Wine

Uncharted terroir: The world’s most exciting new fine wine regions

Introductions and recommendations by
Richard Hemming MW

The wines were judged 9–10 April in London by IWSC panel chairs Anne Jones, Richard Hemming MW, Eric Zwiebel MW, Ana Sapungiu MW, Igor Sotric, Dominique Vrigneau, Isa Bal MS, Christopher Horridge, Peter Nixson, Rebecca Palmer, Greg Sherwood MW, and members of the IWSC Wine Judging Committee John Hoskins MW and Dawn Davies MW. 

‘Fine wine’ – like haute cuisine or modern art – is hard to define. Conventionally, fine wine refers to regions with long-established reputations for excellence, with Burgundy and Bordeaux at the forefront. But as the world of wine evolves, more and more regions are demonstrating their ability to challenge this definition.

These emerging regions are incredibly diverse. Some have been cultivating vines for centuries; others, for barely a decade. Some grow globetrotting grapes such as Chardonnay and Shiraz, while others celebrate indigenous locals such as Rkatsiteli and Koshu. But what unites them is their ambition to make wine that bears comparison with the finest wines from around the world.

Recent results from the IWSC show how wines from England, Canada, Croatia, Georgia, China and Japan can all win gold medals, earning them a place alongside the world’s greatest.

English sparkling wine has firmly established itself as an equal to Champagne. Not long ago, England was notorious for producing acidic wines from hybrid varieties that were more notable for their ability to ripen in a cold climate than for the attractiveness of their flavours. But as the climate has warmed and expertise has improved, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have become the first choice of growers, with pioneers such as Nyetimber becoming internationally renowned.

Nowadays, there are dozens of brands doing just as well. IWSC gold medals went to the 2014 Rosé Bella from Bride Valley, the Dorset estate established by the wine writer Steven Spurrier; a late-disgorged 2009 Chardonnay from Coates & Seely in Hampshire; and a great-value Non-Vintage blend from England’s largest producer Denbies.

Equally exciting are the non-sparkling reds and whites that are being produced. The medals won by Gusbourne’s Pinot Noir and Woodchester Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc prove that England can produce varietal wines that are able to stand alongside their rivals in New Zealand or France.

For years, Canada’s main calling card was icewine, the ultra-sweet dessert wine made from frozen grapes. Today, it produces wine of every conceivable style: in Ontario, Domaine Queylus, Réserve du Domaine Cabernet Franc is the perfect example of a modern ripe, complex red that outranks many a St-Emilion.

On the opposite coast, in British Columbia, another Bordeaux-inspired red also won IWSC gold: Merriym 2016 from NK’Mip, the unusual name testifying to its ownership by the indigenous Osoyoos tribe of native Americans. Then Micro Cuvée Chardonnay from Meyer Family Vineyards and Mission Hill’s Reserve Shiraz show how Canada challenges Burgundy and the Rhône: by blending in 9% of white variety Viognier, the Shiraz pays specific homage to the great reds of Côte-Rôtie.

Georgia is one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world, and its historic techniques are making a comeback. In the last century, Soviet control meant that the country’s winemaking capacity was focused on cheap high-volume plonk to sell into Russia. Today, Georgia’s vineyard area is significantly smaller than it was back then, but the quality being achieved is very exciting – especially with white wines made from the local Rkatsiteli variety, which are traditionally fermented in buried earthenware vessels called kvevri (or qvevri), a method recognised by UNESCO as having ‘intangible heritage’. Teliani Valley’s Glekhuri 2017 is a prime, medal-winning example.

Another country championing its own unique variety is Japan. Koshu makes a subtle but fragrant white wine, sometimes with a faint pink tinge, providing the perfect accompaniment to delicate Japanese cuisine such as sashimi – as Grande Polaire 2017 demonstrates. In China, however, heavyweight reds are generally more popular, with Cabernet Sauvignon the undisputed king of the ring. The 2014 from Helanshan Manor won IWSC gold thanks to its powerful, authentic expression of that variety. External investment from the likes of Bordeaux royalty Château Lafite and luxury conglomerate LVMH demonstrates how serious the wine world is about China’s fine wine prospects.

These wines can be hard to track down (except for the English wines none is available in the UK at the moment) but they are a snapshot of excellence. Whether it’s Lebanese Obeidi, Japanese Koshu or Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon, our perception of fine wine is being redefined – and the adventurous drinker has a whole new world to discover.

Top Rated Bottles

Coates & Seely, Blanc de Blancs La Perfide, 2009

Score
96
100
Hampshire
  • RRP £70
  • Lemon
  • Mineral
  • Rich
Learn More

Denbies, Greenfields, NV

Score
95
100
South East
  • RRP £31.99
  • Apple
  • Elderflower
  • Zesty
Learn More

Harrow and Hope, Brut Reserve, NV

Score
95
100
England
  • RRP £28
  • Brioche
  • Creamy
  • Raspberry
Learn More

Ridgeview Wine Estate, Bloomsbury, NV

Score
90
100
South East
  • RRP £30
  • Biscuit
  • Papaya
  • Rich
Learn More

Bride Valley Vineyard, Rose Bella, 2014

Score
95
100
South West
  • RRP £34.95
  • Creamy
  • Raspberry
  • Smoky
Learn More

Woodchester Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, 2018

Score
96
100
Gloucestershire
  • RRP £14.99
  • Bay leaf
  • Long finish
  • Mineral
Learn More

Chapel Down, Kit’s Coty Chardonnay, 2016

Score
91
100
South East
  • RRP £30
  • Apple
  • Characterful
  • Smokey
Learn More

Gusbourne Estate, Pinot Noir, 2016

Score
91
100
South East
  • RRP £32
  • Custard
  • Lemon curd
  • Toast
Learn More

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards, Blanc de Blancs, 2014

Score
91
100
British Columbia
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Cream
  • Honey
  • Lemon
Learn More

Meyer Family Vineyards, Micro Cuvee Chardonnay, N/A in UK 

Score
96
100
British Columbia
  • Apple
  • Citrus
  • Complex
Learn More

Andrew Peller Estates, Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling, Wood Post Vineyard, 2016

Score
93
100
Ontario
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Lime
  • Peache
  • Pear
Learn More

Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards, Discovery Series Chenin Blanc, 2017

Score
91
100
British Columbia
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Apple
  • Intense
  • Pear
Learn More

Mission Hill Family Estate, Reserve Shiraz, 2016

Score
96
100
British Columbia
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Opulent
  • Peppercorn
  • Spice
Learn More

NK'Mip Cellars, Red Mer’r’iym, 2016

Score
95
100
British Columbia
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Berry fruits
  • Chewy
  • Fennel
Learn More

Domaine Queylus, Cabernet Franc, Réserve du Domaine, 2016

Score
92
100
Ontario
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Cherry
  • Long finish
  • Vanilla
Learn More

Hidden Bench Vineyards, Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir, 2017

Score
90
100
Ontario
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Long finish
  • Plum
  • Raspberry
Learn More

Pilato, Malvazija sur lie, 2015

Score
95
100
Coastal
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Elegant
  • Mineral
  • Tangerine
Learn More

Chateau Zegaani, Family Reserve Rkatsiteli, 2011

Score
94
100
Kakheti
  • Apricot
  • Earthy
  • Fresh orange
Learn More

Vinaria Purcari, Alb de Purcari, 2017

Score
93
100
Purcari
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Bramble
  • Truffle
  • Woodsmoke
Learn More

Usadba Divnomorskoye, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015

Score
92
100
Black Sea Coast
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Cigar box
  • Eucalyptus
  • Vanilla
Learn More

Davino, Flamboyant, 2015

Score
92
100
Dealu Mare
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Eucalyptus
  • Long finish
  • Spice
Learn More

Badagoni, Kakhetian Noble, 2013

Score
91
100
Kakheti
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Blackberry
  • Olive
  • Plum
Learn More

Korta Katarina, Reuben’s Private Reserve, 2011

Score
90
100
Coastal
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Chocolate
  • Complex
  • Mature
Learn More

Château Vartely SRL, Ice Wine Riesling, 2017

Score
97
100
Moldova
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Almond
  • Honey
  • Marzipan
Learn More

Domaine Wardy, Obeidi, 2016

Score
95
100
Bekaa Valley
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Creamy
  • Dried fruit
  • Nutty
Learn More

Kamanterena winery, Xynisteri, 2018

Score
91
100
Limassol
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Apple
  • Melon
  • Nectarine
Learn More

Grande Polaire, Dry Koshu, 2017

Score
96
100
Yamanashi
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Jasmine
  • Pomelo
  • Quince
Learn More

Sainte Neige, Vineyard Chardonnay, 2017

Score
93
100
Yamanashi
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Apple pie
  • Textured
  • Vanilla
Learn More

Domaine Porto Carras, Château Porto Carras, 2010

Score
95
100
Macedonia
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Cedar
  • Cherry
  • Redcurrant
Learn More

Kavaklidere, Egeo Malbec, 2017

Score
95
100
Aegean
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Smooth
Learn More

Ningxia Helanshan, Manor Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Red Wine, 2014

Score
95
100
Helan Mountain
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Bramble
  • Truffle
  • Woodsmoke
Learn More

Jade Vineyard, Hyacinth Dry Red Wine, 2017

Score
95
100
Ningxia
  • RRP N/A in UK 
  • Cassis
  • Elegant
  • Oak
Learn More

Join the Club

Sign up to our newsletter and you’ll be entered into a contest to win one of 10 free subscriptions to Club Oenologique. We’ll send you exclusive content, including features, recommendations and events.


By signing up to our newsletter, you confirm that you have read our prize draw Terms & Condititons and Privacy Policy.