Obscure Wine: Regions You Probably Didn’t Know Produce Wine

By | Staff Writer
Last Updated: September 30, 2023
Obscure and unexpected wine producing countries and regions

As a wine connoisseur, you have probably visited some of the world’s most popular wine regions. Perhaps, you’ve spent some time in Tuscany, discovering the region’s world-renowned Chianti wines. Or maybe you’ve been to Bordeaux, which has a reputation for producing sumptuous reds. This might come as a surprise, but places like Madagascar, Hawaii, India, Japan, and Scotland also produce wines worth discovering.

If you’re interested in learning more about these places and the wines they make, we take a look at these obscure wine regions below.

Obscure Wine: Unique Regions & Countries Experimenting with Wine Production

Wineries & Vineyards in Madagascar

Rope bridge in Tsingy, Madagascar
While not all of Madagascar looks like this, you can imagine why it might be difficult to grow grapes. However, we were thrilled to be crossing the breathtaking rope bridge over Tsingy’s jagged limestone cliffs in Madagascar.

Madagascar is a massive island on the southeast coast of Africa. Given its location, you would not expect that the island is a wine-producing country. However, the French, who colonized the country during the 1800s, have left a strong winemaking legacy. 

You’ll find hundreds of small vineyards around the island, each home to a few hectares of vines. These vineyards are slowly consolidating into bigger vineyards. However, very little wine is being exported from Madagascar to the US or Europe. Nowadays, Dzama rum is the island’s main alcoholic export and accounts for around 60% of the island’s alcohol market. These rums are being exported worldwide and have received numerous accolades and high praise from rum critics.

The Soavita Vineyards is one of those places to go on a wine tour in Madagascar. It’s located in a large town called Ambalavao. In addition to tasting fine wine, you can visit a small shop in Ambalavao where local women make artistic and decorative paper using raw wood pulp.

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Wineries & Wine Bars in Hawaii

Hawaii Big Island lava flow
From fiery eruptions to fruitful harvests: the Big Island’s volcanic landscape is both a challenging and rewarding environment for wine grapes. The volcanic terroir offers unique flavors and complexities, while the hot and humid climate requires winemakers to adapt and innovate. A true testament to the resilience of nature and the human spirit.

While Hawaii may be famous for its refreshing cocktails, especially the Mai Tai, wine also has its place. Five of the first American sommeliers who passed the Master Sommelier examination have lived in Hawaii and have established an enduring wine culture across the islands since the seventies.

While Hawaii is far from what many consider a wine country, the Hawaiian Islands boast a handful of homegrown wineries. From The Big Island to Oahu, Maui and Kauai, Hawaii is unique for its production of both traditional and fruit wines. Take for example Volcano Winery, which is situated at 4,000 feet in a purely volcanic terroir. They produce Pinot Noir and a variety of local fruit wines.

In Kauai, you’ll find excellent bars and wineries that cater to a growing demand for wine. Head to the town of Koloa, and you’ll find The Wine Shop, a family-owned shop selling an excellent assortment of wines to locals and visitors to the island.

When enjoying wine on Kauai, consider staying in a villa on the North Shore, close to the wine markets. The North Shore is also home to good wine bars, such as the Palate Wine Bar and Restaurant in Kilauea. It boasts an impressive collection of wine derived from esoteric wineries around the world.

India Wine Regions

Vineyard in Nasik, Maharashtra, India
Vineyards located in Nasik, Maharashtra, India.

India is famous for many things but not wine. However, many didn’t know that the country has an age-old history with wines. Winemaking in the country started during the Mughal rule some 5,000 years ago. Nowadays, the country is home to some of the world’s finest vineyards, with some offering visitors the opportunity to go on a wine tour.

Sula Vineyards, a winery and vineyard located in the Nashik region of Maharashtra, is one of the pioneers in winemaking in India. Every year, Sula Vineyards offer wine connoisseurs the opportunity to savor the taste of an eclectic variety of local wines. Sulafest has become one of India’s most sought-after wine festivals, with wine lovers calling it the “Mecca of Wines.” At this event, thousands of party people will be treated to a mix of groovy music and wine. It’s the perfect event to satisfy the cravings of every wine lover.

Sula Vineyards is a world-class winery and a popular destination for wine connoisseurs in India. Aside from the exquisite wine parties and the various wine offerings, Sula Vineyards offers much more. It’s also home to an Italian restaurant run by award-winning chefs. There’s also a luxury three-bedroom bungalow where guests can spend the night.

Japanese Wine

Grapes growing in Yamanashi, Japan
Grapes flourish in Yamanashi, Japan.

While Japan is not known for its wine production to many westerners, centuries of European influence have created wine regions around the country since the late 1800s. Vineyards all over the country have been cultivating wine for over a century with a hint of French influence. 

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Many wineries and vineyards in Japan are in the north near Hokkaido and in the south around Miyazaki. However, the main wine industry of Japan originated in Yamanashi, just north of Mount Fuji, where the region produces its own local Koshu grapes and some traditional wine varieties. Nowadays, the Yamanashi region accounts for 40% of the country’s wine production, with over eighty wineries in the area. The country as a whole produces delectable wines from grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, and Cabernet. Its own Koshu wine has also gained popularity all over Asia and is an ideal pairing for many variations of Japanese cuisine. 

Going on wine tours and tastings is the best way to learn more about Japanese wines. Most wineries in Japan offer tours in both Japanese and English, where you’ll be walking through the vineyards and wine facilities to see for yourself how the wines in these regions differ from the rest of the world.

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Wineries in Scotland

Scottish castle ruins Dunnottar Castle
Behold the breathtaking beauty of Dunnottar Castle – its ancient ruins perched majestically on the rugged cliffs overlooking the North Sea. With a view that spans both time and distance, it’s easy to understand why this enchanting Scottish landmark has captured the imaginations of travelers and storytellers for centuries.

Wine is probably the last thing on your mind when going to Scotland. The country is famous for its breathtaking landscapes, ruined castles, and cozy pubs where you can sample the tastiest scotch whisky, but not much is known about its wine. But some brave entrepreneurs and forward-thinking locals have taken it upon themselves to establish what may eventually become a blossoming wine country.

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Both wine novices and professionals alike have typically figured that Scotland’s weather is too fickle and cold to successfully yield wine. However, at the time of this writing, there are several wineries experimenting with vitis vinifera grapes as well as fruit-based wines. While the climate in Scotland may not currently be suitable for a full 100 days of grape ripening, winemakers are forecasting that global warming will eventually and literally, bear more fruit. If you decide to visit Scotland and want to see how things are progressing, look into Cairn O’ Mohr, Moniack Castle Winery, Orkney Wine Company, whose current focus is fruit wines.

Located in Fife, just north of Edinburgh, Chateau Largo is probably the most famous winery in Scotland. It’s the brainchild of a local chef and food writer who dreams of bringing wine to Scotland. Château Hebrides is another winery that’s worth checking out in Scotland. Specializing in Black Muscat wine, the winery is located in the Outer Hebrides. Although sold only at local farmer’s markets, the wine from Chateau Hebrides has a reputation for being quite tasty.

To make the most of your wine tour in Scotland, consider booking into some of the unique hotels Scotland has to offer, for a few nights. In between tasting wines, explore Scotland’s attractions, such as the Edinburgh Castle, St Giles Cathedral, and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

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