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Finding the next big wine region

Finding the next big wine regionHow does one find the next big wine region? Is it something the Winestream Media can anoint by giving out scores and fawning over celebrity winemakers? Is it something the industry can do, in the way Sonoma has been marketing itself? Or is it about the quality of the wine, where the region works its way into our consciousness without much help from anyone?

Or is finding the next big wine region one of those quaint 20th-century things, like VCRs and walkie talkie-sized cell phones, something that doesn’t make much difference in the post-modern wine world? The answer is after the jump:

The genesis for this post came from a blog visitor, who wanted to know why I don’t do more to identify wine regions that offer wines that people come here to find. I’m not sure that’s true — see my support for Sicily and Gascony — but it did make me wonder. What will be the next Sicily or Gascony, and how do we find it?

I’m sure that we won’t find it from the Winestream Media. It has been hyping Austria for years, mostly for gruner veltliner, with little success. That’s because, despite the enthusiasm for gruner, there isn’t enough of it matter. The next big wine region has to produce enough wine for people to be able to buy it.

I’m also leery of industry-sponsored next big things; that approach gave us pet rocks. This doesn’t mean there isn’t great cheap wine in Sonoma. Rather, Sonoma, for all its insecurities, is an established part of the wine world, and that’s enough to rule it out.

Which means the next big wine region will sneak up on us, like Sicily did. And, wherever it is, it will offer the following:

• Favorable pricing, which means $15 or less. Otherwise, Napa and Bordeaux would be the next big thing. Which they’ve already been.

• Grapes that aren’t chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. Because what’s the point of the next big wine region making the same thing that everyone else does?

• Professional quality, which means consistently made wine from vintage to vintage. This rules out much of the regional wine business, where one great vintage is followed by several ordinary ones.

• Sufficient distribution, as well as enough production, to get its wine into retailers. Unglamorous yes, but that’s probably why Greek wine hasn’t made much headway. There’s enough of it, quality is adequate, the varietals are interesting, and pricing is favorable. But unless you’re on the East Coast, it’s almost impossible to find Greek wine in a store.

So what regions fit those requirements?

Italy’s Abruzzi, with red wine made from the montepulciano grape. The only problem here is that the wines, if not old-fashioned, don’t have the ripe fruit that American wine drinkers have come to expect.

New York’s Finger Lakes and its incredibly delicious rieslings. Distribution, thanks to large producers like Konstantin Frank and Ravines, is much better than most people realize, though pricing might be too high.

• Somewhere in Spain, and I wish I could do better than that. But Spain has 66 major wine regions, many of which produce wines amazing both in price and quality, and picking one instead of another is an exercise in confusion. Best guesses: Rueda, for whites made with verdejo, and Madrid, for red blends.

Image courtesy of Wine Folly, using a Creative Commons license

  • Shane

    Indiana traminette. Don’t laugh. Some amazing examples, diversity and style throughout the state, competitive pricing, supply, strong marketing, and streamlined by design to go global in Asian markets.

    • http://winecurmudgeon.com Wine Curmudgeon

      We were talking about Indiana traminette this weekend at the Colorado Govern’s Cup. The catch, as with most regioanl wine, is not enough production and distribution. It’s almost impossible to buy Indiana wine outside of Indiana.

  • Flynn Gentry-Taylor

    You are right..if it is in the US it might be too high in price for sure. Wish I could say Georgia, but that is just a wish. The new thing here in Georgia is to put up a sign, open up a tasting room and then plant some grapes..lol..well maybe not quite that bad, but although we have vineyards opening up, we also have them closing down. Must say it is good to see the land used this way, though.
    My vote is for NY at any rate.

  • http://facebook.com/cfvines Alan Courtney

    I nominate the California Sierra Foothills. We are seeing some outstanding Rhône style and Italian wines being produced in this region. The Winestream media are beginning to show some interest by reviewing and awarding some very nice scores to wineries in the region. Long thought of as an interesting but remote area limited to Zinfandel, the new blood is kicking up some dust, investing resources and showing off their skills. The talent is catching up to the terror.

    • http://winecurmudgeon.com Wine Curmudgeon

      Alan, Sierra Foothills is a fine choice (and it also came up during discussions in Colorado), If the wine can get out of California, then it stands a good chance. The next time I’m wine shopping, I’m going to see what I can find.

  • http://winoguide.com Joe

    I’m pulling for the Santa Ynez Valley, mostly just because I live near it. Living in Southern California, our wine regions are always overshadowed by the stalwarts up North and Santa Ynez seems to have the best wines in the so-cal area. They grow good Pinots and Rhones, especially Syrah. Only a few of the wineries have production big enough to sell outside of California, let alone Southern California but they do make good Rhones for around $15. If the California drought doesn’t end soon though, I imagine it will be hard for them to ramp up production volume..

    Realistically, Spain might have a better shot seeing that they’ve produce a ridiculous amount of wine recently. So production is there, distribution I’m not too sure of but Rioja’s are relatively easy to find so I imagine it shouldn’t be hard to get other Spanish wines in. Because of the high supply, I imagine the prices would be quite competitive relative to the quality of the wine.

  • Keith

    I tried a Georgia Traminette that i was pleasantly surprised with. 2 Lads winery on the Mission Peninsula in Michigan is making some very impressive wines.

    • http://winecurmudgeon.com Wine Curmudgeon

      Thanks for the comments — many of these regions make terrific wine, and are worthy of being the next big wine thing. Remember, though, that a region has to make enough wine for wide distribution, and it has to have distribution — which may be even more difficult. This rules out most regional wine states like Michigan, no matter how good the wine, since there isn’t enough wine.

      Joe’s suggestion of the Santa Ynez Valley is quite possible. It may be where Paso Robles was before it became the next big thing.

  • Figo

    I would say Cyprus is a hidden treasure

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