Maybe it’s all the rain Southern Cal has been experiencing recently? Or, perhaps it’s just the cold? Don’t know exactly why but I’ve been obsessing over island wines lately. If you want to put a little sunshine in your glass, try some of these favorite island wines of mine:
Wailheke, New Zealand
Located just a few hours by ferry from Auckland, this island (in addition to making some great wines) is a very romantic spot. The star of the viticultural show is Te Whau winery’s “The Point.” Only 1,000 cases of this killer Bordeaux blend is made. The price is about $100 a bottle, but it could seriously compete with the Grand Cru Chateaux which sell for several times this price.
Rugged and dry, the soils and microclimate of this island are perfect for growing grapes. While water and fertile soils are needed for table grapes, an inhospitable environment such as Sardenia is the perfect situation for creating complexity (vines are forced to seek water and nutrients deep down in the soil). The whites are the stars of the island’s show and Vermentino is the rock-star grape. We buy cases each year of Argiolas’ Vermentino to serve guests poolside. At about $15 a bottle, the well-priced sips of this one will make you swear you’re on the beach!
If you’ve been to Santorini, you know it’s a big OMG kind of place. If you haven’t been, put it on your bucket list as this place is high on the Richter scale for spectacular beauty. Created from a cataclysmic volcanic eruption a few thousand years ago, the island’s lava-based soil makes some of the world’s most interesting mineral-laced wines. Gaia is a producer not to miss.
Palma de Mallorca's airport is one of the busiest in all of Europe with nearly 20 million visitors annually. Because of this, most of its wine, unfortunately, never makes it off the island. That being said, if you’re visiting Barcelona, take a 30 minute flight to this dreamy place (from Madrid, it’s an hour flight). Highly recommend Bodega Biniagual and Bodega Binigrau, located in the center of the island in the DOC district of Binissalem. These boutique producers are among the best on the island.
Gran Canaria & Lanzarote, Spain
These two islands are located just off the coast of Morocco. This June Wine-Knows is taking its first group to the Canaries. The islands’ volcanic soils create some very interesting mineral flavors in their wines, but it’s not just about the minerality. The island’s abundant sunshine also add enticing tropical fruit flavors to the whites. If you can find El Grifo or Los Bermjos, they’re fab. Olé!
After the Canaries, the group of Wine-Knows will be heading to Madeira. While many think of the aged & fortified Madeira, this volcanic island is now producing some very good table wines. Like the Canaries and Santorini, Madeira’s mineral-rich volcanic soils translate into very interesting wine. These soils are quite well drained (necessary for creating the best wines) and there is little water (thus, roots have to search deep into the earth for hydration---bringing up with the water interesting flavors from the deep soils). Best for table wines is Quinta do Moledo or Roca Branca, both made by the island’s rock-star winemaker Joao Mendes.
We spent a week on Corsica a few years ago. An overnight ferry’s ride from Marseille (or a few hours boat ride from Italy’s Tuscan coast), this gem offers a perfect getaway from the maddening crowds of the French Riviera, as well as Tuscany’s hoards. It also offers wonderful wines, especially Vermentino. While Americans haven’t really discovered Corsican wines yet, the French have. One of the French Bibles of wine recently dubbed Corsica as the “most exciting wine region in France.” Look for producers Arena or Leccia.