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Europe is home to most of the world’s most famous wine regions, from Rioja to the Mosel via any number of French départements. Not so long ago, that would have been enough: European wine drinkers were conservative, and didn’t much look beyond local options or, if they were a bit more adventurous, those famous bits of France.
Much has changed, though, thanks to a more demanding public and the open-minded example of the New World, including Australia, Chile and the USA. Regions that were undervalued or non-existent 30 years ago are not all the rage. Global warming, too, has played a part: regions in northern Europe that would have once been far too marginal for wine are now increasingly covered in vineyards, from southern England to Sweden.
Here are five regions whose wine increasingly requires respect:
England’s most south-easterly county was once most well-known for its hops: classic varieties like Golding and Fuggle originate in the county. Nowadays, though, with rising temperatures and a preponderance of chalky soil, the focus is on the grape, and particularly those used to make sparkling wine. Although it is still too marginal for red wine, except in excellent summers, Kent’s fizzy wines are winning respect and awards around the world.
(Image source: Chapel Down)
Chapel Down, which is based just outside the Wealden town of Tenterden, is well-known and reliable in terms of quality; for a less heralded option, seek out Woodchurch, which is produced in the village of the same name that is just three miles from Tenterden. Its 2014 Blanc de Blancs is fresh but also wonderfully rounded and rich.
The region that surrounds France’s longest river is well-known for its superb white wines (such as Sancerre) and brambly, food-friendly reds (Bourgeuil, Sancerre). But it’s the sparkling wine made here that is currently making waves, particularly across the water in the UK, where fizz fans are looking for a tastier alternative to Prosecco.
Sparkling wine has been made in the Loire for many decades - after Champagne, the Loire makes the most in France - and it’s produced using the same technique as Champagne. Cremant de Loire is produced from a wide range of grapes, with Chardonnay predominant, and is consequently reasonably varied - but you should expect it to be dry, crisp and lively, with some roundness too.
Czechia is best known for its marvellous beer: the lager here is probably the best in the world, and remarkably cheap too. But that’s Bohemia, and Bohemia isn’t the entirety of the country - there’s Moravia, too (and a slice of Silesia, although that’s not important here).
Southern Moravia is grape-growing country, with a tradition that dates back to Roman times. The best wines are generally white: some of the Rieslings are outstanding. One producer to look out for is Milan Nestarec, whose natural approach to winemaking on his 8-hectare vineyard in Moravský Žižkov, close to the Austrian and Slovakian borders, has impressed good judges on both sides of the Atlantic.
Greek wine is very fashionable now thanks to the huge diversity in terms of flavour and region that can be found in this fascinating Meditteranean nation. One of its most interesting wine regions is Nemea, in the north of the Peloponnese and about an hour’s drive from the capital, Athens. Nemea is known for its red wines, in particular those made with the native grape Agiorgitiko.
(Image source: Viator)
This is the largest area of PDO (protected designation of origin) wines in Greece, and plenty of this wine makes it over to the USA. It’s a diverse pleasure - Nemea’s are of production begins at 200 metres above sea level and reaches 850 metres at it peak - but you can expect spice and low acidity.
Good quality wine from Sweden? It sounds like a Monty Python joke, but it’s reality. Like Kent, Skåne - Sweden’s southernmost part - has benefited from rising temperatures; there are now more than 30 vineyards amidst the gentle, verdant rolling countryside of this region.
One of the most impressive vineyards is Hallakra, where delicious sparkling and fortified wine is produced. Also look out for their still table wines, including fruity, delicately acidic red wines made with the Rondo grape.
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