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You don't have to be a wine aficionado to know about Napa Valley, Bordeaux or Tuscany. They are all well known producers of fabulous wines, and are popular places to visit in their own right. There are many famous wine regions, but there are also many smaller regions that still manage to produce amazing wines without the flashy name recognition. They may not be well known, but here are five regions worth paying a visit to.
Hungary actually has seven large wine regions, but Tokaj is considered one of the best, and possibly the most unique. Grape growers have been cultivating these foothills since at least the 12th century and possibly as early as the 1st. The area's history and traditions lead to the entire region being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The region only produces sweet white wines known as Tokaji. Their biggest claim to fame is Tokaji aszu wine, the world's oldest wine made from rotten grapes. Yes, rotten. A certain fungus, Botrytis cinerea, is allowed to grow on the grapes, which are then fermented for several years. The result is a golden-colored, very sweet wine.
Loudon County bills itself as DC's Wine Region but their status is little known around the area or elsewhere. This wealthy county, just 25 miles from Washington, sits along the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and features rolling farmland, picturesque small towns and gorgeous fall foliage. There are 22 wineries in the area, some of which have produced internationally recognized wines. Highlights include Breaux Vineyards, a Cajun owned winery that was named one of the top 250 wineries in the world, and Notaviva, which specializes in wine and music pairings.
Although it is a Muslim country, Morocco's French colonial history left them with a robust winemaking tradition. In fact, Morocco is the second largest producer of wine in the Arab world, after Algeria. The high mountains and cooling Atlantic breezes make the country well suited to producing wine grapes. Meknes, an area near Fez, is considered Morocco's wine capital. They primarily focus on bold red wine varietals: Carignan, Cinsaut and Alicante. Many wines are infused with spices like vanilla for a truly unique tasting experience.
Most people think Argentina or Chile when it comes to South American wines, but Uruguay has quietly been producing their own wines since the 1800's. With a similar climate to Argentina, it makes sense that they too would focus on bold reds, and their signature wines are mostly produced with Tannat grapes, considered the national grape. Tannat was brought over from France but actually flourishes even better in the warm Uruguayan climate. Their most robust wine region is the area outside the capital of Montevideo, home to a shocking 95% of the country's wineries.
Washington and Oregon both have robust wine industries, but neighboring Idaho has been producing wine for far longer. The first vineyards were started here in the 1860's but abandoned during prohibition. In the 1970's wine making came back to the region and now the area has 15 wineries and 46 vineyards. Despite its high elevation and arid landscape, the rich soil and the unique microclimates in the area are ideal for growing sweet white wines like Rieslings.
Remember to always drink responsibly!
Where is your favorite little-known wine region?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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