What makes a best wine? Or better yet, do you ever wonder why wine trends come and go? In the eighties, if you wanted to impress the guests, you’d pop open a bottle of your finest Italian or French. Then came the rise in popularity of the homegrown Napa Valley, California wines to make us proud, until the invasion of the tasty Latins came on strong with robust vineyards in Spain to blossoming ones in Argentina and Chile. Today, Spain is still holding on strong to its popularity due to their great weather in recent years, a wide variety of tastes offered, overall good quality, and even better price points. In 2013, it became the world’s leading wine producer, beating out France.
So what country or region will hit your local sommeliers’ favorite list soon enough? While Spain, Chile and Argentina experienced a wine renaissance about two decades after democratic change in their respective countries, the world is now looking at South Africa to be the next region to deliver top quality wines. “After the end of apartheid in the 1990s, South Africa’s wines reentered the world market, and its winemakers traveled to work harvests in Europe, the Americas and Australia. They brought modern winemaking techniques home with them. Their efforts are bearing fruit in exciting wines now reaching our market,” says Washington Post’s food columnist, Dave McIntyre. In the meantime, while we patiently wait for those grapes to harvest, here are 10 popular wine ideas from around the globe that will drive your inner oenophile wild.
1. Rioja Vega This 2012 Rioja from Spain is a clean, fragrant, and gentle. A layered red, some love its lightness with a peppery feel, other its red-berry fruity delight. Wine & Spirits rated it as a great quality wine for a good value. Around $10.
2. Doña Paula Estate, Malbec Argentina’s most famous wine region is Mendoza, home of that delicious and oh so affordable deep-red Malbec. Doña Paula Estate’s Malbec has a dark fruit flavor and goes perfectly with Italian dinners or all by itself. Around $17.
3. Château Lilian Ladouys St.-Estèphe This 2011 red Bordeaux blend with plum notes, is lined with hints of orange and licorice, providing it with a juicy feel, but with a good head on its shoulders. A modern rendition from a classic line of wine producers whose aim is to maintain the earthiness of its French soil. Around $20.
4. J Brut Rosé This is some of the best wine out there. For those who like it pink and bubbly, this sparkling blend (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) from the Russian River Valley in California will get the celebration started the minute you pop that cork. Pop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is. Around $25.
5. Marqués de Murrieta Ygay Reserva Extra dry and oak-y this complex and powerful concentrated Rioja from Spain has it all. Great price-quality ratio, too. Try it with steak, garlic shrimp or lamb dishes. The New York Times labeled it as nothing short of ‘spicy.” Around $27.
6. Robert Mondavi Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon Mondavi is one of Napa Valley’s most esteemed vineyards with lots of popular wine, and with a price that’s not triple figures, this 2006 silky wine with a dark, rich fruit feel has plenty of tannins to keep it serious. A classic Napa Cabernet. Around $30.
7. Nino Franco, Grave di Stecca Brut This 2009 Valdobbiadene was ranked by Decanter as one of its top ten Proseccos. It’s adored by globetrotters for its unique floral blend with lemon peel, pear and a hint of almonds. Sip slowly and hold out for the saltiness at the very end. Salud! Around $40.
8. Mönchhof Auslese From Germany’s Ürzig Würzgarten vineyard on the Mosel, this light and balanced Auslese Riesling white, bursts with aromas of apricot. Yes, it is a tad sweet, but not too sweet. In fact, it goes with just about any cuisine. Around $50.
9. Castello di Ama ‘San Lorenzo’ This Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is a smooth and smoky Tuscany blend that hails from Italy. It ranked a mighty number 6 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2014. Notes: Wild cherry, strawberry, rose. Bello! Around $55.
10. Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port Port is not just for dessert anymore. Wine Spectator named this Portuguese Port the 2014 Wine of the Year from a list of a hundred wines. Dow’s port is fermented a touch drier than other Symington Ports, with less residual sugar and plenty of spice flavors. Around $85, which makes it expensive, but nonetheless some of the best wine out there.