In the world of wine, as with everything worldly and pleasurable, it's all about location, location, and location. The region or country you see on the label of that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon matters more than you think: Where your wine is from can change everything about how it tastes, and it could be the tie-breaker between the two bottles you’re eyeing at the supermarket.
“Wine is grown all over the world, but each region lends even the most familiar type of wine its own flavor,” says Chris Urbano, Chief Sommelier of Winery.ph which claims to be the country’s largest online marketplace for in-stock wines. “And that can be attributed to everything from the soil, elevation, and climate to the history of the winemakers themselves.”
While many connoisseurs rightfully rave about wines from famous regions like Napa Valley and Bordeaux, there’s still plenty of the world left to explore — and many wines you’ll only find in certain places. Here’s where Urbano recommends you look first:
Paarl, South Africa
It’s not the first place many will think of when looking for a good wine, but according to Urbano, South Africa is one of the most underrated wine regions in the world. “Regions like Paarl and Stellenbosch produce world-class wine on par with California, which typically go for twice the price,” he explains. “It has outstanding value for money in comparison.”
For those new to the region, he recommends trying familiar varietals made by local makers to taste the difference. For example, Nederburg’s The Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon offers all the boldness you’d expect, with surprising aromas of sage, eucalyptus, and forest floor. Nederburg The Manor House Shiraz, on the other hand, takes the grape’s familiar black pepper notes and rounds it out with nuances of clove and mint. All of it is a beautiful reflection of what grows in Paarl, where the grapes are grown.
The Rioja and La Mancha regions are wine’s biggest names in the Iberian Peninsula, but you’ll find some of Spain’s most unique wines in Galicia, along the Atlantic coast. (Fun fact: some of these grapes almost went extinct).
For those who like Spanish reds like Tempranillo, the now-uncommon Mencia wine is one to explore, with notes of cherry, white pepper, and smoke — a classic example comes from Ponte da Boga. With citrus flavors and a nutty almond finish, the Ponte da Boga Godello is likewise made from an unappreciated grape that was nearly wiped out.There is one very uniquely Galician variety to hunt down, though. “Albariño truly takes its flavors from where it’s grown,” says Urbano. “The Ponte da Boga Albariño is a very good representation of it. Lots of fresh flavors like lime and honeysuckle, a bright acidity, but also a minerality that reminds you of the beach. You can expect it to pair very well with fresh seafood.”
Alentejo and Vinho Verde, Portugal
For many, Portugal is synonymous with a strong sweet Port wine, but the country has been making wines of all types for millennia. “But what makes Portugal so special is how many of its grape varieties aren’t grown anywhere else in the world,” explains Urbano. “In fact, you’re very likely not to have heard of them at all.”
For example: Trincadeira, Aragones, and Alfrocheiro are the main grapes of the Alentejo region’s signature red blend. Quinta do Quetzal’s Guadalupe Red is a classic example with its intensely dark blackberry and herb flavors, along with its added whiffs of dark cherry and menthol. If you prefer white wine, Guadalupe White offers a taste of Alentejo’s Antão Vaz and Roupeiro grapes: the result is a surprisingly complex burst of tart lime and citrus flavors, complemented with aromas of star fruit, nectarines, and vanilla.
Even Portugal’s rosés offer something different, with beautiful red berry flavors balanced with a refreshing acidity. “The Casa do Valle Rosé in particular is a crowdpleaser,” says Urbano. “Light body, vividly fresh strawberry flavors, hints of pineapple and rose on the nose — it’s the perfect poolside sipper on its own, and incredibly food-friendly on top of that.”
Monterey County, California
In California, the wine world revolves around Napa Valley and Sonoma County — and you’ll know it from the price. Located on the state’s Central Coast is Monterey County, a relatively new addition to the California wine map becoming known for the intense flavors in all the grapes grown there.
“If you want a good Californian wine without as big of an investment, try Monterey County,” recommends Urbano. An example would be the deep ruby Las Palmeras Cabernet Sauvignon, with its black fruit flavors and oak-laced finish. For a taste of more of the red grapes that grow in the area, there’s the Las Palmeras Monterey County Red Blend, which surprises with complex aromas of cherry, dried herbs, eucalyptus, and lavender.
Exploring the world through wine is easy when you know where to look. Winery.ph boasts over 2,000 different bottles of wine in its extensive collection, including gems from Galicia, Spain to Paarl, South Africa. All of the wines featured in this story will be part of Winery.ph’s 11.11 Sale, going at discounts of up to 54% off alongside favorites from Napa Valley and other famous wine regions. The sale runs on November 11, 2021 only. For more information, visit www.winery.ph and follow the brand on Facebook and Instagram.