If you have a basic understanding of wine, you probably know about Cabs from Napa, Rieslings from Germany, Riojas from Spain, and Burgundies from France – those areas, and the grapes that grow there, are classic pillars of the wine world, and they've been churning out solid, sommelier-approved barrels for a long time.
But just because they’re the most well known doesn’t mean they’re the only regions producing great stuff. And when you don't want to just play it safe, there’s an entire globe full of interesting, unexpected wine regions that can get you out of your usual slump.
To tour some of the more underrated, up-and-coming wine regions of the world, we spoke with Marina Snetkova, owner of NYC’s The Grape Juicery, where she sells atypical (and amazing) bottles from places you’ve never heard of.
Notable grapes: Mondeuse Blanche, Roussanne, Jacquère
Flavor profile: Crisp, flowery, sweet
A long, hot summer of crisp, classic wines is great – but if we’re being totally honest, there’s only so much rosé a guy can stand. Enter Savoie, the new standout addition to your summer wine list.
The mountainous region on the border of Switzerland is known for producing particularly crisp white wines. Thanks to the Alpine climate, wines from this region typically have subtle notes of white flowers and the slight taste of honey with a clean and especially refreshing finish.
Yarra Valley, Australia
Notable grapes: Pinot Noir
Flavor profile: Earthy, fruity
When you usually think of Pinot Noir, you think of the classic bottles coming out of France’s Burgundy region, right? Well, bottles from across the globe are starting to make their mark in the market, too.
Australia is typically known for its over-the-top bottles of Shiraz, since most of the continent is too hot to grow the subtler Pinot Noir grape, but the chillier Southern coastline creates just right conditions. Pick up an Aussie Pinot and expect an earthy, fruity, spicy kick in the palate.
Notable grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz
Flavor profile: Bold, slightly salty
The Dåo region didn’t have the best wine rep in the past, but it’s making a comeback thanks to its deep, dark, reds. These babies are anything but subtle and are often compared to the similarly bold California Cab.
The kicker: Dåo wines are often characterized as briny or salty, and pair well with fatty seafood like salmon. It's a totally unique kind of tasting note that you don't come across often – and is definitely not for the faint of palate. It probably won't please everyone (so you might not want to bring a bottle to your next party), it's a thought-provoking addition to a low-key tasting at home.
Notable grapes: Malvasia, Chardonnay, White Pinot
Flavor profile: Acidic
This Croatian province is famous for its orange wine, which is kind of an oddity: despite the deep amber color, it's technically a white, but it hits your palate more like a red. Basically, it's a lighter-bodied version of the full, fruity reds that you might normally gravitate to.
The orange color comes from the extra long maceration of the grapes, which means the skins are allowed to sit anywhere from a week to a year while the wine ferments. Expect a complex, highly tannic pour that’s especially excellent for the summer.
Notable grapes: Monastrell, Macabeo
Flavor profile: Fruity, creamy, coffee-y
This dry, harsh region of Spain has been producing wine for a long, long time (like, since the Roman Empire), but it’s still underrated in the modern day.
Jumilla is mainly known for the Monastrell grape, a hearty variety which is often used in French Côtes du Rhône blends. Expect reds from this region to be rich and fruity, with notes like overripe berries and bittersweet coffee.
The region is also ripe with Macabeo, a sturdy white grape with an interesting creamy flavor that pairs well with savory dishes like herb-roasted chicken.
Notable grapes: Furmint
Flavor profile: Sweet and citrusy, acidic and smoky
Hungary’s Tokaj region is famous for its Furmint grape, which produces both a sweet white to rival Riesling and a fine, fiery, dry white high in acidity.
The former is typically characterized by hints of lime rind, pears and oranges, while the latter is often a bit smoky. Both varieties are awesome for aging if you’re gunning to start a wine collection. Otherwise, drink fresh and pair 'em with a good fruit and cheese plate.
Notable grapes: Macabeo, Parellada
Flavor profile: Creamy, bubbly
This Spanish region has typically taken the spotlight for the well-known Rioja, but it also produces a lesser-known bubbly varietal: Cava. It's a little more creamy than Italian Prosecco or French Champagne, which tends to give off a slightly acidic bite and a drier finish.
Best part? It's cheap. Think of Cavas from Penedés as the frugal man’s Champagne: all the bubbly, festive notes with none of the sticker shock.
So the next time you hit up your local wine shop, trade in your typical Chardonnay or Bordeaux for one of their more under-the-radar cousins. Even if you can’t journey to the far corners of Croatia or Hungary, at least your palate can.