Up-And-Coming Wine Regions

Ugly ducklings turn into great wines

Extreme makeovers aren't only for TV contestants.

Over the past few years, we've watched several wine regions transform themselves from "ugly drinklings" to "Next Top Pours."

Thanks are largely due to the efforts of visionary producers, who've brought newfound focus on quality and craftsmanship to areas previously known for bulk production. Here are three of the most compelling examples:

Soave, Italy

Before: When producers lobbied to expand the region's boundaries in the 1970s, the outcome was a flood of assembly-line whites.

After: From the original classic zone, the 2010 Gini Soave Classico ($13 for 750 ml) is the melon-scented, golden-hued result of this visionary estate's commitment to organic farming and let-well-enough-alone winemaking.

Roussillon, France

Before: Often lumped in with neighboring Languedoc, the Roussillon occupies a rugged swath of vines that has gained a reputation as France's industrial "wine lake."

After: The recent Roussillon renaissance can be savored in such bottles as the 2008 Domaine Rivaton "Vieilles Vignes" Côtes du Roussillon ($23 for 750 ml), a surprisingly fresh wash of black cherry, licorice and herbs.

Emilia Romagna, Italy

Before: The celebrated land of Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar, Emiglia-Romagna could never quite boast wines to match, and was known mostly for generic versions of fizzy red Lambrusco.

After:  Innovative winemakers have begun to transform the area's little-known white grapes into mind-bending orange wines, including the lightly sparkling 2009 Tedeschi IGT Emilia Spugnola Bellaria Pignoletto ($21 for 750 ml).