Bored of Bordeaux? Napa no longer dapper?
If you stand in the supermarket aisles for hours on end trying to decide between a Merlot and Chablis, then why not give your traditional wine choices a miss altogether and go for something a little more exciting?
Here are our top five best and most unusual choices of world wines.
Ukraine – From Grains to Grapes
When most of us think of Ukraine, we think of bitterly cold winters, lashings of vodka and political shenanigans; not necessarily fine wines. However, monks in the north of Ukraine have been churning out wine since the 4th Century BC, believe it or not! By the time the whole country was producing wine, Ukraine was the Soviet Union’s largest supplier, until 1986 when Mikhail Gorbachov decided to put a stop to the ‘drunken Russian’ stereotype and set fire to over 800 square kilometres of vineyards in a bid to reduce the country’s intake of alcohol.
Fortunately, Communism fell soon after and the Ukraine went back to making wine, mostly ones you’ve never heard of and can’t buy in your local supermarket. If you do fancy a bottle of Krimskoye sparkling red, you’ll need to hop on a flight to Kiev!
Egypt – Wine Cellars in the Pyramids
Wine has been produced in Egypt since the time of mummies and tombs, the pyramids and Pharaohs. One can almost imagine Cleopatra lying in her bath of ass’s milk sipping a glass of fruity red or perhaps a chilled white to stave off the African heat. These days Egypt mostly imports wines for tourists but a relatively new producer, Karim Hvaidak, has established a vineyard in the deserts north of Cairo and now produces a variety of vino.
This was not before having to lug hundreds of tons of compost from Cairo to the parched northern landscape. If you can find it, Sahara Vineyards Viognier and Chenin Blanc are worth a tipple –perfectly drinkable and definitely unique! Find flights to Cairo.
Thailand – Wines to Float your Boat
Wine making has perhaps found its most unlikely location yet in Thailand. In the stifling heat and humidity, grapes are cleverly being grown in ‘floating vineyards’ where canals of water run between the vines keeping the grapes alive in the intense heat. The Siam Winery is currently the largest producer of Thai wine, making over 300,000 bottles of the Monsoon Valley label a year.
Staff working there are regularly sent off to Europe for training which consists of drinking wine in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. Not bad work if you can get it! High taxes unfortunately mean that wine drinking hasn’t filtered through to the general Thai population, but there is a good export market. If you happen to be there on holiday, be sure to order a bottle of white, red or rose to go with your stir fried crocodile or escargot green curry. Find flights to Bangkok.
Canada – Ice Ice Baby
From magical Canadian winters, spring magical Canadian wines; Ice wines to be precise. Picked at the coldest moment on a winter’s night, each frozen grape creates just one drop of luxurious Ice wine. The grapes used for ice wines are left on the vine long after most normal grapes have been picked. By law, natural ice wine in Canada can only be made from grapes that have been frozen to -7 degrees Celsius.
Because the juices are so highly concentrated each grape only gives up a tiny drop making this a labour intensive and expensive exercise. Picking is done by hand too which is a chilly business! Vidal Blanc is the grape of choice for Canadian ice wine which is largely produced in Ontario where temperatures get frighteningly low in the winter. This is definitely an extreme wine. Find flights to Canada.
Lebanon – From War to Wine
This exhilarating country, perhaps better known for its bullet-hole ridden tower blocks, harrowing conflicts and Biblical landscapes, has in fact been producing exciting wines for some years now. Château Musar is the country’s most famous winery and is known in many parts of the world.
The raspberry and peat-scented Chateau Musar 2003 is one of the most delicious wines to try, and is even available in some UK supermarkets. If it is true what they say that a country’s passion, personality and history seep into the wines as they ferment, then wine from Lebanon surely must be a far flung, devil-may-care choice for any table. Find flights to Beirut.
Beirut picture: © SnowSphere.com