24 January 2018 by Simon Langley
Wine is big business. Brits alone consume nearly 14,000 glasses every minute as el vino fast becomes the nation’s favourite tipple. And, interestingly, while old European favourites stand strong, a new breed of wine producers is emerging from every corner of the world. Bold new techniques are creating clean bouquets and full-bodied flavours as, outside the traditional winemaking regions of the home continent, producers are free to experiment without the weight of heritage on their shoulders.
In the Old World, strict directives are designed to preserve the imparted taste of wine regions’ characteristic soil, climate and topography known as the terroir. Regulations govern everything from pruning methods and use of oak to maximum yields and planting density. In contrast, innovators in countries such as the USA, South Africa and New Zealand are able to employ scientific best practice from vineyard to winery. This has led to a more ‘fruit forward’ approach that showcases the grape varietal and sidelines any impurities. And, thanks to fine climates and stunning landscapes, luxury holidays to New Zealand or Australia are ideal for tasting your way through the southern hemisphere vineyards that are ushering in a new order. And, of course, you’ll also find great tastes in South America and even in rising stars such as Slovenia and Canada. To help guide you, we’ve included links to tailor-made holidays that let you drink in the untapped delights of the best undiscovered wine regions.
Margaret River, Australia
Wine arrived on Australian shores via South Africa, with the vine cuttings from the Cape of Good Hope making land with the First Fleet. Today, the land down under has carved out a name for itself with the UK importing more wine from Australia than France. And, with more than 60 Australian wine regions, there’s much to choose from.
One of our favourite regions is Margaret River, tucked away in the country’s southwest corner. Despite its 1970s youth, its maritime environment and ideal climate have established it among the world’s winemaking greats. Here, you’ll find picturesque farmlands, rolling vineyards, ranging hikes and surf breaks, all of which remain relatively untouched by the tourism that has swept through Australia’s east coast. Find yourself at gourmet farmers’ markets and cellar door sales or combine both with a trip to Voyager Estate where fine wines are skilfully matched with outstanding local produce.
Just outside of Toronto’s bustling multiculturalism and world-class museums, Niagara-on-the-lake is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. Once you’ve witnessed the sheer power of the falls, pay a visit to the 25 wineries nestled just below the Niagara escarpment. While each has a unique approach to Canadian wine varietals, they all share the same commitment to the lakeside terroir; you’ll see modern technology sitting alongside age-old tradition. It’s also known the world over for its award-winning ice wine made from grapes that have naturally frozen on the vine. Handpicked, they’re immediately pressed and, while the yield is small, the result is an exquisitely sweet wine where natural sugars shine through.
One of the best ways to familiarise yourself with it all is the excellent Tasting Pass which, for around $25, allows you to enjoy one tasting at each of the region’s 25 wineries. We suggest, however, you linger a little longer at Konzelmann Estate for its excellent guided tour and views from its immaculate vineyards onto the lake itself.
Ice wine is a speciality of Niagara-on-the-lake – a highly sweet variant difficult to reproduce naturally in other New World winemaking regions
Ice wine slushie is an enjoyable summer cocktail, made simply with ice wine (we recommend a wine made with Vidal grapes) and crushed ice, served in either a shot or martini glass, oft finished with a frozen grape
Another newcomer to the international scene, Slovenia’s wine industry punches well above its weight in competitions. However, while the choice caters for a range of palates, premium varieties are often produced by small winemakers so it pays to know where to look. Wine-tasting, foodie holidays to its leafy capital, Ljubljana, set among green forests to a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, reward with intimate wine cellars and festivals, including the superb Ljubljana Wine Route where producers come from around the country to exhibit their best bottles and vintages. Wine tastings combine sparkling, white and red wines with varieties from the difficult-to-say, easy-to-drink regions of Goriška Brda and Štajerska.
The Maribor vineyards in Slovenia are home to a beautiful heart-shaped road
Gibbston Valley, New Zealand
As a country renowned for its spectacular landscapes and fresh mountain air, it seems inevitable that New Zealand would turn its green-fingered hands to viticulture. Although wine production dates as far back as the early 19th century, the industry only took off as recently as the 1970s when farmers looked to diversify their yield after Britain, thanks to its entrance into the EU, ended its favourable trade ties to Kiwi agriculture. Since then, production has flourished.
And, ranking highly on any tour of the country’s gastronomy is a trip to Gibbston Valley on its outdoorsy South Island. The winery produces the best in sustainably farmed and unfiltered goodness and is stored in what is the country’s largest wine cave. But the storage is more than just a headlines-grabbing superlative; its natural rock schist maintains an ideal climate for ageing bottles of wine with no need for artificial temperature or humidity control. It also makes for a fine setting for tasting sessions on New Zealand wine tours.
Under Gibbston Valley sits the country's largest wine cave, with its rock schist geological composition making for a superb natural climate for ageing wine. (Image courtesy of Gibbston Valley)
Although not strictly New World, Sicily is enjoying something of a wine renaissance, marking it out from its older brothers’ oenological tradition. And, as a country of sparkling seas and terracotta beauty, it’s well worth a visit. Its most famous wine, Marsala, is a fortified variety akin to port and sherry once relegated to the kitchen pantry. Today, it’s found a place back in the cellar as a dessert or aperitif wine whose distinctive amber colour is a delight to eyes, nose and tongue. And, to get a proper taste, look no further than a stay in Relais Torre Marabino whose 30 hectares of vineyards produce some of the finest wine on the island, best paired with the produce of its organic farm. You’ll also be just a short distance from the beach as the traditional accommodation looks out over shady fig trees and landscaped gardens to the surrounding countryside beyond.
There are a number of grapes used in Sicilian winemaking, including Frappato, Perricone, and Nero D’Avola