Ten Magnificent Coastal Regions Worth Seeking Out

 

1. Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc

The Picpoul de Pinet appellation in the Languedoc is centred around the Bassin de Thau, a lagoon best known for its production of oysters about 40km west of Montpellier. The northern part of the appellation has scented pine forests and rocky outcrops awash with scrubland herbs typical of the Languedoc region. The southern area flaunts rows of meticulous vineyards sweeping towards the inviting blue of the Mediterranean sea. The maritime influence limits the temperature variations between day and night and cools the area from the imposing afternoon sun of the Midi. The late ripening Picpoul grape has perfect conditions in the sandy soils of the region, producing light wines with a lively acidity and citrus aromas, perfect for the fresh seafood of the region.

2. Leyda, Chile

Leyda, the small sub-region of the San Antonio Valley is 54km west of Santiago. It is without doubt one of the hottest cool-climate regions in the world at the minute. The vineyards can be as little as 4km away from the sea and the cold ocean breezes (the effects of the cold Humboldt Current) produce near perfect conditions for top quality grapes. The soils are largely clay and loam over a granite base pushing the vines to struggle for survival. The results are low yields of premium fruit. The white wines are from the region are structured, complex, crisp, and packed with flamboyant mineral-fresh flavours. Definitely one to watch!

3. Santorini, Greece

I had never even thought about tasting a Greek wine before 2009 but in one fell sip I went from blissfully ignorant to lifelong fan. The first wines that made me take notice were the white wines from the volcanic island of Santorini. The vines on the island are trained into wreath-like baskets known as “kouloura” to shelter the grapes from the wind and direct exposure to sunlight. Every eighty years or so the basket-shaped vines are pruned down to the ground which means the true age and depth of the roots are unknown.  It is likely to be over 1000 year’s old making the vines the oldest in the world. If you like your wines structured with an all-embracing minerality, think Burgundy on steroids, then these are the wines for you!

4. Walker Bay, South Africa

The Walker Bay wine region surrounds the well-heeled seaside town of Hermanus in South Africa’s Western Cape. A two hour drive from Cape Town the area is renowned for the best viewing of Southern Right Whales in the world. Tim Hamilton Russell planted vines in Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (Heaven and Earth Valley) in 1975 and it is now the best cool-climate areas in South Africa. The cooling influence of the Benguela current flowing up from the Antarctic makes it significantly colder than South Africa’s other winegrowing regions.

5. Maremma, Tuscany

One of Italy’s wildest and least densely populated areas, the Maremma extends from Southern Tuscany down to Lazio and is the type of area once you visit, you don’t want to leave. It has a varied landscape extending over forested hills, sandy beaches and rocky coastlines. The most famous wine is the red Morellino di Scanscano but in recent years there has been an explosion in the popularity of Vermentino.  The area benefits from the reflected light from the sea which together with the marine breeze creates fantastic growing conditions in the vineyard-laden hills leading down to the sea. The long growing season, cooling winds and volcanic soils give the wines a fragrance and brilliance as unique and alluring as the landscape.

6. Peninsula de Setubal, Portugal

Directly South of Lisbon, the peninsula lies across the estuary of the river Tagus and is a paradise for beach bums, surfers and hikers. The chilly Atlantic borders the beach cafes, nature parks and fishing villages, while the cooling sea breeze gives the vines some respite from the hot Portuguese summers. Castelão and Moscatel are king while the sandy soils add a lightness of touch to the wines. Expect aromatic, floral whites and well-structured reds with soft tannins and forest fruit flavours.

7. Istria, Croatia

Without doubt on my list of places to visit, the beautiful Istrian peninsula benefits from a gentle maestral wind blowing off the surrounding sea. With a huge influence from Venice, Istria is a gastronomic paradise, full of amazing olive oils, hams, truffles, fresh seafood, homemade pastas and of course wines. The signature grape of the region is the Malvazija Istarska, which has distinctive flavours of acacia, almond and apricot while the indigenous red grape of the region is Teran, a high-acidity, raspberry flavoured wine that matches well with wild game dishes.

8. Monterey, California

Part of the Central Coastal area in California, Monterey County is strongly influenced by high winds, dry days and ocean fogs to create a cool, long growing season. Monterey, one of Monterey County’s seven sub-zones, has one of the longest growing seasons in the world and is an ideal area of grapes that prefer a longer hang time; such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In addition the soils are crushed fossilised sea shells which impart similar qualities to the wine as chalk and limestone.

9. Nelson, New Zealand

The Rough Guide recommends Nelson as ‘the’ place to visit in New Zealand with its golden sandy beaches and rugged, bush-clad mountains. A little bit off the beaten track, Nelson is home to a thriving art community and is the perfect place to relax and unwind. It is New Zealand’s sunniest region but the proximity to the sea gives milder temperatures than the other parts of the South Island. The stony alluvial soils and cooler climate give lighter, fresher styles than the more famous Marlborough region, a few hours’ drive to the east. Production is still small but the quality is impressive and undoubtedly set to grow.

10. Great Southern, Western Australia

The Great Southern region in Western Australia is the very epitome of stunning natural beauty, with endless beaches, aquamarine water and near perfect weather. The area also produces top quality cool-climate wines. Frankland River is the most inland of the five sub-regions (Porongurups, Mount Barker, Albany, Denmark) but still benefits from the sea breeze which cools the area by at least 2°C. It is fast becoming one of Western Australia’s go-to areas for outstanding wines with the salinity from the sea and granite soils giving the wines finesse, freshness and longevity.

Wine Heroes Producers – Everything You Need To Know About Our 12 Heroes

 

 

With the Wine Heroes campaign well under way, it’s time to scratch the surface of the 12 producers involved and find out the stories behind the wines.

 

Click on the producer name below to learn why each producer has reached Hero status.

 

Antiyal (Chile)

Carmen (Chile)

Carpené Malvolti (Italy)

Chateau Fortia (France)

Collavini (Italy)

Feudi di San Gregorio (Italy)

Gaia (Greece)

Gérard Bertrand (France)

Hamilton Russell (South Africa)

Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi (Italy)

Saint Clair (New Zealand)

Schloss Johannisberg (Germany)

Do Coastal Wine Regions Rule The Waves?

In general we think of the wine trade as a very traditional industry dominated by Western European culture where experience and time-honoured practices rule the roost, but shifts in consumer trends are becoming increasingly brisk. Many of the latest changes are fuelled by the Millennial Generation who are on a voyage of discovery, searching out new wines and styles faster than any other generation.

Continue reading Do Coastal Wine Regions Rule The Waves?

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

 

I have always been captivated by snow and mountains so when I heard a Spanish wine producer describe his wines as ‘mountain wines’ it was a phrase that immediately seized my imagination.

 

Mountain wines might not have quite the same following as natural wines or be as talked about as cool-climate wines, but for me they have incredible appeal and not just because I’m gripped by mountain fever. They can offer something over and above a cool climate wine.

 

The voice for mountain wines is Cervim (the Centre for Research, Environmental Sustainability and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture) who campaign to safeguard the viticulture landscape and cultural interest of mountain wine growers. They even have a competition, now in its 21st edition but it is yet to breakthrough into the mainstream, at least here in the UK.

 

Talk to most winemakers and you’ll find out they almost all aspire to make wines that speak of where they come from. This is because wine is a product of its environment, not only the climate and soil but also the people, the history and culture of the territory. Wines have traditionally evolved along with the cuisine of a region in line with the populations’ tastes. One could argue that a region’s wines are so interlinked with the regional dishes, matching them is not just a safe bet but an experience. In the same way mountain wines can offer an emotional connection with winter dishes.

 

In mountain regions the grapes ripen and accumulate flavour slowly, they have high acidity giving freshness and they tend to be complex as well as very often mineral and extremely food friendly.

 

Mountain wines benefit from zero pollution (pollution can disrupt photosynthesis and injure leaves, roots and soil, thus affecting the fruit). There can also be benefits from the more intense ultraviolet rays at high altitude. The UV rays encourage the vine to activate defence mechanisms against the sun and the grape’s skin thickens to protect its seed. The thicker skins have more antioxidants, tannins, sugars and polyphenols giving the wines more colour and structure.  The ultra-clean air and fresh water from the snow melt sets up the vine for the growing season ahead, while the cooler, longer growing season is ultimately allows the fruit to reach optimum maturity.

 

On top of the natural benefits you could also argue there is a human benefit, and having lived in the Italian Alps for two winters, I would tend to agree. Making wine in the mountains at such challenging heights, gradients and weather conditions requires a desire to succeed. The tenacity necessary to live and make wine in remote mountain areas guarantees a product made with resilience and a huge desire to succeed.

 

The benefits of snow on vines

  • A thick snow layer protects vines from frost damage during the hard winter months
  • Slow and steady melting, allows water to penetrate the soil, fundamental for the first vine development stages
  • Snowmelt seeps deeply into the soil irrigating even the most deep-seated roots

Wine Hero Producer Profile: Collavini, Italy

 

The Collavini story began in 1896 when Eugenio Collavini started supplying the noble families and wine businesses in the local area.

Throughout the years, the reins have been passed down the generations onto Giovanni and then his son Manlio. Looking beyond Italy, Manlio was one of the first to take Friulian wines abroad.

He was also a strong believer that Pinot Grigio should be fermented off its skins and helped pioneer a style, which is inherently linked to its immense popularity today. Collavini continues to be a family-owned company with forward-thinking ideas.

 

Wine Hero Producer Profile: Antiyal, Chile

 

Antiyal is the passion and vision of Alvaro Espinoza and family.

It was founded in 1996 to teach all that would listen about the earth, work and wine and they have led the way in biodynamic and organic practices in Chile ever since. To this day all their wines are made following these principles.

Alvaro is also one of the first winemakers to use concrete egg-shaped fermenters showing that they are not afraid to be at the forefront of change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Hero Producer Profile: Feudi di San Gregorio, Italy

 

Founded in 1986, Feudi di San Gregorio is today the symbol of the renaissance in southern Italian wines.

 

 

 

The company is almost single-handily responsible for the recent increased appreciation of the ancient indigenous varietals of the region such as Fiano, Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico.

 

Much-admired for their attention to detail in everything they do. They have carved out a reputation for making truly world-class wines in less than 30 years. Feudi was voted Best Italian Winery in 2013 by the Association of Italian Sommeliers. 

Wine Hero Producer Profile: Gaia, Greece

 

Gaia Wines was founded in 1994 by Yiannis Paraskevopoulos and Leon Karatsalos.

 

They are the pioneers of the modern Greek wine revolution, making cutting edge wines in both Nemea and Santorini. Their main objective was to showcase to the world the huge potential of the indigenous Greek grape varieties, which they have successfully done and marked out the way for others to follow.

 

Yiannis Paraskevopoulos is known as Greece’s most ubiquitous consulting oenologist and heads Greece’s most prestigious university oenology programme through which a lot of the country’s emerging winemaking talent benefit from his teachings.