Erin Doman on September 25, 2015 4 Comments Unlike other beverages, the unique thing about wines is that they draw a massive influence from the geographic area where the grapes are cultivated. The impact of factors like soil content, altitude and climate mean that a Chardonnay from one country will taste completely different when compared to an offering from vineyards on the other side of the world. With so much diversity in the industry, why do so many people limit themselves to products from California, France and Italy? To help you break out of that rut, here are eight obscure wine-producing regions that deserve your attention. 1. Wines of the Niagara Peninsula Nestled along the shores of Lake Ontario, this region is the largest and most diverse grape production area of Canada. While it may seem like Americas neighbor to the north might not have a climate that’s favorable to wine production, the lake’s deep waters hold the summer heat until late in the fall, which extends the growing season. Once winter sets in, the same effect keeps temperatures cool enough to prevent early spring warming from causing buds to form before the danger of overnight frost has passed. Soil conditions vary from sedimentary rock to clay and sand. This helps with the cultivation of diverse cold weather grape varietals such as Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Gamay Noir. 2. Wines of Michigan Drawing upon some of the same aspects of the Niagara Peninsula’s terroir, Michigan’s small wine industry is primed for expansion over the next decade. Situated along the same latitude lines as famous European regions — places like Bordeaux, Piedmont and the Rhone Valley — this Upper Midwest state produces more than 50 different grape varietals. Visitors who are after a more traditional experience can enjoy wines made from classic European Vinifera grapes such as Chardonnay, Riesling or Pinot Noir. For a more diverse sip, consider trying one of the hybrid varieties like Vidal, Vignoles or Chambourcin. 3. Wines of the Texas Hill Country Texas may be known for its beef and barbecue, but it is steadily gaining acclaim for the Hill Country’s booming wine industry. The toasty climate and limestone soil of the state’s central and southern areas are perfect for the cultivation of traditional warm weather grape varieties, which means ample supplies of classic flavors like Sangiovese, Syrah and Grenache. While the Lone Star State’s reputation for quality vineyards may be understated, the popularity of the region has grown to the point where it trails only Napa Valley on the list of most-visited winery destinations in the United States. 4. Wines of Moldova This tiny state in Eastern Europe is proof that great things can come in small packages. With a total area of 13,000 square miles between Romania and Ukraine, the concentration of wineries in such a small space makes this former Soviet republic the most vineyard-dense nation in the world. The microclimates of Moldova make for a diverse crop of warm weather grapes, such as Cabernet and Pinot Noir in the south, and delightful whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in the central part of the country. For a purely Moldovan experience, try one of the indigenous varietals, such as the fruity Rara Neagra. 5. Wines of the Canary Islands While technically part of Spanish territory, this chain of seven small islands sits a mere 60 miles off the southern coast of Morocco. The black soil created by years of accumulated volcanic ash is rich in minerals, which makes it a perfect medium for 30 indigenous grape varietals, like Malvasia and Listan Negro, to flourish. Each of the different land masses has its own specific nutrient content and climate, which makes for a wide diversity of flavors from one island to the next. Wines from this region were said to be the favorites of luminaries like Shakespeare, Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson. 6. Wines of Mexico Tequila may be the most widely recognized of the Mexican beverage portfolio, but that title is being challenged by some of the wineries in the northern part of Baja California, Mexico. If you were to look at a picture of the Guadalupe Valley region, you might think that you were looking at one of the famous West Coast wine-producing valleys like Napa or Sonoma, and the similarities don’t end there. The climate of this area mimics the regions of Mexico’s neighbor to the north, which means that conditions are ideal for red varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. If you prefer drinking chilled wines, you can expect to find Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier as representatives from the white side of the spectrum. 7. Wines of Lebanon The Beqaa Valley in Lebanon is actually one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world, with evidence dating 5,000 years back to the Phoenicians. Situated on a plateau that sits nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, the climate is ideal for cultivating classic grapes like Cabernet and Merlot. These grapes reflect the French influence on the area. On the fruitier side of the wine spectrum, it’s not uncommon to see Muscat and Viognier. Inspiration from France aside, indigenous crops include the more uncommon Merwah, Arinarnoa and Obeideh. 8. Wines of Hungary If white wines are your beverage of choice, you should look no further than the Tokaj region of Hungary. The volcanic soil of this former Eastern Bloc nation provides a growth medium rich with minerals that is ideal for dessert wine grapevines. These indigenous dessert wine grapes are almost synonymous with this area of Europe. The classic offerings are Hárslevelü and sweet Furmint, but a dry version of the latter is gaining popularity as a local answer to Chardonnay. Now that you know a bit more about these lesser-known wine producing areas of the world, maybe you’ll have a greater appreciation of their unique offerings. With the massive number of regions where grapes can be cultivated, you might be missing something great if you limit yourself to the traditional powerhouse countries that dominate the shelves at your local liquor store. While those bottles are surely full of high-quality vintages, small vineyards in more obscure sections of the globe might be hiding a tremendous surprise that’s just waiting for your discovery.