8 Wine Regions You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
The world’s great wine regions—from Burgundy to Sonoma and Mendoza to Chianti—offer visitors no shortage of coveted tasting opportunities. But these more popular wine routes can often be crowded and expensive to navigate.
Wine lovers looking for novelty, discovery, and great value should broaden their horizons and head for wilder territory. From Texas to Georgia and England to Bolivia, these eight lesser-known wine regions offer high-caliber wines, affordable tasting opportunities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences for oenophiles.
Texas Hill Country, Texas, US
An under-the-radar but easy-to-reach wine destination in the US.
Texas might seem like the kind of place where you’re more likely to crack open a beer at a country-music bar or barbecue spot, but Texas Hill Country, located west of Austin, has quietly become one of the US’ most interesting, up-and-coming wine regions.
Now home to more than 50 wineries—many of which work with Rhône varietals like syrah and mourvèdre, Spanish favorites like tempranillo, and Italian grapes like sangiovese—the region promises variety and innovation with a backcountry feel. Book a wine tour for an easy, half-day excursion from Austin.
Ancient wine traditions hold strong in Central Europe.
Georgia’s wine industry may not yet be on the radar of most travelers, but that doesn’t mean it’s new. In fact, this Central Asian country is home to one of the world’s most ancient winemaking traditions, with a history that goes back at least 8,000 years.
Many of the region’s long-standing traditions, like aging wines in qvevri (large, buried, amphorae-like vessels) and the practice of making skin contact, or orange, wines, still continue today. To see them in action, book a trip to Georgia’s eastern Kakheti region, where you can explore archaeological winemaking sites and present-day wineries.
Sussex and Kent, England
English wine is no longer to be sniffed at (metaphorically speaking, of course).
In many circles, mention English wine, and you’ll be greeted with wrinkled noses and general skepticism. But if you head to Sussex and Kent in southern England, you’ll quickly discover that the snobbery is off-base and decades out of date.
Helped along by warming weather and boasting similar chalky soils to the Champagne region in France, Sussex and Kent produce sparkling wines with Champagne quality. (Want proof? Taittinger has already bought a plot in Kent.) Head to stalwarts like Gusborne and Nyetimber to clink flutes—or book full-day outings to Sussex and Kent to get tasting.
Related: Champagne Day Trips From Paris
Okanagan Valley, Canada
North-of-the-border wine is worth the trip.
Oregon and Washington have worked diligently over the last few decades to earn their reputations as two of the US’ leading destinations for wine production. A bit farther north, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley has also emerged as a worthy wine destination.
The 112-mile (180-kilometer) valley is now home to hundreds of wineries, and the local hub of Kelowna is an ideal jumping-off point for your explorations. Head west or east to visit multiple winemakers in one day, and don’t forget to admire the dramatic scenery, including verdant hills and glacial lakes, as you go.
Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
Mexico has an illustrious wine-producing history.
Mexico’s beverage scene goes well beyond frosted margaritas and tequila shots and wine lovers won't want to skip the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California. Less than 2 hours from Tijuana by car, the region has more than 120 wineries with fine wines that perfectly complement the California-esque views and scenery.
Popular plantings include Bordeaux varietals such as malbec, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon, as well as nebbiolo and white grapes including chenin blanc. Leave the driving to your guide so you can focus on the wine with a full-day tour from Ensenada.
Loudoun County, Virginia, US
Skip the capital and head to Virginia for some impressive wine experiences.
Located just northwest of Washington DC, Loudoun County, Virginia has long been popular as an idyllic retreat from the nation’s bustling capital. In recent years, the region’s fast-expanding wine scene has only added to its allure.
Some 50 wineries (as well as a handful of distilleries) make up its liquid charms, offering refined wines made with varietals like viognier, cabernet franc, and petit verdot. See as much as possible with a private tour that visits three wineries in one day.
Cinti Valley and Tarija, Bolivia
If Argentina and Chile feel too busy, make Bolivia your next stop.
Often passed over for South America’s famous wine regions in Argentina and Chile, high-altitude Bolivia is slowly coming out of its collective shadow as a budding wine region. If malbec is Argentina’s hero grape and cabernet sauvignon Chile’s, then tannat is the red varietal to look for when it comes to Bolivian winemaking.
One of the more emerging destinations is the southerly Cinti Valley (a natural oasis ringed by dramatic red mountains), accessible via a rough, barren road from the city of Tarija. Its centuries-old vines are wonders, some growing as big as trees, dating back to Spanish colonization.
Chinese wine is, quite literally, a big deal.
Most travelers likely don’t associate China with wine, but they should. Not only is the country the sixth-largest wine consumer in the world, but it’s also the 10th-largest wine-producing country.
One of its top wine regions is Ningxia, a small autonomous region in northern China that borders the Gobi Desert. While this wine destination requires some work to get to, it’s well worth the trip. Ningxia features more than 100 wineries, some of which have earned top international awards (particularly in the Helan Mountain appellation).