How to Buy Wine After the Napa Quake
Yes, Napa needs your support now more than ever. But if the great wine shortage of 2014 comes to pass, buy from these emerging wine regions.
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The only thing worse than a grisly three-week news cycle (ISIS, Ebola, Ferguson, repeat) is having that news cycle nightcapped with an earthquake that ruined some of the country’s best wine.
Not cool, Mother Nature, not cool.
While initial reports have put damage repair in the hundreds of millions and economic impacts into the billions, Doug Bell, global beverage buyer for Whole Foods Market, doesn’t think these numbers are accurate. “Some of the older structures took it rough for sure, but I don’t think there are going to be widespread shortages. Everything they’re bringing in for this season was still on the vine.” Bell has been in touch with many of the winemakers featured in the company’s stores, and he doesn’t anticipate gaping holes on his shelves this fall.
If there is a California wine shortage, fear not. Several emerging wine areas are worth trying while you wait for your favorite cabernet sauvignon to become available. Bell walked us through his favorite new wine regions—on one condition: “If there was ever a time Napa needed our support, they need it now.”
So keep buying California wine—but don’t shy away from trying one of these.
“Greece has really turned their wine industry around 180 degrees,” says Bell. “Thirty years ago, they were only making wines for Greece, but recently they’ve really begun embracing the New World wine techniques and creating some really great wine.” Greek winemakers have planted red Agiorgitiko grapes and white Assyrtiko grapes for centuries, but they’ve recently starting planting new varietals as well.
Try this: Boutari’s Agiorgitiko, which has dark fruit flavors and pairs beautifully with lamb.
Bell likes buying New Zealand wine because he loves the entire country’s commitment to sustainability. “It’s not just a message. It’s the way they walk and talk,” he says, adding, “I think it’s also popular because everyone loves a Kiwi, you know?”
But personality only goes so far when it comes to producing wine—see ACDC’s Hell’s Bells sauvignon blanc for a perfect, undrinkable example. Luckily, New Zealand is producing far better stuff than its rocking Australian neighbors—from both the northern and southern islands. “It’s well established, and it’s readily available, so it’s a pretty good bet,” says Bell.
Try this: For a white, grab Grove Mill‘s sauvignon blanc, with hints of tropical fruit and a nice complexity. For a red, try one of Villa Maria‘s red blends, which Bell describes “like a New World-style Bordeaux.”
Texas and Virginia
California, Oregon, and Washington get all the wine love, but other states produce wine too—it’s estimated that Texas alone has 270 wineries. Unfortunately, like craft beers, it can be next to impossible to find regional wines from outside your home state. So if you find yourself passing through one of these regions, stock up. The wines are often affordable, interesting, and worth a try.
Try this: Barboursville Cellar’s Octagon. Bell was recently at a tasting in Charlottesville, Virginia, and liked this wine so much he ordered an entire case to be shipped to his home. “It’s like drinking a Left Bank bordeaux,” he swears.
When apartheid ended and embargos were lifted, South Africa positioned itself as the provider of decent, if unremarkable, budget wines. But Bell says the country has so much more to offer. “They’re making some really, really good wine. They’ve been making wine for a very long time. When I was there, I was like, ‘Wow, Columbus was discovering America when these vines were planted.'” The Dutch originally brought winemaking to South Africa via the spice trade. Recently, both the old vine wines and newer varietals have flourished. Particularly notable are the country’s chardonnays, pinot noirs, and sauvignon blancs.
Try this: DeMorgenzon’s DMZ sauvignon blanc, which is aromatic with just a touch of acidity. For a red, try Hamilton Russell‘s pinot noir; it’s more savory than sweet, with notes of toasted spices.