Embrace the Diversity: The New Wines On The Block

signpostWe’ve all seen it happen: you’ve got the status quo going nicely in your company, your school, or your neighborhood. Everyone knows where they stand in the pecking order: who’s the boss and who are the supporting cast. So when someone new moves into town, you expect them to work their way up the ladder, and pay their dues along the way.

But what if they don’t? What if they just come storming into the neighborhood, acting like they own the place. Or not acting at all – just taking charge by doing what they do very well.

If you’ll pardon the long-winded analogy, that’s exactly what’s happening in the wine world with the so-called “emerging wine regions.” Countries such as Spain, Argentina and Chile are taking American wine markets by storm.

Of course, they’re “emerging” only to us North Americans. These countries have a much stronger wine-drinking heritage than North Americans and have been producing wine, and lots of it, for centuries. But much of it was relatively low quality stuff. That’s all changed in the last five to 10 years with significant improvements in vineyard practices, grape quality and winemaking technology. We’re now seeing lots of good, better and best quality wines from these countries – and often at bargain prices. They’re giving domestic producers a run for their money.

Take Malbec from Argentina. During the last decade winemakers in Mendoza, aided and abetted by foreign investment, have learned where and how to grow this grape and how to vinify it to create amazing quality for a very reasonable price. There is good stuff out there for $10 a bottle (such as Dona Paula Los Cardos or Gougenheim) and great, award-winning Malbecs for $20 (Decero and Catena are outstanding). Compare that to the $50 you have to spend to get anything approaching top-quality from the Napa Valley.

Spain is another country that’s turning out a lot of good-tasting and great value wines. There was always Rioja, a classic Old World style wine, but now there’s lots of great stuff (and more New World in style) from previously unheard of regions such as Jumilla, Campo de Borja  and Priorat.  Just $8 or $9 will get you the body and complexity that would cost you twice as much from domestic producers. (Read my reviews for Borsoa Red and Finca Resalso, or try anything that says “Jorge Ordonez Importer” on the back label).

And it’s not just those “foreigners” who are challenging the pecking order. Washington State is finally getting its due for top-quality reds that certainly rival anything from California, and many of them are in the $20 range.  (See my reviews for Tamarack Firehouse Red or Bergevin Lane Calico Red).

So how should North American wine drinkers respond to this influx of strange and wonderful wines? Embrace the diversity! Get thee to a wine store and go stand in front of one of those “country sections” you’ve never looked at before. Stand underneath the sign that says “Spain”, “Greece”, or just “Other”. If you’re confused by too many unfamiliar choices, read the shelf talkers that most shops have, or find a real live people who’ll be more than happy to point out some wines worth trying. Or read the wine critics: Robert Parker. Jr’s The Wine Advocate pays a lot of attention to wines from Spain, South America and Australia.

However you do it, make a point to expand your wine-drinking horizons. Buy one new or different bottle each week, and before long you’ll feel like the new kids on the block have become old and dear friends. Cheers!

  • Share/Bookmark

Leave a Reply


Wine Accessories

Switch to our mobile site