Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Chianti and Mendoza — it’s likely you’ve heard of the aforementioned wine regions. They’re among the most famous in the world — the hot spots of wine tourism. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with discovering these beloved wine destinations.
But there’s something to be said about some of the world’s more off-beat and emerging wine regions, where you can visit family-owned wineries, tranquil tasting rooms and rolling vineyards relatively tourist-free. And, you may find out about some new wine varieties, curation methods or processes you weren’t previously familiar with.
Here are some of the world’s 10 Best Lesser-Known Wine Regions to put on your radar this season.
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El Bierzo, Spain
This wine destination located in the north of Spain near León is often under-shadowed by more popular Spanish wine regions like Rioja and Ribera. Nearly all Bierzo wines come from the Mencia grape. The region’s soil, rife with slate and granite, ensures its wines feature notes of minerality. Make sure to visit the Palacio de Canedo, a winery, restaurant and hotel to sample their in-house brand Prada A Tope.
Although the southern Languedoc region is one of France’s largest wine-producing spots, it’s often ignored from a tourism perspective in favor of fancier names such as Champagne and Bordeaux, or the castle-covered Loire Valley. The area produces mainly blended reds and has over 50 different grape varieties. Taste some at the Abbey de Valmagne, France’s largest wine-producing monastery, which focuses on sustainable wine-making methods.
Missouri Wine Country, USA
It’s safe to say that the Midwest and southern US regions are not typically famous for wine. But for a wine adventure very different than visiting a place like Napa Valley or the Finger Lakes, head to Missouri. The state’s wine country once used grape hybrids to help revive both the German and French wine industry within the US. Taste wines made from Norton, the Missouri state grape at over 100 different wineries. Sip and tour the Adam Puchta Winery, one of the oldest in the state, or Belvoir Winery which is rumored to be haunted.
Bekka Valley, Lebanon
An easy day trip from Beirut, Bekka Valley winemaking dates back more than 6,000 years. With over 50 different wine producers today, this special region in Lebanon boasts the Cinsault grape (also found in France’s Languedoc region). Visit one of the valley’s oldest wineries, Chateau Ksara, which dates back to 1857 and has seven onsite vineyards.
Peljesac Peninsula, Croatia
Maybe people don’t associate Croatia’s pebbly beaches or tourist-heavy cities like Dubrovnik with wine, but the country actually has several wine regions. The Peljesac Peninsula in the Dalmatia region is the most accessible for those visiting Dubrovnik, or even Split. There, the dryness and heat are especially conducive to grape growth and wine production. Make sure to visit Croatian wineries like Grgic, Milos and Marlais. Or for a unique experience, check out Edivo, an underwater winery.
While Port and Vinho Verde seem to monopolize the Portuguese wine scene, the southern/central Alentejo region is worthy of recognition. Although the area is suffering some effects of climate change, the different sub-regions still grow several grape varieties of great quality. Some are Aragonez, Trincadeira, Castelão, Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet, Arinto, Antão Vaz and Roupeiro, just to name a few. Stay, eat and try wine at Herdade dos Grous, which has a beautiful farm and lake on its grounds.
Diarizos Valley, Cyprus
One of a few different wine routes in the country of Cyrpus is the Diarizos Valley, and it’s unassumingly gorgeous. The area, which sits at a slightly lower altitude than the country’s other wine regions, passes through several hilltop villages just east of Paphos. You’ll discover all kinds of grapes cultivated in the mild climate, but make sure to try reds from the local Mavro variety. Stop to taste and tour in various village wineries like Tsangarides, which offers organic wines alongside regional specialties.
Moselle Valley, Luxembourg
The micro-climate of the Moselle Valley is typically warmer and sunnier than the rest of Luxembourg, providing conditions ideal for wine cultivation. Riesling grapes are common, as are the Pinot family grapes, like Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Thus, you’ll find that many of the wines in the area are white and sparkling wine varieties. Visit during the Bacchusfescht, a festival on August 15 which includes an outdoor flea market, cuisine and of course, lots of local wine.
The country of Georgia is already off-the-beaten-path for both travelers and oenophiles alike. Although Kakheti is the country’s largest and most popular wine region, Kartli has some of the best wine. And Kartli wine country is easily accessible as the region is home to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Many of the area’s wineries take historical Georgian winemaking techniques and fuse them with a more traditional French process. Chinuri and Tavkveri are among the most common wine varieties produced in Kartli, and you can sample them at the Merebashvili Winery.
Parras Valley, Mexico
You may have heard of Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe, but the Parras Valley is Mexico’s most up-and-coming wine region. Located in the Coahuila desert, the 15 or so wineries that dot the area just a few hours outside of Monterrey offer immense variety. Some wineries produce Kosher wine, others experiment with orange wine and some make sherry and dessert wines. Stop into Don Leo, one of the highest vineyards in the world at 7,000 feet above sea level.