There’s never been a better time to drink outside of your comfort zone. If you’re starting to get into wine, the worst thing to do is let yourself be in a rut—always drinking French wine, or only red, or Southern Hemisphere strictly. It’s important to branch out and discover lesser-known regions, not just because you’ll experience new flavors and styles but also because there are some incredible values out there. We checked in with knowledgeable sommeliers around the country for tips on which under-the-radar wine regions the curious drinker should be seeking out.
Why: Just twenty years ago, South Africa was emerging from the economic embargo imposed upon it during the oppressive apartheid regime. The wine industry has made dramatic strides since then to produce tasty juice that reflects South Africa’s unique climate—fairly hot, with cooling winds. “In some two decades, South African winemakers have gone from isolated to some of the most connected movers and shakers,” says James Tidwell, a master sommelier based in Texas, and a huge champion of South African wines. He cites a group of rebellious winemakers known as the Swartland Independent Producers as trendsetting freethinkers who “took what was known as a bulk wine–producing region to the top ranks of South African wine.” Syrah and chenin blanc from the Swartland are notably delicious, and often come from older vines, which deliver minerality and concentration. In the cool-climate regions of Elgin and Hemel-en-Aarde, you’ll discover elegant pinot noir and chardonnay that any Burgundy drinker will love.