Surprisingly great bubbly from the Middle East and Latin America

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Surprisingly great bubbly from the Middle East and Latin America

Drinks

Surprisingly great bubbly from the Middle East and Latin America

High quality, affordable bubbly comes from some totally unexpected places around the world. While many winemakers use traditional production methods, local grape varieties and growing environments make these wines entirely unique.

For example, champagne is made using the Traditional Method (sometimes called méthode champenoise), a technique which involves making bubbles through a second round of fermentation in the bottle. This same approach is applied in Brazil and Mexico, regional flavors and styles give these wines their own distinct profiles. Similarly, Italian prosecco is made in the Charmat Method, with the second fermentation happening in the tank, rather than in the bottle – for a fresh take on this classic style, look to Argentina.

While some haven’t gone mainstream and may still be hard to source, it’s worth the effort to track down these yet-to-be-discovered bubbly wines:

Brazil

Brazil has produced bubbly for more than 100 years, and the quality and range is recognized by wine lovers and critics around the world. The state of Rio Grande do Sul is responsible for 90% of the production of Brazilian still and sparkling wines. Chardonnay – a variety ideal for bubbly – is the primary planting.

Wine to try:  Cave Geisse 2013 Brut Nature Sparkling is crafted organically in the region of Pinto Bandeira. Made from 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir, the Geisse family makes this wine in the Traditional Method.

Morocco

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Morocco possesses a winemaking history dating to Phoenician times, and it has a spotted trajectory of ups and downs in a country where many people don’t drink wine for religious reasons. Morocco currently produces around 40 million bottles, many made in the French style by French expats. A very small percentage of this wine is exported, and your best bet for tasting in Morocco is at a hotel or restaurant. Grown in vineyards along the Atlantic Ocean and the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the geography provides cooling breezes that counter the notion that Morocco is too hot for wine growing.

Wine to try: Les Celliers de Meknès La Perle du Sud Crémant de l’Atlas is made from 100% chardonnay, and the term crémant indicates this wine is made in the Traditional Method.

Israel

Israel is in the midst of advancement. Creative producers are leading the transition from a bulk grape-growing region supporting the world’s kosher wine needs to a terroir-driven enclave producing a variety of high quality wines. Geology, climate and technology all contribute to make great wines coming out of this region with thousands of years of winemaking history. Yarden’s Golan Heights is one of the most progressive and promising producers, and it recently implemented the highly-regarded Lodi Rules for sustainability, a program that addresses responsible approaches to land, economics and people.

Wine to try: Golan Heights Winery 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blancs Brut comes from the Galilee area – the northernmost appellation in Israel. The cooler climate is appropriate for this 100% chardonnay, produced in the Traditional Method.

Argentina

Nobody is surprised that great wine comes from Argentina, one of South America’s leading wine-producing countries, which very well might make the world’s best malbec. But Argentina is unique for high-altitude, and dry and sunny vineyards that nurture more than just malbec. When it comes to sparkling wine, pinot noir and chardonnay plantings benefit from the cool and dry atmosphere.

Wine to try: Produced in the Charmat Method, Domaine Bousquet Organic Brut Rosé Sparkling is from the Tupungato region of the Uco Valley. It’s made from chardonnay and pinot noir grown at an altitude of 4,000 feet, one of the highest growing points in Mendoza.

Lebanon

As one of the world’s earliest agricultural cradles, Lebanon has earned a place as a meaningful wine-growing region, despite significant political and war-related upheaval. Influenced heavily by French style and aptitude, visitors to the Bekaa Valley can explore the beauty of the vineyards and feast on wine country hospitality in the form of tasting rooms and restaurants serving modern and traditional Lebanese cuisine.

Wine to try: Latourba crafts 100% estate-grown wines, including Latourba Unique, which the company says is the first and only sparkling wine of the region — an excellent reason to sample this wine which can be found in the chic Latourba Boutique, a retail and event venue in Sin el Fil near Beirut.

Mexico

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One peek at #valledeguadalupe on Instagram illustrates just how hip this Mexican wine region truly is. Valle de Guadalupe is a dry and sunny bastion of food and wine an hour or so south of San Diego, just over the border in Baja California. Primarily composed of creative, sustainably minded independent winemakers, this region is turning heads for quality as well as fashionable hospitality with an environmental setting as appealing as its artwork.

Wine to try: Espuma de Piedra Blanc de Blancs is 50/50 chardonnay and sauvignon blanc made in the Traditional Method.

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