While the wine regions of Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Tuscany may dominate the world of red wine, there exist lesser-known wine regions that are hidden gems for those looking to maintain quality at approachable prices. For me and the SAVI Somm team, we explore a number of regions, but Chile’s Central Valley, Spain’s Priorat and Italy’s Puglia are my top three for obtaining quality and character without the fine wine price tags.
1. Chile’s Central Valley
Nestled between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Chile’s Central Valley is an abundant land of wine diversity and unique character. Luckily Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere both grow well in this area, thus “scratching the itch” for California big red wine drinkers and surprising many for its affordability. Somm Pick – Clos Apalta ‘Le Petit Clos’.
Blended from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and other Bordeaux varietals, this wine is elegant yet weighty enough with a ripe blackberry and macerated plum profile, elegant tannins and a long persistent finish. Don’t believe me, check out awards and press this label routinely.
2. Spain’s Priorat
Spain’s Priorat is an enological gem hidden within Catalonia’s rugged landscape. The region’s unique and steep terroir, featuring slate-rich hillside soils, consistently yields red wines of exceptional character and revered complexity. Grenache and Carignan are the prominent grape varieties, producing powerful full-bodied wines with notes of dark fruit, licorice and earthiness. But because this region remains relatively undiscovered, it also offers a sense of exclusivity to those who venture into the cellars of talented winemakers, like Eric Solomon’s project called Black Slate. Somm Pick – Black Slate Escaladei is a blend of Grenache and ~20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Carignan. Because this village lies in the foothills of the Montsant mountains, the Escaladei label stands out among its Black Slate siblings as the most elegant of the lineup. Open a bottle and enjoy ripe fruit leaning more towards red fruit, high-toned minerality and clever spiciness from vines up to 100 years old.
3. Puglia, Italy (Birthplace of Mama Savi)
Puglia, Italy, is an often-overlooked red wine paradise. Producing the varietals of Primitivo and Negroamaro, the region’s signature wines offer robust and characterful wines that are both delicious and budget-friendly. Primitivo, akin to what we know as Zinfandel, bursts with dark fruit flavors and a spicy zing which many winelovers crave. But the best part is the ability of Puglia’s red wines to offer extraordinary value without sacrificing quality. Somm Pick – Cantele ‘Amativo,’ a blend of Primitivo & Negroamaro. This wine boasts ruby red in color, subtle aromas of violet hidden behind wild red berry fruit, dried fig, currant preserves and elegant vanilla. The same aromatic equilibrium reappears in the mouth, accompanied by the rich mouthfeel and balanced tannins…giving the finish its distinctive imprint.
So be an adventurous wine enthusiast and put these three red wine regions on your must-try list to uncork a bottle that’s bound to leave a lasting impression.
Ty Raju, Certified Sommelier
BENE HG Wine Director