It’s a well-known fact that wines are available and locally made in almost every corner of the globe. No matter where in the world you are, chances are you’ll be able to find a local cellar door that has a unique take on how to make, serve and pair delicious wines.
Through expanding your palate, you can have not only a greater understanding, but greater appreciation of the local brews, wines and spirits your travels have to offer.
So, if you’re heading abroad, what is the typical (or most notable) drink you should check out while you’re there? We’ve compiled a list of wines that are either typical to a region or are otherwise hard to find elsewhere in the world - but keep in mind that quite a few countries have a number of fantastic local drinks you should definitely make a part of your tasting tour. If ever in doubt, just ask a local; they’ll point you in the right direction!
The region to keep an eye on. Although not famous for their wines, there are a number of vineyards producing excellent wines throughout Asia. Countries you wouldn’t normally associate with wine are up-and-coming, producing more wine each year, including wines of increasing quality. Already winning international awards, in the next few years, Asia will be known for holding its own when it comes to international standards... and we can’t wait!
We recommend: Cabernet Sauvignon from Ningxia in China, Savant red from Israel, Japanese Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc, and Sparkling Tunjun from Indonesia.
Both Australia and New Zealand produce some of the best and most-awarded wines in the world. We could go on about the different regions and types, but chances are you have come across most of them and have already an inkling of what you like when it comes to local drops.
We recommend: Try Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale, and Semillon from the Hunter Valley. On the local NZ side of things, try an Otago Pinot Noir, or Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region.
There are a surprising number of domestic grape varietals unique to parts of Eastern Europe, so much so that it’s worth mentioning them separately from the rest of Europe (which tends to dominate the international wine market).
We recommend: Mavrud, Melnik, Pamid, Gamza (reds), Dimyat, Pelin, Keratsuda (whites) in Belarus and Georgia, Saperavi, Madrasa, Rkatsiteli and Baian Shirei from Azerbaijan, Areni and Karmrahyut from Armenia.
When people think of international wines, they probably envisage France. Long known as the international standard when it comes to wine styles, France is home to a phenomenal number of grape varietals, which have been used in hybrid vines and as a base of other wines the world over. What you may not know is that Italy produces more wine than France per year, and the widest number of different grape varietals planted is actually Germany!
We recommend: Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Grenache from the Rhône region, Champagne from Champagne and Bordeaux red blends from France, Müller-Thurgau, Reisling and Gewürztraminer from Germany, Grüner Veltliner from Austria, Tempranillo from Spain and whites and sparkling from Belgium (such as Chardonnay).
Middle East/North Africa
As the French began to colonise parts of North Africa, they also began to plant vineyards to cater to the expats’ tastes - this is despite North Africa and the Middle East being predominantly muslim, and therefore not historically producers of local alcohol. Despite this, many grape varietals have done quite well and the region produces a significant amount of wine each year, albeit hard to find once outside of the region!
We recommend: Red blends from the Coteaux de Mascara in Algeria, Carignan, Cinsaut, Alicante, and Grenache as Moroccan and Tunisian reds, and Clairette blanche and Muscat Moroccan whites. If you’re interested in local grapes, try Merweh and Obeideh in Lebanon, as well as Lebanon’s famed Chateau Musar.
South Africa has a surprisingly long history of wine production, dating all the way back to 1659. Due to local political unrest, however, the world didn’t see much of South African wine until Apartheid ended and the international wine market opened up in the 1980s and early 1990s. Home to some of the most highly regarded vineyards in the world, South Africa is not one to be understated!
We recommend: Chenin Blanc whites, and Carignan, Gamay, Grenache, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel on the red side of things. The local wine industry also has a long history of fortified wine production - so if you’re there, you should also put a Cape Port or two on your list.
Internationally renowned, the USA is one of the biggest wine producing regions in the world, and in fact the biggest in the world outside of Europe. Many grape varietals do well in both the US and Canada, so it’s well worth a note on the bucket list to take a trip to famous wine regions in Ontario, California and others.
We recommend: Californian Zinfandel is a steady favourite here at Bottle Service, as is Canadian Icewine - you can’t get it everywhere as the grapes have to be harvested and processed whilst still frozen to get a sweeter, more concentrated flavour without the ‘stickiness’ of regular dessert-style wines.
Another up-and-coming region, although much more widely available and held in higher regard compared with Asia. Some of the most highly-awarded wines in the world come from South America, and it’s well worth exploring some of the local drops if you’re there. Even if you’re not, South American wines are now sold almost everywhere, so next time you’re at your local, see if you can get your hands on a bottle!
We recommend: Argentinian Malbec - an incredibly well-rounded and famous varietal, probably also the most widely available. Other types to try include Singani and Tannat from Bolivia, Tannat and Malvasia from Brazil, and Chile’s distinct style of Cabernet Sauvignon. Chile also produces some great whites, including Viognier, Torontel, and Pedro Ximénez.
Just in case you aren’t a Champagne pro, we’ve compiled a handy list of hints to up your game – with plenty of time before the festive season kicks off this year to get you into the groove!
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