Certain spots on earth enjoy stellar reputations for turning out specific varieties or styles of wine. Napa Valley scores with cellar-worthy Cabs, while Oregon’s greatest gifts are the Pinots (Noir and Gris). The Champagne region of France is hailed for you-know-what, while Spain’s Rioja and Ribera rock the world with their Tempranillo-based reds. The list goes on—but sometimes fantastic wines pop up from unexpected spots, and they’re often delightfully underpriced. Here are four cases in point that fall in the “who knew?” category:
A Gewürztraminer from . . . Chile
From Chile’s Rapel valley—known mostly for its reds—comes Emiliana “Natura” Gewürztraminer 2009 ($12), a spicy-good, full-bodied white with enticingly fresh, floral aromas. A great choice for curried dishes.
A Malbec from . . . California
Malbec’s ancestral home is in Southwest France; more recently, Argentina has made a splash with the grape. But California is getting into the Malbec act, too. Red Rock California Malbec 2008 ($11) is all about full-throttle California fruit and soft, easygoing tannins, with a welcome glint of brightness amidst the deep berry flavors.
A sparkling wine from . . . New Mexico
In the 1980s, the Gruet family from Champagne, France, put down roots—literally—in New Mexico. The winery now produces more than a million bottles a year, and has become a go-to choice for wine-lovers from coast to coast looking for admirable bubbles on a budget. Try Gruet Blanc de Noirs ($14) for a lightly fruity, crisp and elegant sip.
A Pinot Noir . . . from Argentina
While Argentina serves up Malbec in spades—with plenty of Merlot and Cabernet to go around—Rutini “Trumpeter” Pinot Noir 2008 ($13) might just entice Pinot hounds to sniff out more of their favorite grape from this country. This is a light, bright, shimmery style of Pinot, with a beguiling spicy character. It’s a great value, as worthwhile Pinots rarely come this cheap.
—By Wini Moranville, Relish wine columnist