ready to take the Asian market by storm - these are beautifully floral, delicate wines which have been made with the national cuisine in mind, and which pack in plenty of fascinating and complex notes.
When we think of Mexican drinking culture, our mind immediately turns to those messy nights we’ve all experienced after drinking one tequila shot too many. This all might be set to change this year, as the Mexican wine industry is gaining traction and impressing wine judges the world over.
In a way, we shouldn’t be so surprised at the concept of Mexican wine. After all, the vast majority of the country’s vineyards are situated near the California border… and they benefit from highly similar soil types and climatic conditions as top regions like Napa Valley. Unsurprisingly, therefore, varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are thriving there, and early reports suggest that Mexican wine may well be coming to a wine store near you soon.
Cold, wet, and windy… these are the words which spring to mind when we think of the landscape of the Netherlands. How is it possible, then, that the country is experiencing a rush of winemaking fervour?
Let’s not forget that the Dutch engineered their whole country several hundred years ago to be reclaimed from the sea, and have the technical know-how to make pretty much anything possible. Coupled with improving climatic conditions, and a nationwide obsession with wine (remember - it was the Dutch who first planted grapes in South Africa and Australia), it doesn’t seem so surprising after all that there would eventually be a native Dutch wine industry.
So, there you have it - five unexpected wine nations which may well be popping up on the labels at a wine store near you! Some may be brilliant, some may fall wide of the mark… but when it comes to wine, you never quite know what you’re going to find!