The most well-known Old World wine regions typically are France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. While these may be the powerhouses behind Old World wine, there are a number of other emerging wine producing regions that are worth checking out.
Lebanon — One of World’s Oldest Wine Producing Regions
Lebanon is actually one of the oldest wine producing regions in the entire world, with evidence of winemaking dating back to biblical times. More and more people are starting to learn about Lebanese wines, and with a recent surge in travel bloggers visiting, the exposure has definitely propelled Lebanese wines into mainstream channels.
Today, there are over 30 winemakers producing wine in Lebanon, more than double just from 2005. One of the larger wineries teaching the world about Lebanese wines is Massaya, located in the Bekaa Valley.
The Bekaa Valley is home to at a number of wineries where you can visit and taste wines. With a number of neighboring historical sights, Bekaa Valley is definitely one spot you can spend one or more days when traveling through Lebanon.
Hungary — Tokaji Dessert Wine
Hungary is another region with a long wine-making history, but one of the most renowned wines to come out of the country is Tokaji.
Pronounced TOE-KAI, Tokaji is “must try” if you like dessert wines. These wines come from the Takaj-Hegyalja in Hungary and Slovakia. Only wines that apply the Hungarian quality control regulations can be labeled Tokaji — much like Champagnes and other noted wine regions.
Georgia — Georgian Wines Among Oldest in World
Much like Lebanon, the country of Georgia is also one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. Relatively unknown a few years ago, some wines have attracted the attention of restaurants, wine shops, and sommeliers in Asia, many of whom are working to introduce these gems to the Asian wine market.
Georgia’s regions grow both white and red grape varietals throughout the country. They produce a number of different styles, including fortified wines. The five main viticulture regions in Georgia are:
- Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti
Greece – Greek Retsina and Wine
Nearly the entire country of Greece has some type of wine production, but if you are looking for something really unique to try, check out retsina. It is a white, or rose, wine that has been produced for thousands of years. It is resinated, which means part of its flavor comes from exposure to tree resin.
In ancient times, wine vessels were sealed with resin to keep them from spoiling, but it infused the wine with flavor. Once the introduction of wine barrels came about, the resin was no longer needed. However, its unique flavor was so popular, it is still produced today.
Croatia — Producing Wine Since Part of Yugoslavia
As Croatia prepares to become part of the EU in 2013, all eyes are on this former part of Yugoslavia. While Croatia is famed for its pristine Dalmatian coastline, talked about for its war-torn history, and renowned for products like olives and fresh seafood, many people don’t realize Croatia also produces wine. When the country was part of Yugoslavia, over a hundred thousand hectares of vines were ripped out, and the conflicts in the 1990’s destroyed even more.
Much of the vineyards have been replanted, but only about five percent of local wines are exported. Currently Croatia has more than double the vineyards (hectare wise) of New Zealand.
Croatian wine has some interesting ties to New World wines — especially in California. The popular Zinfandel varietal we all know and love? That is believed to be a descendant from the plavac mali grape found in Croatia. Also, one of the top winemakers in California, Mike Grgich, from Grgich Hills — his real name is Miljenko Grgic and he left Yugoslavia in 1958. He has since returned and opened his own Grgic Vina in 1996, helping get Croatian wines on the map.
Last Fall, the team of Our Tasty Travels was invited on a Croatian culinary education cruise with Katarina Line, where we explored the food and wines from the Kvarner region. One of the most unique — and popular — wines is Vrbnička žlahtina that is primarily found on the island of Krk.
What are your favorite Old World Wine regions?