10 Lesser Known (Though Still Wildly Exciting) Wine Regions To Discover In 2024

Food & Drink

Tired of your go-to bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy? Why not consider something from Canada, China or the Czech Republic.

A new range of wine regions are coming to the forefront, offering unexpected stories and excellent value to wine lovers.

What’s driving the change? Bardia Ketabi, the general manager of The Pembroke at The Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington, figures the growth of new regions can be attributed to a number of reasons.

The first is the influence of climate change. “[I expect] regions that are cooler and less known for wine production to step into the spotlight due to climate changes,” he says. “Areas like the United Kingdom, parts of Canada, and northern Europe (like Belgium, Denmark) have shown promising growth in quality wine production.”

Ketabi also points to the price jumps in legendary regions. “Traditional wine regions like Burgundy have experienced difficulties in recent vintages, which has lead to skyrocketing prices,” says Ketabi. Drinkers have to look elsewhere. “Those who appreciate Burgundy might explore Chardonnay from Jura, and Napa Cabernet enthusiasts might be interested in the robust reds of Paso Robles in Central Coast California.”

These factors have let emerging regions gain speed. “Even countries like China and India are investing in wine production!” says Ketabi.

Curious for more? At the advice of sommeliers, here are ten exciting regions to keep an eye on in 2024.

Czech Republic

“I’m always predicting more of Eastern Europe to take center stage,” says Colin Hofer, Michelin Chicago’s 2022 Sommelier of The Year and General Manager of Adorn Bar & Restaurant. “These regions have rich historic wine traditions, but aren’t highlighted as much because of hard-to-pronounce grape varietals and relatively cold climates. And, the wines are getting better and better! Expect cool, free-thinking winemakers like Istvan Bencze in Hungary, Milan Nestarac in Czech Republic and Vinas Mora in Croatia are producing truly standalone wines that are extremely expressive of their unique terroir while also just being plain fun to drink.”

China

While China is often known for baijiu, the country has an increasingly interesting wine scene. “I’m eying the Hebei Province in China,” says Kyle South, the lead sommelier at the three-star Michelin Addison in San Diego. “The changing climate should allow these regions to define their styles through bolder expressions, similar to the growth that we’ve seen take place in Napa over the 50-plus years.”

Gram Howle of The Ordinary in Charleston expects more lists to include wines from China and Japan. “Both countries are producing unique and masterful wines from terroirs like what you might find in more established European winegrowing regions.”

England

England has been making significant strides in the production of sparkling wines, particularly in the southern regions of the country,” says Nicole Haarklau, the corporate director of food and beverage operations at Bacchus Kitchen + Bar. “English sparkling wines have been gaining international acclaim and in 2024, the country is expected to strengthen its position as a global player in the sparkling wine market, showcasing the exceptional quality and craftsmanship of its bubbly. Understandable — the chalky soils of Sussex and Kent mirror Champagne and provide ideal conditions for sparkling wine production.”

California (but not Napa)

“I’m excited to see what offerings come out of Sonoma, Lodi and San Benito,” says Jasmine Cordova, the director of wine and service at Little Shucker. “All three of these regions have been attracting winemakers for years. The climate is similar to some reputable regions in France, where they experience warm days but also receive the ocean breeze and cooler nights.”

Haarklau is excited by Mendocino. “Situated in Northern California, the region is gaining recognition for its unique terroir and commitment to sustainable winemaking practices. The county’s diverse microclimates, ranging from coastal areas to inland valleys, contribute to the cultivation of a variety of grape varietals.”

Outside of region, Rhonda Motil, the vice president of marketing at J. Lohr, is excited by California’s lesser-known grapes. “We launched our Monterey Roots collection, made with the lesser-known varieties of White Riesling and Valdiguié, launched about 18 months ago and has seen noteworthy growth in the past six months.”

Chile

“We really believe Chilean wines will grow in popularity, particularly as they focus on premiumization,” says Sydney Kalvin, Director of Marketing at Shaw-Ross International Importers.

“If you look at price and value, Chile is very hard to beat,” notes Daniel Beedle, assistant food & beverage director at Kimpton The Forum Hotel in Charlottesville. “Especially with the way California is currently headed. The industry has been growing since the ‘80s and now they have great international distribution and knowledgeable producers that are taking advantage of the terroir and have caught up with the post-modern style of winemaking.” He recommends looking for producers like Clous de Fous.

Lebanon

JR Rena, beverage director at Dirty Habit, Washington, DC, is excited about wines coming out of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. “Bekka Valley is between two mountains, rendering a unique terroir and a variety of indigenous grapes. The climate is warm during the day and cooler at night, an ideal setting for cultivation,” he says. Look to makers like Chateau Musar and Keffar — producers who blend ancient and traditional methods with sustainable and organic practices. “With a new generation that taste culture and history in wines, I see more trends in sustainability, natural wines, and history,” says Rena.

Finger Lakes

Carolyn Lassen, manager and sommelier of Husk Nashville, points out that climates are changing and in response, winemakers are shifting practices. “Colder regions are experiencing milder winters and longer growing seasons. For instance, the Finger Lakes region in New York has been gaining popularity for winemaking over the last decade. It has a cool climate that is similar to Pfalz, where you can find elegant and nuanced Rieslings that experience a long and cool growing season along with lots of sunlight. The grapes can ripen while retaining fresh acidity.”

Valle de Guadalupe

Just South of the California border lies a historic but underappreciated wine region: Esenada. Centered in the Mexican coastal town of Ensenada and rooting outward into the Valle de Guadalupe, the valley’s deep farming and viticulture roots have collided with a wave of young winemakers curious about winemaking. Now, the Valle de Guadalupe wine scene is full of exciting new projects and a wide array of styles, spanning classic French-style Chenin Blancs to wild pet nats.

Croatia

One country I really love and am seeing a request for is Croatia,” says Jaffer Kovic, owner of Dilworth Tasting Room. “With its picturesque coastline and landscape, fertile soils and unwavering commitment to producing quality wines I am seeing and tasting wines from a younger group of winemakers that are breaking the stereotype of their so called grandfathers style of wines while staying true to their cultural heritage or giving in to the demands of an ever changing consumer palate.”

“Croatia has such a diverse array of native grapes that are ripe for discovery,” says Lita’s wine director Nick Pizzonia. “Travel to Croatia is growing in popularity and naturally, travelers are seeking wines they tasted throughout the country.”

Okanagan Valley, Canada

Wines of the Okanagan Valley have been on the radar for a while,” says Brett Weis, Director of Winemaking and Operations at Eleven Eleven Winery. “Over the last five-to-ten years they’ve definitely come into their own. Currently, the majority of grape growing takes place on the warmer valley floors. As temperatures increase, elevation will come into play and add more diversity to the grape growing portfolio.”

Look for wines from Oliver Osoyoos, the Southern tip of the valley. Here, winemakers like Gold Hill’s Val Tait are making bar-setting, Bordeaux-ish Cabernet Francs.

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