Food & Wine's Ray Isle reports on five inspiring zones.
"New" wine regions are rarely all that new. What's more common is that a region that's been over-looked in the past, or that has long been known for unexceptional plonk, undergoes a kind of vinous renaissance and starts producing extraordinary wines. Here are five places in the world that are quickly becoming need-to-know names for great wine.
1. Roussillon, France
The vast Languedoc-Roussillon region has long been known for affordable reds and whites produced in enormous quantities. Now, though, some of the Languedoc's sub-regions are producing much more ambitious wines, chief among them the Catalan region of Roussillon, just above the Spanish border. Grenache is the primary grape here (though most of the wines are blends), making juicy, complex, cherry-inflected reds such as the minerally 2003 Coume del Mas Schistes and the spicy 2005 Du Clos des Fées Les Sorcières.
2. Jumilla, Spain
The arid, sunbaked plains of Jumilla, inland from Spain's southeastern Mediterranean coast, have shown in recent years that they are home to a great, essentially untapped wine resource: thousands of acres of old Monastrell vines. Monastrell, also known as Mourvèdre, produces dark, rich, powerful reds with plum and berry flavors and big, soft tannins. Some of the most appealing are also remarka-bly affordable, such as the juicy 2005 Finca Luzon Verde and the blackberry-rich 2006 Carchelo Monastrell.
3. Campania, Italy
Another southern-European region that's undergone a renaissance in recent years is Campania, the area surrounding Naples on Italy's Tyrrhenian coast. Though not as fiercely hot as Jumilla, this is still warm-climate grape-growing, and the local Aglianico variety produces firmly tannic, almost tarry redsthe focused 2004 Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato Aglianico and licorice-scented 2005 Viticoltori De Conciliis Donnaluna are good ones to look for. Campania produces terrific whites as well, from local varieties Fiano and Falanghina. Check out the lush 2006 Terredora Dipaolo Falanghina or Luigi Maffini's herbal 2005 Kratos Fiano.
4. Walla Walla Valley, Washington state
In the U.S., the hottest (in buzz, not temperature) up-and-coming wine region is the Walla Walla Valley, in eastern Washington state, at the base of the Blue Mountains. In 1990 only six wineries existed here; now there are more than 60, and vineyard acreage has increased 12-fold. The reason for this growth is Cabernet Sauvignon (and, to some extent, Merlot): Walla Walla produces some of the best American Cabernets, on par with California's Napa Valley. Look for the plummy 2003 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon IX or the cassis-scented 2003 Reininger.
5. Central Otago, New Zealand
Pinot Noir grows best in cool climates, and New Zealand's Central Otago region, on the country's South Island, is the most southerly wine-growing region in the worlda mere 3,000 miles from the South Pole, as the (somewhat chilly) crow flies. Its hillside and lakeshore vineyards and cool, dry climate are ideal for Pinot, as is shown in fragrant, streamlined bottlings like the 2005 Amisfield, full of black-cherry and chocolate notes, and the finely structured, age-worthy 2005 Felton Road.