New kids on the block

Changes in climate in recent years mean that new wine regions are gradually emerging all over the world, in places we might never have imagined possible to produce wine just a few years ago. The Journal catches up with Jodie Petts at Blackbeard’s to hear if any new wines will be making their way to Cayman consumers any time soon. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull analyses the potential of the new kids on the block and reports in this second in a series of articles.

While most of the country may be too cold to consider for the production of grapes, the regions of Southern Ontario and Southern British Columbia have become notable for their wines. There are the famous Ice Wines in which field Canada leads the world, but increasingly there are also pioneering vineyards in areas such as the Niagra Peninsula releasing excellent crisp and aromatic white wines.

Jodie says: Canada is of course well known for Ice Wine all over, but it also produces many more really excellent wines. My favourite wines from Canada are from Mission Hill in Okanagan, British Columbia. They produce some really fine pinot gris, pinot blanc and pinot noir. They have an excellent range of wine, but unfortunately they sell out every year and rarely make it out of Canada as they make extremely small productions.”

Jodie confirms that some of her favourites come from the Niagara Peninsula.

“There is a really beautiful area called St. David’s Bench, which produces Coyote’s Run wines which are great. They are really interesting and different as there are two completely different soil types that run through their vineyards. St David’s Bench is slightly warmer than the rest of that region, by about two to three degrees, so they produce some lovely zesty, but juicy-fruit whites,” she explains.

Jodie also highlights a fun winery called Forbidden Fruit, which has been in operation since the 1970s and makes wines from organic fruit, apples, pears and berries.

It’s all very interesting but probably wouldn’t catch on too well here,” she acknowledges. “Great fun, though! But they are more autumn or winter around-the-fire wines and are based on an old fashioned country-style fruit wines.”

Greece has, of course, been producing wines for thousands of years (legend has it that the Greek travelers bought Syrah to the Rhone Valley), but in more recent times its reputation has sunk low with the irrepressible Retsina leading the charge from this country.  However, there is now a deserved resurgence of interest in wine from Greece and regions like Peloponessos and Thessalia with their use of native Greek varieties of grape such as Assyrtico (white) and Mavrodafni (red) which are producing wines that are being recognised for their qualities on the world stage.

Jodie states: “In recent years Greece has been investing heavily in equipment, modern technology and a few decades of wine making practice with their own terrior. I think there could be a wine revolution in Greece, but not for another 10 years or so. But Greece, unfortunately is still tainted by the Retsina years of the 1960s and 1970s.”

Jodie’s tips as to the wines to watch out for include Gentilin (Geroge Skouras wine maker), which she says are interesting but not really on a huge international scale as yet. “But keep watching, and if you are ever in Greece there are many that are worth trying,” she says.

One of the world’s great wine-producing secrets, only one per cent of wines produced in Switzerland ever make it out of the country, which means that overseas consumers are missing out on some great wines which draw on the influences of France, Germany and Italy which share its borders. The best wines come from the region of the Valais, made from the Chasselas grape.

The good news, according to Jodie, is that in the last five years the Swiss have started to export about 2 per cent, but mostly to European countries.
“They are rare, but when found can be a novelty and worth trying, but they generally do not come cheap,” she says. “They produce some lovely Gamay (Dole) and pinot noir, not necessarily a surprise as they are just over the border from Burgundy.”

She continues: “There are some really fabulous Rieslings and Muller Thurgau that come from the Valais region (Europe highest vineyards), while the growing area around Lake Geneva is breathtakingly beautiful with terraced vineyards and a very similar wine style to Alsace.”

Jodie’s advice if you want to savour some of these unusual wines? When you are on vacation always try the local wine and food, you will always be surprised and you will find something fabulous, interesting, different and well priced. Even if you see something new in a store here, give it a whirl. There are so many wine regions in the world, old and new that there are infinite possibilities. Go on, dive in, be brave, try new things, drink something you have no idea what it is and you may even discover your new favourite thing!