• Alexander Smith

My most exciting wine regions 2018

Updated: Jun 21, 2018

The below will discuss my top 5 most exciting wine region in 2018.

South Africa - Could this be the next super wine region?

Gone of the days where wine professionals (and amateurs!) would be arguing about which country produced the best wine; France or Italy. Today, there are over 20 countries which produce world-class wines. Within each of these countries, they are regions and sub-regions, which are producing better and better wine. I visit California once a year, each time I go, I discover new techniques in both the vineyard and the vinification process, which are being implemented to elevate their wine. No wine country is holding back, France had it easy for many years, but with the New World approaching at lighting pace, they have had to step it up. So here is my list for 2018:

5. Bordeaux, France

"Bordeaux wine makers are now making more appealing wine now than they have in the last 50 years"

The above statement is bold, I get this, but hear me out. The 2009, 2010 vintages were very powerful and in my opinion a little overdone. These vintages from Bordeaux will need to age for another 5-10 years before you will be able to properly enjoy them. These wines were purchased by the Asian market and opened upon delivery. As you can imagine, drinking a 2009 in 2011 First or Second growth must have caused some interesting facial expressions. The tannins must have been everywhere. Bordeaux winemakers learnt from that. Along comes the 2014 vintages, yup Bordeaux is back with a 4* vintage which can be enjoyed young and the potential to age. This is where for me the mindset in Bordeaux changed. The ability to make wines which could be drank younger, but would also age gracefully. Now there are those that will quickly remind me not to open those first growths upon release. I agree, however those second growths can be opened and enjoyed at 5 years. There is no need to wait 15-20 years. Why this change? Consumers are demanding both wines to drink young and that can age gracefully. Look at California and you can see what I mean. Top Cabernet Sauvignon's from Shafer, Dominos, Opus and Joseph Phelps can be drunk after just 5 years or kept for 20 years. Bordeaux is working towards that same drinking window. However Bordeaux is Bordeaux, and whilst they are trying to please their consumers they should not leave their roots. From the 2015 vintage I can say this is currently not the case.

4. New Zealand

"New Zealand is starting to produce world class Chardonnay, Pinot Noir which can be compared to the Cote d'Or"

10 years ago if I was told that New Zealand could compete with Burgundy in terms of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir I would have laughed at them. New Zealand is now producing not just some of the most exciting Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs in the world, but they are producing wines which can compete with Oregon, Russian River, and Burgundy. Wines with great depth, freshness, concentration, and ageability. Most NZ wines use a screw cap, however, that does not mean they have to be opened upon release. Screw caps are more advanced now and are starting to replicate a cork more and more. The most exciting producers for me at the moment are Felton Road and Kumeu Valley.

3. Argentina

"Argentina put Malbec back on the wine map, what is next, Cabernet Franc?"

Visiting Mendoza earlier this year I learned that Argentina does not want to produce average wine, they want to produce the best wine in the world. Argentina started with Malbec, they then went high altitude with Chardonnay and Malbec. Next Cabernet Franc? Top producers of Catena and Viña Cobos are leading this drive. El Enemigo, Kaiken, and Trapiche are following closely.

2. Sonoma, California

"Often overshadowed by their next doors neighbours, Napa. Sonoma is ready to be in the spotlight"

Napa and Sonoma are so close in proximity but so far in terms of style. Napa is known for it's Cabernet Sauvignon, which can rival the left bank of Bordeaux. A hop and skip across the Mayacamas mountains and you arrive in cool Sonoma. A world apart from the prestigious Napa wineries, another world awaits of Burgundy style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a California kiss. Sonoma has everything from full-blown oaky to light Chablis-style Chardonnays. Every year I return and this region just gets better and better. Top wineries leading the charge are Dutton Goldfield, Kistler, and Paul Hobbs.

1. Chile

"No wine region in the world has made as much progress as Chile has in the last 10 years"

I am sure this will be a surprise for a few. Having visited in February this year, I cannot disagree that Chile is really making strides in recent years. I was blown away by the quality compared to the prices of the bottles. I cannot think of any other country in the world with a wine of this high in quality, at this price point. Most premium bottles retail for under $100 and for $25 you can drink quality that you would have to pay 2-3 more in California or France. Yup, it's that good. Ritual was a huge highlight for me with their range of Superblock range standing out. Montes and Lapostolle (Clos Apalta) are other phenomenal wineries pushing the limits. Organic, dry farming, hand harvesting and balanced oak aging are all in the mix. They tick all the boxes and the future is very bright!

Regions which are starting to get me excited; Pfalz (Germany), Stellenbosch (South Africa), Langhe (Italy), Finger Lakes (New York State) and Okanagan Valley (British Columbia)

What do you think? Do you agree? Which wine regions are you excited for this year? Did I miss any?

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