Holiday Gift Guide 2023: The Most Exciting Wines From Under-The-Radar Regions Around The World


One of the best ways to get to know a country is through its food and beverage offerings. For the holiday season, check out these excellent wines from under-the-radar wine regions in different parts of the world (which we should be drinking more from!) for your wanderlust wine-loving friends who are eager to try something new. Note: All wines mentioned are available in the United States.

Cyprus

Vouni Panayia: Woman in the Wine Press, Paphos, 2017

I was introduced to this Cypriot stunner at Margot Natural Wine Bar in Miami by wine director Mar Dalmau. It was “wow” at first sip—fragrant, savory and complex— highly enjoyable on its own but also with dishes like English pea and tahini, and salmon crudo, which I was enjoying at the time. “I respect and really enjoy Vouni Panayia as producers,” shares Dalmau, in reference to the country’s first privately owned winery in Paphos, founded by Andreas Kyriakidis in 1987, and is today, run by his sons Yiannis, Pavlos and Petros. “They are at the forefront of reviving the ‘lost and forgotten’ indigenous grapes of Cyprus. Their wines are quite unique and very well made, always under the ethos of sustainability This morokanella is a light yet complex white wine which shows some savory herbal tones and juicy stone fruit, with mouthwatering acidity.” Definitely one of my favorite recent wine discoveries.

Available in Miami at Margot Natural Wine Bar (dine-in and retail), and various retail outlets


Peru

Bodega Murga: Sophia L’Orange, Valle de Pisco, 2021

If the number one restaurant in the world, Central in Lima, has it on their beverage program, you know that it’s an important representation of Peruvian culture and its ecosystem, in line with what chef-owner Virgilio Martinez and his team stand for. The good news is, this elegant, medium-bodied orange wine made from 85% quebranta (Peru’s sole indigenous grape, used to make pisco) and 15% mollar grape in the Pisco Valley—is now available in the US. “What makes this wine extremely special is the fact that there is not a reference to compare them with any other region or style,” shares Karina Iglesias, wine consultant at Julia and Henry’s in Miami, and who also represents Selections de la Viña, the US importer of Bodega Murga, locally. “Grapes are hand harvested, with skin contact maceration for 30 days, with spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine production in South America is extending beyond Argentina and Chile and I think is very remarkable what young winemaker Pietra Possamai is accomplishing in the Pisco Valley.”

Available in Miami at Maty’s (dine-in); in New York City at Astor Wines ($42) and various retail outlets


Morocco

La Ferme Rouge: Les Gris, 2021

The Moroccan rosé La Ferme Rouge Le Gris is another low-intervention gem I discovered at Miami’s Margot Natural Bar. “In Miami, rosé is a glass of comfort for most people— light, crisp and mineral with just a hint of fruit,” shares Margot wine director Mar Dalmau. “When I tried La Ferme Rouge, I immediately felt like it was the perfect rosé to give somebody who wants a new experience while staying within a relatable style. Moroccan wine is not represented enough in my opinion, and this is a great fun representation of cinsault rosé.” The history of the winery, located in the Zaër region, dates to the French occupation in 1933, but it is within the last 30 years that they have started to focus on elevating their farming practices; vineyards are farmed organically, and crops are utilized in the winter to improve soil health.

Available in Miami at Margot Wine Bar in Miami (dine-in and retail); in Los Angeles at Flask and Field ($20) and various retail outlets; and through their US distributor, Nomadic Distribution ($18), which ships nationally


Croatia

Black Island Winery: Merga Victa Pošip 2022

Dalmatia-born Mirena Bagur, along with her husband Win Burke, founded Croatian Premium Wine (based out of Massachusetts) as a way to introduce and promote her country’s wines and culture to the United States, currently housing over 80 labels. Through them, I learned about Korčula-based Black Island Winery’s Merga Victa Pošip— the most popular white grape variety in Dalmatia, often referred to as the Croatian counterpart of the viognier. Golden yellow, medium-bodied with pronounced minerality, it’s great on its own or with an assortment of seafood dishes. Its 2022 vintage was recently awarded silver, as well as 93 points, at the 2023 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Available at Croatian Premium Wine ($29), which ships nationwide


Czech Republic

Milan Nestarec: Podfuck, 2018

Czech-born Milan Nestarec doesn’t like his namesake brand to be referred to as a winery, rather, “ideas that just happen to be represented through wine.” At a recent wine event at Rocks and Acid Wine Shop in Chapel Hill featuring Czech wines, Milan Nestarec’s Podfuck was a highlight.

“We are so fortunate to have access to one of the best wineries of the Czech Republic— Milan Nestarec,” shares Laure Francis, Rocks and Acid general manager. “Not only do I love his whimsical ideology about winemaking, but am fundamentally fond of his field-blend wines, as they are so reminiscent of Alsatian enchanter Marcel Deiss’ bottlings. A blend of mostly pinot noir, with equal parts blaukfrankish and pinot gris, Podfuck is so versatile as a light-bodied and aromatic red.” Francis recommends pairing this wine with “comfort food like meat and potatoes; hot pots and aromatic soups with pickled vegetables; or in a brunch settings with hotcakes drowned with berry compote and maple-glazed candied bacon!”

Available in Chapel Hill at Rocks and Acid Wine Shop ($60); in New York City at Henry’s Wine and Spirits ($53) and various retail outlets


Uruguay

Proyecto Nakkal: Nakcool Vino Blanco, 2022

Founded by good friends Santiago Degásperi, Bruno Bresesti, and Nicolás Monforte, Proyecto Nakkal is Uruguay’s first winery dedicated to producing low-intervention wines. “This is another example of how winemaking is growing in South America, with young producers doing what’s best not only for the vines but also creating wines of exceptional quality,” shares Karina Iglesias of Julia and Henry’s in Miami and Selections de la Viña. Made from muscat ottonel— Iglesias notes that the winery owns the only muscat ottonel vines in Uruguay— viognier and ugni blanc grapes, each of which is fermented separately, where the muscat undergoes very short maceration on the skins while the other twog rapes fermet in concrete tanks. “Nakkal belongs to the Nat’ Cool movement originated in Portugal , the brainchild of well known winemaker Dirk Niepoort.”

Available in New York at Wine Therapy NYC ($18); in Boston at Vino di Vino; in Wisconsin at Nonfiction Wine ($17); in Miami at Zero Zero, and various retail stores


Lebanon

Château Qanafar: Eva, 2021

“Viognier is a tough grape to get right because it lacks acidity,” shares Allegra Angelo, co-founder, partner and sommelier at Vinya in Miami. “The Bekka Valley benefits from elevation which, to me, is the secret sauce for viognier, a grape gaining momentum in Lebanon. Château Qanafar’s expression is perfectly medium (not heavy at all) with ripe stone fruits, pink flowers, and has a very textural juicy acidity on the finish. It’s impossible not to like and proves that Lebanon is star when it comes to Rhône varietals.”

Available soon in Miami at Vinya ($40), in Texas at Total Wine ($32) and at various retail outlets


Greece

Domaine Skouras: Megas Oenos, 2019

Earlier this year, Aba at Bal Harbour Shops in Miami held a Grecian wine dinner pairing their Mediterranean-inspired plates with Domaine Skournas’ wines. From the lot, chef-partner CJ Jacobson had handpicked the Megas Oenos— made with 80% agiorgitiko, a red grape variety native to Greece, originating from the Peloponnese peninsula, and 20% cabernet sauvignon— as his personal favorite. “It’s a structured red and is great with roasted meat and can handle all kinds of giant rich flavors.” He recommends pairing it with lamb shank, as it “contributes to the richness and full body due to its high tannin and ability to smooth out the palate.”

Available at Aba in Bal Harbour-Miami and Austin (dine in) as well as various retail shops nationwide





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