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The Best South African Wine You've Never Heard Of

The Best South African Wine You've Never Heard Of

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Looking for the perfect addition to your summer barbecue? Try a bottle of pinotage, the smoky and spicy South African varietal that is earning a following among wine lovers. While South Africa produces some beautiful shirazes and cabernets, pinotage is a national specialty. A great pinotage will exhibit distinctive spicy, earthy, and smoky flavors, but also have notes of cherry.

A cross of pinot noir and cinsaut, the grape was first developed in a lab in 1925 and first sold by the Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery in 1959. Today, some of the best pinotages still come from the Stellenbosch region. Here are some of our favorites:

BEYERSKLOOF Pinotage "Diesel" 2009 (Stellenbosch, South Africa), $70, has good structure, but is wonderfully smooth on the tongue. Have a glass with steak or grilled mushrooms, and you’ll be a pinotage convert for life.

Kanonkop consistently produces some of South Africa’s best wine at affordable prices, and their KANONKOP Pinotage 2010 (Stellenbosch, South Africa), $37, is no exception. With notes of spice and lavender, the wine possesses beautiful clarity and a surprisingly creamy texture on the mid-palate.

For all you skeptics, try a Cape Blend, which must be comprised of 30 to 70 percent pinotage. KANONKOP "Kadette" Red 2011 (Stellenbosch, South Africa), $12, is an excellent option, and a bargain at that. At 50 percent pinotage, this blend keeps the grape’s signature smokiness, but gains added flavor from the cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc.

So have a sip of South Africa, and discover all this surprising varietal has to offer!

Click here for more from The Daily Sip.

If You Love Cabernet Sauvignon, You'll Love These Other Reds, Too

Unsurprisingly, many drinkers’ love affairs with wine began with a full-bodied pour of cabernet sauvignon. What’s not to love? Plush flavor-packed and fruit-driven, these mouth-coating wines send the palate straight into sensory overload in the best possible way. However, in the realms of viticulture and vinification, there’s so much more to be discovered beyond this robust variety.

As beloved as cabernet sauvignon is, exploring new grape varieties, regions and vinification styles is one of the greatest joys that comes with drinking wine. We’ve rounded up five grapes to try if you love cabernet sauvignon but are looking to expand your range. Powerhouse red wine lovers, this one’s for you.

6 Under-the-Radar Wine Regions You Should Be Drinking From Now

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There’s never been a better time to drink outside of your comfort zone. If you’re starting to get into wine, the worst thing to do is let yourself be in a rut—always drinking French wine, or only red, or Southern Hemisphere strictly. It’s important to branch out and discover lesser-known regions, not just because you’ll experience new flavors and styles but also because there are some incredible values out there. We checked in with knowledgeable sommeliers around the country for tips on which under-the-radar wine regions the curious drinker should be seeking out.

South Africa
Why: Just twenty years ago, South Africa was emerging from the economic embargo imposed upon it during the oppressive apartheid regime. The wine industry has made dramatic strides since then to produce tasty juice that reflects South Africa’s unique climate—fairly hot, with cooling winds. “In some two decades, South African winemakers have gone from isolated to some of the most connected movers and shakers,” says James Tidwell, a master sommelier based in Texas, and a huge champion of South African wines. He cites a group of rebellious winemakers known as the Swartland Independent Producers as trendsetting freethinkers who “took what was known as a bulk wine–producing region to the top ranks of South African wine.” Syrah and chenin blanc from the Swartland are notably delicious, and often come from older vines, which deliver minerality and concentration. In the cool-climate regions of Elgin and Hemel-en-Aarde, you’ll discover elegant pinot noir and chardonnay that any Burgundy drinker will love.

Valle d’Aosta, Italy
Why: This mountainous region lies at the crossroads between Switzerland, Italy, and France, a unique cultural hybrid that has its own grape varieties and a perfect climate for wine grapes. Patrick Bennett, a sommelier at Craftbar in New York City, worked the harvest at Les Granges estate in VDA, as he calls the region for short. It was there that Bennett fell in love with the native grapes of the region, many of which rarely grow anywhere else, with specific flavor profiles—and unusual names like Vien de Nus, Fumin, Petit Rouge, to name a few. “Mountain wine regions offer a cool growing climate—intense, sunny days help to ripen the grapes while cool, Alpine nights preserve a high level of natural acidity, which to me is one hallmark of great, enjoyable, drinkable wines,” explains Bennett. In other words, these wines are fresh and lively and unlike what you’ll find anywhere else in the world.

Alsace, France
Why: Among connoisseurs, Alsace is famous for its weighty, age-worthy white wines—dry riesling, gewürztraminer, and pinot gris, above all. Yet, it is often eclipsed by other French regions like Burgundy or by German Riesling. Sommeliers, however, prize Alsatian wines for their mouthwatering acidity, their rich texture, and their affordability compared with other world-class wines. Charles Ford of RM Champagne Salon in Chicago says that Alsatian wines “are intellectual, they have this certain kind of spunk that makes your wine life flash before your eyes.” And it’s not just the white wines in Alsace that thrill: “Pinot noir from Alsace is every bit as delicious and sought after as their whites they're a breath of fresh air.” At Chicago restaurant Parachute, which highlights natural wine, beverage director Matty Colston loves to pour Alsatian wines, and says that Alsace is worthy of a wine tour. Alsace has been interchangeably owned by both Germany and France, so its culture is a unique melding of influences. “If you're curious about the marriage of food and wine, Alsace is mecca for you,” says Colston. “The high acidity of Riesling will slice right through fatty pork sausage but sidle up nicely to the zing of sauerkraut.” Also cool: Alsace has a high proportion of organic and biodynamic producers—around 15 percent.

Savoie, France Why: “French Alps. Cheese. Skiing. Indigenous grapes you’ve never heard of. What’s not to love?” Sommelier Amanda Smeltz, who can be found preaching the gospel of French natural wines at chef Daniel Boulud’s New York City bistro and wine bar Bar Boulud, says it best. The Savoie (pronounced SA-VWAH) is tucked into eastern France, just near Switzerland. Its white wines are made from either the crisp, bright grape jacquère or the round, sexy altesse. As Smeltz puts it, the whites of Savoy are “ripe, lifted up by pronounced acid, super autumnal” she particularly loves altesse and finds it to be a perfect match for poultry and cream-based dishes. The reds of Savoie, meanwhile, typically made from the grape mondeuse, are “dark, rustic, smoky,” and freshened up with a healthy dose of acidity.

Jerez, Spain
Why: Sherry is one of the world’s most complex and underappreciated wines. Made through a “solera” system that incorporates older wine with more recent vintages, sherry is an amber-hued fortified wine that can be dry and bright, or rich and sweet its grapes are grown in the region surrounding Jerez, in hot southern Spain. Sherry has become something of a sommelier’s darling in recent years as people have discovered the wonderful umami flavors it can display, and how perfect it is as aperitif, with some snacks. “Sherry may be the most versatile food pairing wine,” says sommelier Emilie Campbell, who works for the hip wine bar Marvin in Los Angeles. “Sherry and ham is the most perfect pairing that ever was.” Campbell is particularly a fan of Equipo Navazos, a label that works with small producers all over Andalusia and has a wide range of sherries that can be counted upon for excellent quality.

Why: The wines of Greece are made with grape names that are incredibly hard to spell and pronounce: assyrtiko (white) and agiorgitiko (red), as two examples. But if you can get a hold of a good bottle of Greek wine, you’ve found a gem, because there are some fantastic wines in that country at great prices. Keith Nelson, head sommelier at the new Greek restaurant Avra in Midtown Manhattan, says that Greek wine can’t be matched for delivering great quality at lower prices. “The majority of Greek wines are mineral and bone-dry, and typically very approachable,” he says. Many Greek wine grapes, like assyrtiko, have similar flavors to more familiar grapes like albariño or sauvignon blanc—with added character from volcanic soils. Greece also has had an important role in spreading wine culture around the world, Keith points out: “The Greeks democratized wine by taking it out of ceremonious contexts.” Thanks to the Greeks for helping make wine part of everyday life!

Like most sausages, there are specifics about the way boerewors should be made.

It must be made up of at least 90% meat, with the remaining 10% being spices, seasonings, and preservatives like vinegar and salt. The sausages must contain beef, but can also include some pork or lamb. And, no more than 30% of the meat content may be made up of fat.

Boerewors seasoning characteristically includes coriander, black pepper, nutmeg, and allspice, along with a dark vinegar (malt vinegar). The vinegar and salt act to preserve the sausages as well as adding flavor.

This combination of spices and vinegar creates a unique flavor that is very characteristic of South African cuisine.

What makes boerewors stand out, in addition to its unique flavor, is the way the meat is ground.

Boerewors is a course-ground sausage, giving it a more chunky and coarse texture, rather than the fine and smooth texture that you may be used to from, say, a German wurst.

The Best Tunisian Food

Our favorites, in no particular order…


A staple of North African and Tunisian cuisine, you simply can’t claim to be familiar with Tunisian food if you haven’t had one (or twenty) tagines filled to the brim with couscous! It is the country’s national dish after all.

A dish originated by the Berbers who still inhabit southern Tunisia, but you can easily find this popular dish available around the world now.

Couscous is made from semolina wheat that is rolled into the extremely tiny pieces.

Traditional Tunisian couscous is typically served with chicken, fish, beef, or lamb, plus there are usually vegetables and peppers mixed in.

Ojja (Shakshuka)

This delicious tomato and egg dish is a popular Tunisian breakfast. While it’s eaten across North Africa, it’s believed to have been created in either Tunisia or Yemen. The name comes from the Tunisian Arabic slang for “mixture.”

The tomato sauce is flavored with garlic, chili peppers, and spices, and the eggs are poached.

You will typically find it served in either a skillet or in a tagine.

A hand-me-down from Ottoman times, the Brik in Tunisia is a thin pastry wrapped around egg filling and fried. This dish has survived in other parts of the former Ottoman Empire in the form of bourek (in Algeria) and as burek (in the Balkans), though the egg version is the most specifically Tunisian variety.

Other potential fillings in Tunisia include tuna, chicken, anchovies, capers, and cheese.

This is a great breakfast, though it can be eaten at any time of day. It’s also a great Tunisian street food if you happen to be traveling in the country.


You might have been introduced to Merguez as French cuisine, but it’s actually Tunisian and was brought to France during the era when Tunisia was under French occupation.

Merguez is a spicy sausage that’s made from mutton or beef (or a mixture of both). You can eat it straight off the grill or in a sandwich or Ojja.

The reddish color comes from the Harissa spice, but the sausage also includes cumin, sumac, fennel, and garlic.

Chorba (Shorba)

Chorba is a staple of Tunisian Ramadan meals, though you can find this delicious soup available year-round. You will typically find it made with lamb or beef, but there are also popular fish varieties (especially on the coast).

Spiced with Harissa and made from Bulgar wheat, the base of the soup is stewed tomatos. In a word, yum!

While the dish is important to Tunisian culture, it’s popular all over the area formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire, from Morocco all the way to Bulgaria and Croatia!

Poulet Meshi

While many of the tagine dishes you’ll encounter in Tunisia use couscous, this delicious roast chicken is served, instead, on a bed of chickpeas and onions and seasoned with a healthy portion of lemon juice.

Maghrebi Mint Tea

Tea in Tunisia is made on a charcoal stove, called a kenoot. The mint helps keep the tea from tasting bitter, as does the copious amounts of sugar Tunisians love to add. The tea itself can be either green or red tea, either are traditional.

In the evenings, the tea is upgraded a notch or two with the addition of nuts. These can be pinenuts, almonds, or even peanuts, among other options.

Delget Nour Dates

First grown in Algeria, Delget Nour are considered the queen of dates. Popular throughout Northern Africa, you really can’t go without trying one while in Tunisia!

Though if you can’t make it to the country, you’ll find these delicious bites available globally since they are exported from Algeria and Tunisia (as well as being grown in the United State).

Lablabi (Lablebi)

This Tunisian chickpea soup is flavored with garlic and cumin and served with perfectly stale bread to make this dish both scrumptious and filling.

You’ll find it garnished with eggs, parsley, and even scallions.

This is a great dish for enjoying the Tunisian winters, which, while still warm compared to much of the northern hemisphere, can get chilly (especially out in the desert).

Tunisian Pastries

Tunisian pastries have been influenced by the powers that controlled Tunisia over the centuries. You’ll find varieties of baklava from the Ottoman Empire. Make sure to try the Tunisian almond baklava. You’ll also find pastries with French influence.

Make sure to try bambalouni, yoyos, kaak warka, and zgougou. Tunisian cuisine is blessed with many amazing pastries to sample!

Tunisian Olives

Like the rest of the Mediterranean, Tunisia is famous for its locally produced olives. You’ll find them in a variety of Tunisian dishes, pressed into luscious olive oil, and their trees made into beautiful wooden gifts and souvenirs.


Harissa is a North African spice blend that’s essential for making Tunisian food. You can find it as a premade spice blend, you can make your own, or you can use it as a Harissa paste.

Made from red chilies, make sure you know what you’re doing! It packs a ton of heat into every bite.

Masfouf (Mesfouf)

Another important dish served during Ramadan masfouf is a sweet dish made from couscous, butter, and sugar and then adorned with pomegranates, dates, or even dried grapes.

5. Bow & Arrow Gamay Willamette Valley

If you like zippy, fresh wines that are highly chuggable, and food-friendly, this Gamay from Oregon's Wilamette Valley is a great choice. Like any glou-glou wine, it's best slightly chilled.

Get it from Discovery Wines for $25 or check Vivino to find it at a store near you.

Photo Tutorial

Defining Oakiness

When fermented and/or aged in oak, white wines tend to take on notes of vanilla, baking spice, cinnamon, clove, coconut and other flavors. Although these flavors tend to give the sensation of being warm and soft on the palate, they are not technically “sweet,” as oak vinification does not add any residual sugar to the vinification process. (And forget the bad things you’ve heard about “oaky” wines. Although over-oaked juice certainly can be unpleasant, white wines with well-integrated oak can provide some of the most delicious drinking experiences you’ll ever have.)

Top 5 Countries to WWOOF on a Vineyard

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me that a tall glass of wine was the best reward for the end of a long day’s work. But what about actually working with wine? In a vineyard or winery? Say, on your gap year as a WWOOF volunteer?

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a network of organizations that set up volunteers on organic farms across the planet – it’s a great way to spend part of a gap year learning about the world outside of your planned vacation. 99 countries currently take part, though there is no centralized governance keeping absolute track.

It’s a great way to spend part of a gap year learning about the world outside of your planned vacation.

As volunteers, WWOOFers don’t receive financial payment for their work, but they are given short workdays, food, accommodation, and the invaluable niche knowledge of the operations of their chosen farm jobs. These farm jobs could be anything from harvesting honey from beehives to herding sheep.

But when you’re not being paid anyway, a tall glass of wine is the best reward for a hard day’s work. And there’s only one type of WWOOF placement where that’s pretty much a guarantee: vineyards and wineries. Most countries have them. But when that glass of wine is all you’re getting, it had better be a good one. Here are the top 5 wine-growing countries for your gap year WWOOFing experience.

Pro Tip: Most vineyards will need the most help around harvest season with grape picking (it's hard work!), but will also require assistance with other tasks year round, like vine thinning, weeding, cleaning, and various repairs.


  • Top Region: Bordeaux
  • Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
  • Harvest Season: August - October

Ah France. Rhymes with Romance. The biggest producer of wine on the planet. And the Bordeaux region, a swampy river basin in the southwest of the country, is home to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines of them all.

Landing a vineyard WWOOFing gig here would be like landing an internship writing Obama’s speeches, if Obama didn’t pay you and you got really dirty and sweaty doing it. Most of the vineyards won’t even accept the program, requiring instead trained, full-time workers. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

You’ll have plenty of time to make it up to Paris and show off your newfound connoisseur skills.

p>The Bordeaux itself is divided into dozens of different regions, each with their own climate and soil types, and thus with their own specialty grapes. The one you choose really shouldn’t matter all that much (in fact, it will probably be largely based on who chooses you), because they will all offer an extremely great experience.

Vineyards like Chateau Brandeau, in Côtes de Castillion, are good places to start looking for a spot.

How to Spend Your Free Time

But, as always, choosing where to do vineyard work is about more than the vineyard. WWOOFing in France is always a good choice because, beyond wine, it’s a cultural hotspot. The Bordeaux region itself offers a great chance to enjoy the south of France, from hiking in the Pyrenees to taking in the smaller villages. And you’ll have plenty of time to make it up to Paris and show off your newfound connoisseur skills.


  • Top Region: Tuscany
  • Grape: Sangiovese
  • Harvest Season: October

The Romans knew how to party. Hell, they had a God dedicated to it. So while the French vineyards definitely know what they’re doing, there’s a reason “bacchanal” isn’t a French word.

Italians know their wine, and while they spread the wealth all over the world, they kept a little something back home in Italy. Wine is grown all over the country, but the best is grown on the Tyrrhenian coast, in Tuscany.

You’ve probably heard of the wines grown in Tuscany. Chianti might be the most famous, if only because it goes so well with liver, but they’re all grown with the same Sangiovese grapes, and the vineyards love to experiment.

And as the birthplace of the Renaissance, there’s much more in Tuscany than just vineyards.

So while there are strict guidelines for wine coming out of the region, some vineyards like to create “Super Tuscans” by blending grapes into high quality (and high alcohol content) wines. It’s experimental and fun and thus a great place to get some vineyard experience.

How to Spend Your Free Time

And as the birthplace of the Renaissance, there’s much more in Tuscany than just vineyards. Florence is probably the most culturally relevant city within a quick drive’s distance from your workplace, the artistic heart of Italy.

Pisa is also contained within the Tuscan borders, and while pretending to hold up the leaning tower isn’t quite as culturally fulfilling, we all know you’ll be putting that picture up on Facebook all the same. Luckily, it won’t be the best thing you’ve done by the time your contract is finished.

  • Top Region: Barossa Valley
  • Grape: Shiraz
  • Harvest Season: January - April

Until recently, Australian wines didn’t garner a lot of respect. Its best wine growing region, the Barossa Valley near Adeleide, has a hot continental climate that gives it the perfect conditions for the vine, but its chief grape, shiraz, had a reputation for being low quality and destined for blending.

But, like all things, tastes are cyclical. Now the demand for Australian wines is higher than ever, and while even France and Italy are reducing their production, Australia has begun to seek new markets in China and Hong Kong. Opportunities for work in the industry are aplenty.

Now the demand for Australian wines is higher than ever.

The isolation of the country means that the wines it produces are unlike anything else on Earth. Its Semillon, for example, was taken directly from Bordeaux and since then has evolved a distinctly pink skin.

The non-Mediterranean climate means that the techniques in growing and harvesting have also had to evolve, making the Barossa Valley a great place to work, especially if you’ve already had some experience on a vineyard and want to expand your knowledge. There’s always something more to learn.

How to Spend Your Free Time

South Australia is a bit isolated from the cultural centers of Melbourne and Sydney, but it has its charms. Adelaide, less than an hour away from the Barossa Valley, is the launching point for many of the more off-the-path tours through the inland desert, making it a good opportunity to visit the Flinders Range and the opal mines.

Nearby Port Lincoln is one of the only places in the world that offers cage diving with Great White Sharks. And if you really want to get to Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road takes a direct route and is considered one of the best road trips in the world. But there’s plenty of rason to stay in the valley – every two years, they host a giant wine festival. Time your WWOOFing right and you’ll get to celebrate the literal fruits of your labor.

If you're up for a road trip (or flight), one of our top global music festivals to see on your gap year coincides with the end of harvest season in this region. Time things right and you could be bringing a bottle of Barossa Valley blend to the Byron Bay Blues Fest.

  • Top Regions: Mendoza (Argentina), Colchagua Valley (Chile)
  • Grape: Malbec
  • Harvest Season: February - May

The Andean foothills aren’t normally considered the height of wine-growing climes. It goes against every image of a classical vineyard with that warm Mediterranean breeze. But vines do grow here, in Chile and Argentina, the highest vineyards in the world (up to 3,000 feet above sea level).

Like Australia, this South American market is quickly growing in sharp contrast to the traditional vinelands of France and Italy. Mendoza produces 90% of Argentina’s wine and its value per hectare has grown 13% in the last year. Meanwhile, the Colchagua Valley in Chile has been called the new Napa, a testament to its quality.

If you’re looking for something a bit more exotic than the tried-and-true fields of Europe or the hidden first world of Australia, then look no further.

The principal grape in these South American vineyards is the Malbec. It’s a lesser known wine, in line with the lesser known wine regions it comes from, but obscurity is never indicative of quality. If anything, it increases it. The shadow of the Andes is a big one, but it means that the work is more plentiful (especially due to the increasing demand). If you’re looking for something a bit more exotic than the tried-and-true fields of Europe or the hidden first world of Australia, then look no further.

How to Spend Your Free Time

If you’re WWOOFing as a way to see the world (and not to, say, become a professional viticulturist), then Argentina or Chile is a good place to start. It provides a good jumping off point to see the rest of South America.

Mendoza is in the northwestern segment of the country which makes it a little more ideal for ground travel to the northern half of the continent while also providing plenty of options for mountaineering (which, let’s face it, will be a serious interest if you actually want to work there).

In fact, it’s the location of the Transandine Railway, the only rail between Chile and Argentina. It’s currently defunct, but there are discussions of bringing it back. So really, the whole area is up-and-coming.

The Best Wines To Drink In 2020

Father Gerasime of the Alaverdi Monastery in Kakheti, Georgia.

Photo by Adam Morganstern

Wondering which wines should be on your radar for 2020? I asked a group of wine writers and sommeliers what they're personally looking forward to exploring in the new year. After far-flung explorations around the globe, it seems many are returning to the comfort of the classic regions of France and Italy. Some are going further back in time, to the wines of Georgia, Armenia and Lebanon, while others are looking at the newest emerging winemaking states in the U.S., such as Texas, Arizona and Michigan. Looking at what’s happening behind the bottle, such as supporting fair practices and wineries owned by women, is also important for many. And when they need a break from wine, many sommeliers are turning to tea for inspiration. (And also check out The Best Spirits And Cocktails for 2020.)

Canary Islands and other Spanish Wines — Aldo Sohm, Wine Director of Le Bernardin and Aldo Sohm Wine Bar

In 2020 I plan to keep drinking Spanish wines! Either Albarino with longer lees contact, hearty Ribeira Sacra Mencia's, Garnacha's from Sierra do Gredos or some smoky reductive wines form Canary islands. It's amazing how spain is reinventing itself! There’s a great wine from there for everyone.

Forgotten Grapes — Pascaline Lepeltier, Managing Partner at Racines NY, Meilleur Ouvrier de France

In 2020, I am looking to taste more of the forgotten grapes that are now being rediscovered and used as alternatives to combat the changes in climatic cycles. It is a trove of beautiful expressions, a lot I’ve never experienced before — and, for sure, a window to the past and the future: Oeillade (Languedoc), Meshkuri (Georgia), Verdesse (Savoie & Ain), Carcojolo (Corsica), Bouchalès (Bordeaux), Castets (Bordeaux), Diolle (Switzerland). I will continue to be on the look for vignerons rediscovering and putting on the map historical wine regions, like in the Calingasta Valley (Argentina) with Cara Sur, or in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, etc. Hopefully, we will still have a fair access to these wines, without the risk of the increase of tariffs that would be most of these bottles out of reach of a lot of Americans.

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Santa Cruz Wines (And Any Region That’s On Fire, Literally) — Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor, Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits Editor, Travel + Leisure

What am I looking forward to drinking in 2020? Well, I seem to be in a classicism moment — I've been enjoying a lot of Bordeaux and Single Malt Scotch, both categories I'd drifted away from for a while. Perhaps it's a rekindled passion for a certain kind of austerity mixed in with my hedonism (or perhaps I'm just hoping the 100% tariffs on European wine, spirits and food products that the Trump administration has proposed don't go through). To balance that out, I've recently been tasting a lot of Santa Cruz Mountains wines — probably the best California wine region that gets regularly overlooked, excellent for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet, an unlikely situation. And I plan to buy wines from anywhere that's dealing with fires, an all-too-common issue in recent years. Most recently that means the Adelaide Hills (which happens to produce some of Australia's most exciting wines right now). The wine business is tough enough without your vineyards being engulfed in flames I try to do what I can to help.

The Classics — Matthew Kaner, Bar Covell and Augustine Wine Bar

In 2020 I am committed to drinking more wines from classic regions. It's so easy to get stuck on the new stuff from the new hot place, but I want to dive back into the ballers that got me excited about wine in the beginning of my career! You can bet your sweet peach I'll be drinking more wines from Alsace, Barolo/Barbaresco, and from every inch of the Loire Valley.

Georgian Wines And Other Ancient Grapes — James Tidwell, Co-founder TEXSOM

I am looking forward to visiting Georgia (the country), Armenia, Greece, and Israel in 2020 and plan to be drinking those wines, plus examples from Lebanon and Turkey as an exploration of ancient grape varieties, the origins of wine culture, and exciting new developments. While not limited to these countries, my explorations in 2020 will be centered around these areas that have some of the longest histories of wine production, yet some of the most modern wine industries. I find the dichotomy fascinating, and feel that there is enormous potential still for each of these countries. As an addendum, I hope to visit China for both wine and tea, and am anticipating tasting more Chinese wines.

America’s Emerging Regions — Michelle Williams, Writer

This past year brought me the opportunity to dip my toes into some of America's emerging wine regions, and I am enthusiastic about what I discovered. Wine is produced in all 50 states, but some is geared toward local consumption and not worth seeking out. However, states such as Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia are producing high quality wines. Who knew Syrah from Arizona, Tannat from Texas, or Petit Manseng from Virginia could be so exciting? Blanc de blanc from Michigan or New Mexico and Chardonnay from Idaho, yes please!

Women-Owned Wineries — Julia Coney, Wine Writer

I am interested in supporting more women-owned (specifically women of color), made, produced, and in-charge wines. I want to sip Jen Pelka's new champagne Une Femme, drink more La Caravelle Champagne from Rita Jammet, and Petit Syrah from Theodora Lee of Theopolis Vineyards. I'm going to purposely seek out these wines. They aren't in limited supply, but I feel a responsibility to support and uplift them as much as possible.

New Zealand — Yannick Benjamin, Head Sommelier, The University Club & Co-founder of Wine on Wheels

In 2020, I’ll be focused on the incredible wines of New Zealand. I've always known New Zealand is a treasure trove of quality wine, but spending time with the outstanding winemakers there this past February gave me a fresh perspective. Pinot Noir from Martinborough and Central Otago are some of the best in the world, and they overdeliver for the price point. I look forward to exploring more of their Chardonnays, particularly from Gisborne and Hawkes Bay on the North Island, where these wines are incredibly delicious and perfect for food-pairing. I will also be hunting for crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blancs, made from smaller yet exciting wine producers who have elevated the profile of this misunderstood grape, that has been underperforming way too long and now really has a true expression of terroir and brings the thunder. Some of the best Syrah I have tasted comes from New Zealand. I was blown away by the aging potential of these wines, and I hope that we will see more of it in our local markets.

Valtellina — Alice Feiring, Wine Writer, The Feiring Line

I am in the mood for more more wines from Valtellina (Italy), mountain Nebbiolo, lighter wines with great structure and ageability and more wines with oxidation. Definitely into the new fortified wines from Andalucia.

Aged Weirdos — Kelli White, Writer at Guildsomm

Maybe it's just that I'm getting older and stranger, but I'd like to drink more aged weirdos. By that I mean wines that fall outside of the canon of what is considered age-worthy, and yet nonetheless are beautiful. I'm speaking specifically of wonders like older Muscadet, California Zinfandel, rosé of all stripes, and Passe-Tout-Grains. I hope that 2020 is the year of the raccoon, because I intend to make other people's trash my treasure.

On a more conventional note, I'd also like to drink more top shelf Burgundy. It's been out of my life for too long and it's time to bring it back. Please Venmo me at Kelli-White-31.

A More Thoughtful Glass — Hristo Zisovski, Beverage Director at Altamarea Group

With everything that’s happening in the world, I thought it was important in 2019 to invest in moderation and thinking about how wine exists in the world. From the ecological impact of wine, to the toll alcohol consumption takes on us as individuals, I just wanted to be intentional in my relationship to it. We have a lot to learn and change in the wine industry, from #MeToo, to the gender and race wage gap, to the exploitation of immigrant labor, to the reality that addiction and mental health issues need serious attention in our industry. In the end I want sommeliers to enjoy wine and recommend wine because it’s something beautiful in every way, not just on the palate. And we can only do that if we become more self-reflective and critical of our consumption habits.

Wines Made By Women— Victoria James, Beverage Director at Cote, author, and co-founder of Wine Empowered.

In 2020 I’ll be drinking more wine from women winemakers and women owned wineries. It takes an extra step to do some research, find the wines, and taste through to see if they're my speed —but it can have such a huge impact on the market. If I am able to lift up quality wines from underdog producers, everyone benefits.

Wines From Clay — Jamie Goode, Writer

In 2020, I'm looking to be drinking more wines from clay - talha, qvevri, amphora, tinajas. I'm really interested in the textures of these wines, and also, I think that they seem to encourage winegrowers to work in a more thoughtful, natural, low intervention and low extraction way. I'm also going to be focusing more on Portuguese wine, seeking out the best examples from this interesting country. I'll be continuing to follow the new wave spanish theme, and I'll also be seeking out interesting wines from good terroirs in Bourgogne that don't cost a fortune. Canada will remain a focus, and I'm also looking to re-explore the Pacific northwest, particularly Washington State.

Back To Basics — Vicki Denig, Verve Wine

In 2020, I'd like to go back to the basics and drink more wines from benchmark producers in traditional regions. I find that now, more than ever, the industry is constantly searching for things that are new, unique, and off-the-beaten path, and while that's great, I still think there's an indescribable value in knowing and appreciating the 'the classics.' For me, this looks like more Champagne, Barolo, Rioja, and definitely more Burgundy. And it doesn't stop there! Hey, I might be a little poorer in 2020, but at least I'll be drinking damn well!

Austria, Germany and American Hybrids — Rémy Charest, Writer

I’ll be taking my first serious wine trips to Austria and Germany in 2020, so I’m looking forward to discovering a lot more of those. Always happy for more Riesling — and Grüner, and Sylvaner, and Rotgipfler. I also want to taste a lot more hybrid wines from my northeastern part of North America. Better understanding of the varieties is making the wines a lot better, and I really need to catch up and get a more systematic sense of how they all work. One thing I want to drink less of is mousy wines. Get it together, natural wine producers.

Chardonnay — Jim Clarke, Wine Writer, Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa

I’m planning on returning to a classic wine grape and drinking lots of Chardonnay this coming year. In part this was inspired by the large number of great South African examples I’ve been trying of late: Richard Kershaw, Leeu Passant, Matthew Van Heerden, Storm… the list goes on. But I also used to sell a lot of white Burgundy when I was a sommelier, and I’m hoping to revisit and spend more time with those wines — Cotes de Beaune would be great, but I’ve had number of excellent Macons of late, too. On the reds side, I’m indulging a similar nostalgia I sold lots of Brunello in my days at Armani Ristorante, and I miss them and other Sangiovese-based wines. With 2015 Brunellos arriving soon, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them as well as younger Chianti Classicos.

Crémant de Die — Yolanda Shoshana, Writer

In the new year, I look forward to sipping more Crémant de Die. Unlike Bourgogne and Alsace, Die is a lesser known sparkling wine appellation in France. Die is producing some great bubbles and attention must be paid.

Sake — Shana Clarke, Writer

I’m definitely planning on drinking more sake this year. A new generation of brewers are paying respect to the traditions of centuries-old sake brewing while bringing their knowledge and love of wine into the process. We’re seeing higher-acid styles, sakes with a bit of age on them, as well as less attention to milling rates, which used to be the gold standard for defining a premium sake. The beverage's umami qualities also make it a great pairing beyond standard Japanese fare it answers the question about what to drink with bitter vegetables, and it’s awesome with pizza —seriously!

Orange Wines — Wanda Mann, Black Dress Traveller

I’m making room in my wine glass for more orange wines from around the globe. I’m very intrigued by this ancient style of winemaking and the unique hues, textures, and styles of wines produced by skin contact with white wine grapes. It’s fascinating to see modern winemakers look to the past to craft wines that feel new and exciting.

Dry Fizzy Reds — Brent Kroll, Maxwell Park

Lambrusco Secco and Dry Fizzy Reds — I always want to drink more of these and they are one of the easiest pairings in the world. Just put an array of cured meat on a plate. On a hot day in Emilia-Romagna it's the regional pairing for the meat sweats. We do a week each year where we pour 10 dry examples by the glass, all paired up. For me, these wines aren't normally about trying to wax poetic, it's about easy drinking and balance. Ed Hardy makes a domestic Lambrusco and a lot of people think Lambrusco is junk due to the sweet versions and popular "Riunite on ice. That's nice.” That misconception puts it at an everyday price point for some of the best dry examples. For grape of choice i'm mostly having Lambrusco Salamino (named after clusters being shaped like salami), which is more extracted, acidic and alcoholic than my other go to Lambrusco Grasparossa. When getting fizzy with it, there are some solid Syrah pet-nat's that appeal to the Lambrusco lover in me.

Emerging American Regions — Sarah Tracey, Sommelier at The Lush Life

In 2020, I'd like to be drinking more wines from under-the-radar emerging American wine regions! Recently I've come across some truly intriguing discoveries from Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania & Michigan (not to mention my home state of Illinois) —there are plenty of intrepid farmers & makers in unexpected places, and I look forward to exploring their wines in the coming year.

Lambrusco and Lower Alcohol Wines — Lauren Dadonna, Sommelier

As a new decade approaches, I’m thinking about the long game and the delightful range of wines a bit lower in alcohol. This will include German exploration beyond Riesling, with Scheurebe, Silvaner and Domina each having a shining moment this past year. I’m excited to ferret out more quirky sparkling and am enjoying that Lambrusco is everywhere these days. No limits on this category, the whole world presents gems such as Craven Clairette from Stellenbosch which clocks in at a judicious 11.6% abv. Finally, I’m looking forward to diving further into tea and discovering how many can be nearly as satisfying as a nice glass of wine.

Sake — Sarah Blau, Sommelier

To begin the new decade I am looking to open my palate more to the east. Though it is not quite wine, I aim to drink more Sake. I would like to explore this category further with foods outside the realm of a Japanese restaurant. The world of Sake is huge, and even with years of experience already under my belt in sake consumption, I feel like I have barely touched the surface. There are so many more categories and styles I am ready to discover and to get more people on the Sake wagon.

Alentejo and Slovenia — Clive Pursehouse, Wine Writer

Alentejo: When people talk about amphora they seem to be talking almost exclusively about the wines from Georgia but in the Alentejo region of Portugal, amphoras, or talhas as they call them, make amazingly layered wines that are a story of the region's heritage. Look for wines from Herdade do Rocim, Fita Preta and José de Sousa and grape varieties like Antão Vaz and Alicante Bouschet.

Slovenia is where it's at for food wines, as well as some tremendous restaurants following in the footsteps of the great Ana Roš. Slovenia wine is becoming easier to find here in the States, and they do a lot of skin contact, and natural wines, both things I really enjoy. Look for producers like Batič, Movia, Klinec, Burja and grapes like white wines made from Rebula, Pinela, Zelen, Malvazija Istarska, Šipon (Furmint). And the native reds from Refošk.

Sparkling From Everywhere — Greg Martellotto, Big Hammer Wines

My wine drinking habits are increasingly mirroring my personal life goals. Taking time to celebrate more and share the beauty of life, accompanied with great wine, marks special moments. Bubbles always enliven the atmosphere and bring joy and I plan to pop a bottle of Franciacorta, Champagne, sparkling Vouvray or Riesling at least once a week. I want to drink more American bubbles too there are some aged fabulous sparkling wines from California. My other goal for the new year is to exercise my curiosity and expand my experience. To this end, I will make a concerted effort to pursue atypical wines. There are so many surprisingly delicious wines like Malvasia from Croatia, Rosé from Corsica, and Lagrein from NE Italy. With the threat of European tariffs looming, I'll likely be pursuing Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from atypical wine regions worthy of deeper exploration like Chile and Washington state.

Iberian Varietals From California— Tim Teichgraeber, Wine Writer

In the coming year I'm looking forward to tasting more California wines made with less new oak — wines that have more liveliness, freshness, and transparency of terroir, as opposed to wines built around pure intensity and woodiness. Things have been trending that way for a few years. I think progress is definitely being made, and I consider this a welcome state-wide wave. Cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah from Anderson Valley and the Sonoma Coast continue to inspire me at every turn.

Iberian varieties like Verdelho, Verdejo, red and white Grenache, and Touriga Nacional are making some serious gains in inland areas like Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, as well as in Paso Robles. Global warming is real, and these grapes will play an important role in the future of California wine.

Nebbiolo — Deborah Parker Wong, Writer

I rarely play favorites, I drink aromatic whites, lean reds and bubbles with equal enthusiasm. That said, I'll be immersed in Nebbiolo as one of the"100 World's Best Palates" tasting at the Barolo and Barbaresco World Opening in New York this February and I'll keep exploring Italian wines from regions I won't have the opportunity to visit when the Slow Wine Tour arrives in San Francisco in February. Sauvignon Blanc is a personal favorite and as US Ambassador for the competition, I'm eager to taste Sauvignon Blancs from around the world when I’ll be judging the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon 2020 in March. During the summer months I'll be tasting with producers from Napa and Sonoma when I'm writing California entries for the Slow Wine Guide. All year long I'll be selecting my favorite still, sparkling and fortified wines from France, Spain and Portugal for my WSET students and college classes.

The Classics (With A Side Of Poetry) —Paige Farrell, Writer

“For here there is no place that does not see you.”

My mind drifts to the words of poet Rainer Maria Rilke as I stand at the water’s sweeping edge. Rockport, Massachusetts, with its panoramic sprawl and steady gaze, asks one to take pause. Early morning grace surrounds, and silence, but for the ebb and flow of the oceans steady tide. What wines will captivate as the New Year unveils? The classics. I’ll posit myself in Italy and France from the sensual, joyous beauties from Champagne, to the contemplative whites from the Jura, I’ll journey to the high altitude, poetic reds from Piedmont, and those of gumption from Trentino Alto-Adige, and give in to the muse.

Tea — Caleb Ganzer, Wine Director at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels

To be honest, in the new year I’m going to be drinking more tea. I still love wine and I hope to keep exploring, but the great teas of the world are doing for me what wine did when I first got into it — they’re blowing my mind. Oolong teas like Tung Ting from Taiwan and Phoenix Honey from Guangdong, China offer the type of complexity I seek out of the great wines of the world. A well-sourced and well-brewed tea makes a wonderful accompaniment to a table full of blue chip wines. For me, tea is the future.


  1. Faine

    Yes, really. So happens.

  2. Ttoby

    Well done, the idea is wonderful and timely

  3. Kei

    Unmatched message, I'm very interested :)

  4. Ewert

    It happens ... such a coincidence

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