Drinks

Hidden Valleys

The undiscovered wine spots off the beaten path but worth the journey
Photo: Dave Katz/Tasting Table
Unknown Wine Regions

All month long, we are paying homage to the mighty grape. Grab a glass and join us as we Wine Down.

Is there anything better than spending the day on a wine trail? Trying different varietals, getting tipsy and gazing out over scenic rolling vineyards?

Unless, however, you can’t get tipsy because a giant tour bus of vacationers arrives five minutes before you do, dominating the tasting room and killing your buzz. To avoid this, here’s a guide to a few of the best overlooked wine regions, many of which are so under the radar a visit is by appointment only.

Fruška Gora, Serbia

Serbia’s winemaking history is much older and deeper than most give the country credit for. While the Serbs are known to knock back more rakija (Serbian schnapps) than vino, rakija became their drink of choice only following the phylloxera epidemic in the 1800s. Today, Serbia has regrown its wine culture. One of the most undiscovered regions is Fruška Gora, located close to the banks of the Danube River, where most of the wineries are family owned and not in the export business–all the more reason to visit in person. 

Check out: Žarko Živanovi? Winery

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Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Swiss wine is also tricky to get your hands on if you find yourself on the other side of the border. Many of the wines don’t even leave the canton where they’re grown, which means you have to visit Switzerland just to try them. Located on the Gold Coast (eastern shore of Lake Zürich), the Schaffhausen region, which produces 70 percent red wine, is beginning to make its mark on the wine scene  and is known for its Pinot Noir. Thankfully, the Swiss are also good at making red wine’s best friend: cheese. 

Check out: Winzerkeller Strasser

Swartland, South Africa

South Africa’s biggest wine secret is that it doesn’t export most of it’s top wines. On American shelves, you’re likely to find a handful of overpriced bottles that local oenophiles would consider plonk, a slang term for table wine. Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl–these places might ring a bell, but Swartland is unknown to most. Located two hours north of Cape Town, the region is home to an array of boutique, (primarily) family-run wineries that produce mostly natural wines.

Check out: Sadie Family Wines

McLaren Vale, Australia

You might be thinking: What’s new about Australian wine? But Australia is composed of thousands of hidden valleys with terrific vineyards you've probably never heard of. And McLaren Vale and Frankland River are two of them. An hour south of Adelaide–on the Fleurieu Peninsula–McLaren Vale is home to around 110 wineries and some 70 cellars, many of which are boutique. These emerging wineries coupled with the area's cool, artisanal farmers’ market make McLaren Vale one of the hottest regions to visit.

Check out: Alpha Box & Dice

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Being routinely celebrated as a top tequila destination has its downside when trying to break into the wine industry. Even though Valle de Guadalupe is quickly growing in popularity, people are still weirded out when they see “wine” and “Mexico” next to each other. But cast your judgment aside: The region’s wine farms have been there for decades. The area is home to many Napa-worthy wineries, hotels and restaurants, which come with all of the polish and none of the pretension. 

Check out: Adobe Guadalupe

Maldonado, Uruguay

Uruguay has been living  in the shadow of its neighbors, Argentina and Chile, two countries that have dominated South America’s wine scene since, well, forever. But just like its competitors, Uruguay’s moderate climate makes for a perfect place to grow good grapes. There are many wineries that lie outside Maldonado, most of which are family owned. And it’s there you’ll find a trail of boutique farms, where you can often sit down and taste the unique and distinctive wines with the owners themselves.  

Check out: Alto de la Ballena

Južnoslovenská, Slovakia

Eastern Europe is starting to gain more and more attention on the international wine scene–and rightfully so. Like Serbia, the Slovaks have a rich wine history, which fizzled out during communist rule. Today, the wine culture is quickly maturing, with many wineries producing natural wine to feed the burgeoning biodynamic trend in Europe. In southern Slovakia, located north of the Danube, you’ll find the Južnoslovenská wine region. Though these low-key wineries might not be as abundant or fancy as those in France or Italy, they’re infinitely just as good.

Check out: Strekov

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