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  • Chris Christensen
  • "What are the most unexpectedly good countries for wine?"

Chris Christensen

San Jose, California

What are the most unexpectedly good countries for wine?

This week's episode of Amateur Traveler is about the Island of Madeira which is known for it's wine. We have all heard of Burgundy or Champagne in France, but where did you go that you were surprised how good the wine was?

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  • Sarah Farrell

    top answer by

    Spain has great wines. The best-known is Rioja from the north of Spain. However, the Alicante region has some wonderful wines too. You can visit the Enrique Mendoza vineyard, near Benidorm, or Bodega Xalo in the Xaló Valley, where you can taste some wines, buy award-winning wines and cavas for just a few euros, or buy local honey, dates and olive oil.

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    • Chris C.

      Chris C.

      trying the local wine is often a way to get a great bargain, and it sounds like for you, also a great discovery · (0 likelikes)

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  • Tiffany Weber

    answered by

    I was surprised by Hungary. There are quite a few wineries in the region around Lake Balaton. I sampled a few in Tihany, then drank wine every day during my Budapest trip. I didn't try any reds, but the whites are complex, flavorful, and nicely balanced - crisp, not overly sweet, but not dry either.

    Though Spain is known more for their reds, I love their whites as well. The albariño is fantastic. Maria Alta is my favorite, but it hasn't been exported yet.

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    • Joanne A.

      Joanne A.

      I actually think it is USA ( California) other states too. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Natasha L

    answered by

    It's been some time since i was there but memories of wine country in the Nelson/ Marlborough regions of New Zealand have stayed with me, especially the Rieslings and Ice wines (which I'm not normally a fan of).

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    • Chris C.

      Chris C.

      I am not sure New Zealand is as surprising for wine as it once was · (0 likelikes)

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  • Ross Sparks

    answered by

    I'm going to go with MoroccoMoroccoI love to drink and morocco made it very difficult but I had a chance to try a lot of local wines at a western style upscale hotel bar, and wow I was so surprised at how great the local wines were! I was going on a week without a drink at the time so that mite have had something to do with it!

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    • Chris C.

      Chris C.

      well that would qualify for me as unexpected · (0 likelikes)

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  • Sonja Holverson

    answered by

    Switzerland is usually a surprise when visitors arrive on ground transportation and see vineyards climbing up little openings between Alps. Other than the high quality taste, one thing I love is the exclusivity of the production. Winemakers have such small areas to grow that they sell their wines in co-ops in villages. There is even a patch of vineyard in the middle of Lausanne downtown which still produces wine for generations now. Pinot Noir and Chasselas grapes each make up about a third of the total wine made in Switzerland. There is only a tiny percent of Swiss wine that is exported – mostly to Germany. I guess France likes their own and is still upset because some local Swiss wine was labelled Champagne in the village of Champagne, Switzerland.

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  • Alisa Roup Kennedy

    answered by

    Hungary is a wonderful country for wine. There are about 15 different regions throughout the country that focus on different varieties of grapes. The history of wine making in Hungary is quite interesting - WWII really took a toll on the industry. Hungary is most famously known for a sweet wine called Tokaji. It is quite delicious - and I generally don't like sweet wines. I lived in Hungary for almost 2 years and only managed to visit a few wineries in only one region - that was a mistake!

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  • Breanna Wilson

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    Cape Town has some amazing wines! Wines from Stellenbosch are some of the best I've ever had. Constantia Glen winery is one of the bests to visit if you want something closer to Cape Town. The food they're serving is absolutely incredible and the sunset over their vineyard is one of the most memorable sights to ever see. The wine of choice in that region: Pinotage!Constantia Glen

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  • Jacey & Scott Mahaffy

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    I have found myself enjoying two wines back home that are from some surprising areas: assyrtiko from Greece-feels like a sauv blanc with more character and Gruber Veltliner from Austria, similar to a dry reisling.

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  • Aram Karapetyan

    answered by

    Georgia, Armenia.

    Georgian wine is well known in Armenia as a great one. As far as I know water and sun have lot of influence on grapes and those are very good and strong in those two countries. Cannot give any helpful info concerning Georgia as I have been there couple of times.

    Concerning Armenia can tell that there is village called Areni in Yeghegnadzor where the greatest wine in Armenia made and once a year people organize some kind of wine festival.

    Last year in summer we have got few bottles of semi-dry and dry wines and also peach vodka.

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    • Debbie L.

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      Sounds amazing, Aram. I'm dying to visiting Armenia and Georgia! By the way, I'm a community manager here and I've helped you highlight the places in your answer on a map! In the future, you can do this yourself as you answer a question by simply typing the @-symbol followed by the name of the place. Take a look at your map next to your answer :) · (0 likelikes)

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  • Scott Mahaffy

    answered by

    Greece makes some fantastic wines. One of my favorites is called Assyrtico and is a white from Santorini. Portugal used to be pretty much known for Port, but they really upped their game recently, and make outstanding reds from the Duoro region. Austria and Germany also have some great wines, particularly Rieslings and one of my favorite "every day" wines called Gruner Veltliner from Austria.

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  • claus andersen

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    Countries like Turkey Slovenia and Moldova makes suprisingly good wine.

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  • Russell Greene

    answered by

    Chris, Bulgaria was a shocker for me. Two varietals that stand out are Mavrud and Gamza. Both red, the mavrud is similar to merlot and the gamza reminds one of a pinot noir. I have traveled there a few times and the wines are delicious. So is the grape brandy Rakia.

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  • Chaundra Crouch

    answered by

    Slovenia - this is a country whose wine is just now making its way to the more esoteric wine shops in Europe and has been a real delight in the few bottles we've had a chance to taste. Definitely on my list for the future.

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    • Debbie L.

      Debbie L.

      Oh, gotta remember that! Thanks for sharing :) · (0 likelikes)

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  • Christene Main

    answered by

    Austria and the Liguria of Italy. (Cinque Terre National park is there...8 miles of hiking trails between 5 amazing towns...vineyards and lemon groves on one side, the sea on the other. *sigh*.


    And though it's not unexpected, the wines in Provence can't be beat. Start in Arles and work your way up through Orange (France) Beaune (where some of the most expensive wines are made), Lyon Dijon and all the little towns in between. You will find your Chateneuf de Pape, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, etc..plentiful and cheap. And of course Burgundy. But it is just so good. :)

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  • Kat D

    answered by

    This may sound a bit DUH on my part, but definitely Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl just about an hour away from Cape Town. I've been wine regions in Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Sonoma and a few in the Hamptons too, which are all classic, well traveled wine regions. They are also great but I was really suprised with the different varietals of amazing wines in South Africa. The scenery is breathtaking as well. We went on a private tour with a company called Wine Flies that is based out of Cape Town. Highly recommended.

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  • Alana Simpson

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    Portugal is amazing! Not to mention it's not to expensive when you're buying it at home. Check out stuff from the region. Some nice fancy stuff.

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  • Julie Sykes

    answered by

    Hi Chris

    I was recently pleasantly surprised by wine from Slovenia. I asked at one of the wine bars in Ljubljana how come it wasn't better known (as it tasted soooooo good) outside of the country, and they told me it was because they don't make enough for loads of it to be exported. Definitely worth a visit to taste it for yourself!

    Happy tipples :)

    Julie

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  • Justin Schmid

    answered first by

    I'm more of a craft beer guy (but I did a "guess the varietal" contest with a bunch of wine enthusiasts and outscored them all). So take this as just a somewhat-OK observation from one guy ... but I dig Australian wines. From what I understand, Australian wines get to play by a different set of production rules than their French counterparts - they aim more for innovation and less for tradition.

    My favorite was from Wild Mountain Cellars. It was a port called The Ruins made from grapes that were on the vine during a bush fire. The smoke permeated the grapes ... which in many other countries would've been considered a ruined crop. Not here. The port had a smokey aroma and taste that pretty much ruined me for other ports. I still like 'em, but I always think about The Ruins whenever I drink any other port.

    Other than port, I mostly red wines. The more oak, the better. You'll find no shortage in Australia or New Zealand.

    By the way, coffee grown in Australia is also waaaaaay below the radar. I had some Mountain Peaberry brew from the Atherton Tablelands that blew me

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    • Chris C.

      Chris C.

      All I could think of was the old Monty Python routine on Australian table wines :-) · (0 likelikes)

    • Justin S.

      Justin S.

      Chris, I've never seen it. But if it's Monty Python, it has good odds of being funny! I'll have to find it on YouTube. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Ben Lee

    answered by

    I first went to Croatia & tasted their wines 4 years ago & was surprised by how good it was! Growing up, I never heard of Croatia as a wine destination. After meeting Grgich family in Trstenik and hearing all about their links with Napa Valley I discovered that Croatia is full of amazing grapes and wines.

    We actually have a travel experience where you get to sail the vineyards in Croatia so check it out:

    http://www.everthoughtoftrying.com/experience/adriatic-wine-odyssey/

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  • Greg Gross

    answered by

    Mention Germany and it's beer, not wine, that comes to mind. But Germany is fact produces some of the world's best white wines. In South America, Argentina has a well-deserved reputation for red wines, but Chile's are often as good or even better. Mexico and South Africa belong on this list, also.

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