Hundreds of exciting wineries have opened up around the globe in recent years, defying the worldwide economic slump. Italy, Spain, the United States and probably South Africa and Australia have each launched a long roster of impressive newcomers. And countries in both the Old and New World, ranging from Germany to Argentina to New Zealand, have debuted innovative new wineries that would be impossible for any oenophile to ignore. The terrific bottles highlighted here come from a selection of the planet's 20 most notable new producers, all of which introduced their labels in 1999 or later.
The Global A-List
RAATS FAMILY WINES
2003 Chenin Blanc ($23) With a name like Raats, it better be wonderful. South African brothers Bruwer and Jasper Raats have scouted out mountainside, old-vine vineyards for this dry-style Chenin that seems delicate though bursting with pineapple and melon wrapped in creamy vanilla flavors.
2002 Tempranillo ($9) A corporate-owned Rioja producer founded in 1999, Darien makes this luscious, medium-rich, fruity wine in a New Rioja stylewith no oak. Its methods lock in the fruit of this 100 percent Tempranillo bottling.
2002 Malbec ($13) Argentina has raised Malbec, a minor blending grape from Bordeaux, to the level of fine wine, and this dense, dark version elevates Malbec even further. The winery is co-owned by Chilean star winemaker Aurelio Montes, who named the place after a type of wild goose that, like himself, can be spotted on both sides of the Andes.
2003 Rosato di Sangiovese ($15) Jeff and Valerie Gargiulo's single-vineyard block in Napa Valley's Oakville is mainly devoted to red wine, but the couple spares enough Sangiovese to produce this dry, firm-bodied rosé with a crisp finish.
CHÂTEAU D'OR ET DE GUEULES
2000 Prestige Rouge ($18) Owner Diane de Puymorin fell for this pebbly stretch of old vineyard in the Costières de Nîmes area, on the doorstep of the great Camargue wetlands in southern France. She named her winery for the colors (gold and red) on her family crest, and created this astonishingly spicy, compact and smooth-drinking wine from the area's classic blend of Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre.
2000 Tilenus ($20) The growing cult of Bierzoa once forgotten, mountainous vineyard area in northwestern Spain growing the once forgotten Mencía grapereceived a major boost with this gleaming, high-tech facility. Some experts believe that Mencía is related to Cabernet Franc, and the perfumed aromatics of the Bodegas Estefania Tilenus may bear that out, but Mencía's soft tannins and mild sour-cherry fruitiness seem distinctively its own.
2001 Panza Petite Syrah ($40) Former Stags' Leap Winery owner Carl Doumani sold his spread, moved a few hundred yards up the Napa Valley and built a whimsical, architectural showcase winery devoted to brooding, deeply extracted red wines like this one, a no-holds-barred Petite Sirah with rich aromas of plum and chocolate that make you want to throw another leg of lamb on the grill.
2002 Chardonnay ($16) This sleek, postmodern winery in New Zealand's Marlborough region relies on a single vineyardbut that vineyard sprawls over 360 acres. This bottling is one of the best deals around on a Chardonnay, with all the French-influenced techniques that give the wine butteriness and integrated oakiness without sacrificing clear, bright fruit.
2001 Syrah ($22) In California's unsung San Benito County (an area inland of Monterey), former fencing contractor Frank Léal and one-time mechanic David Griffith bottle this soft, fleshy Syrah offering a sensual mingling of smokiness and bright, cranberry- inflected fruit. This wine is so good that it should, by itself, put San Benito on Syrah lovers' maps.
2001 Merlot ($25) The Washington investment group that founded this winery in the Walla Walla Valley definitely did several things right at Forgeron, notably by locking up grapes from premier vineyard sites and by hiring the talented, French-born winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla, formerly of Gordon Brothers. Gilla has turned out a superrich, luscious style of Merlot here, one with an exceptionally smooth mingling of black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors.
2002 Botella Pinot Noir ($25) The "sea smoke"marine fogis a decisive factor at Bob Davids' vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County, arriving each afternoon to cool the grapes, allowing them to linger on the vine, producing robust, round, vividly fruity Pinots like this standout.
A. J. ADAM
2002 Dhronhofberger Tholey Riesling Spätlese ($40) At just 24 years old, Christian Adam is still a kid finishing up wine school and making wine from a couple of acres in Germany's Mosel regionand already he's turning heads with bottlings like this hefty, mineral-and-tropical-fruit, off-dry Riesling with a soft, juicy vibrancy and a crisp finish.
TENUTA SETTE PONTI
2002 Crognolo ($35) Despite its prime location in the heart of Chianti, the vast Sette Ponti (Seven Bridges) Estate had always sold its grapes to local wineries. That was until the late 1990s, when family scion Antonio Moretti (with the help of Chianti hero Piero Antinori) transformed the operation into a winery, with sensational results. A case in point is this graceful, old-vine- fruit Sangiovese and Merlot blend, with its seamlessly woven flavors of black cherry, wild berry and vanilla.
2002 Fusion V ($37) Perched in South Africa's Polkadraai hills, De Toren has achieved international cult status since Emil and Sonette den Dulk produced their first vintage, in 1999. This Bordeaux-style blend, with its classic flavors of plum, currant and cedar and its refined richness, is a quality wine at a price that has not been seen in Bordeaux since at least the 1988 vintage.
2002 Mestizaje ($15) From Valenica in eastern Spain, this palate-caressing red is a blend of the local specialtythe sappy, fruit-sweet, big-bodied Bobal grapeplus five others. Mustiguillo's version, with its polished and seductive texture, pushes Bobal to its limit. Give the wine time in the decanter to unfold.
2002 Promis ($42) In 1996 Northern Italian wine icon Angelo Gaja joined the wave of high-end producers who were settling the Tuscan coast, erecting an architecturally quirky, technologically cutting-edge winery. This third edition of Promis, a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese, is young but already silky, with hints of sweet spice, olives and mildly tart cherries.
LAVRADORES DE FEITORIA
2001 Grande Escolha ($55) One of Port wine's young Turks, Dirk Niepoort has turned his sure touch to table wines, marshaling a group of small growers (lavradores) to produce this exotically perfumed red from 60-year-old vines of Portuguese field-mix grapes such as Touriga Nacional.
2002 Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz ($55) Domenic Torzi and Tracy Matthews didn't have much competition for the run-down property they coveted in Australia's Eden Valley: Killing frosts meant no wine had been made there since the early 1900s. They managed to overcome the problem, giving this first vintage of their muscular but beautifully restrained Shiraz extra depth by drying the grapes on racks, Italian Amarone-style, before crushing them.
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Clone No. 4 ($75) Longtime Beringer executive Tor Kenward and his wife, Susan, produce small quantities of wine the way they always wanted to: buying grapes from top Napa vineyards, neither fining nor filtering the wines and using only yeasts that occur naturally on the grapes. No. 4, from an old, Bordeaux-derived clone of Cabernet, is exuberantly ripe, with layers of plum, smoky oak and bright black currant.
BETTS & SCHOLL
2001 Grenache ($24) Aspen-based sommelier Richard Betts and venture capitalist Dennis Scholl fulfilled their dream of producing a supple, rich-but-balanced Grenache wine with this South Australian, their first bottling, from cult wine maker Chris Ringland.