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International Wine Destinations You Need to Visit Now… According to Somms

With so many amazing wine regions across the globe, picking one can be tough, even for wine insiders. Who better to ask about the coolest places and best sipping spots than professional wine sommeliers?

Four wine pros share their favorite international wine destinations and why you need to visit…

Ashley Hausman

Ashley Hausman is a Master of Wine whose work in wine takes her from Napa to France, and Oregon to Minnesota, where she teaches wine courses, writes articles and has an upcoming book. When she isn’t writing or selling wine, she works amongst the vines making wine.

Ashley Hausman
Ashley Hausman, Master of Wine

What is your favorite international wine region – right now – and why? 

It really depends on the day. But, for winter, I have really been gravitating towards alpine reds and whites – particularly those from the Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina. These reds offer warmth and rusticity while maintaining laser beam acid, pure red-fruited flavors, mineral backbone, and a clean dry finish. They are exceedingly food-friendly and excellent with a chill. 

What is it about the region that you enjoy?

I was drawn to Colorado for its mountains and lived there for many years. In the same way, there is nothing quite so breathtaking as the European alps. Further, the old pergola trellising in the Aosta and the intensely steep slopes of Valtellina only add to the drama. It’s truly a work of art on these slopes. 

What is your favorite wine from this region (brand or style)?

I am incredibly biased, but I love the wines of Ottin and Grosjean in the Aosta, and I adore the wines of Sandro Fay in Valtellina. So much soul and beauty to these wines. I love making homemade roman meatballs over polenta to pair with these wines. Or, my favorite: cacio e pepe.

What undiscovered or emerging international wine region deserves our attention now?

I think there is a reason some of the greatest creativity is being born in some of the cooler pockets throughout the world  – Patagonia in Argentina, Tasmania, the Niagara Peninsula in Canada, the UK, Styria in Austria, and even areas on the cooler margins of warmer climates such as the Sierra de Gredos in Madrid. These areas attract winemakers who want to play with freshness and acidity. There is not as strict a script as to what wine needs to be. They are not bogged down by as many rules or tradition. 


Doug Frost

Doug Frost is one of only four wine professionals with the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier credentials. He is a book author, winemaker, judge, and much sought-after wine consultant with his company, Winery Exchange. In his words, he is El Presidente at Strong Water. 

What is your favorite international wine region – right now – and why? 

Impossible to choose one, but Tasmania is making special wines. So is Patagonia (in both Chile and Argentina). I was in Beaujolais and the northern Rhone in August and I want to go back. The wines can be stunning. I need to get back to Sicily, especially around Mt. Etna.

What is it about the region that you enjoy?

The quality of wines in the northern Rhone is at its greatest level in years. Sicily was, not so long ago, a place with only a few high-quality wineries; today there are numerous producers focused upon excellence. It doesn’t hurt that the prices are quite reasonable.

What is your favorite wine from this region (brand or style)?

I need some more Cote Rotie. Yes, I do.

People often misjudge Cote Rotie; it is an elegant, complex wine that wants foods that do not try to overwhelm it. Think grilled chicken. If you do visit northern Rhone, my favorite restaurant to visit is Anne-Sophie Pic.

What undiscovered or emerging international wine region deserves our attention now?

Greece’s Peloponnese has tremendous wines. It is an amazing place to visit. Go there.


Tonya Pitts

Tonya Pitts is a wine industry change-maker with her wine consulting firm. Earlier this year, Wine Enthusiast crowned her Sommelier of the Year. For her day job, she serves as Sommelier and Wine Director at One Market Restaurant in San Francisco. Additionally, she is a wine judge, educator, writer, speaker and mentor to many up-and-coming wine professionals. 

Tonya Pitts Sommelier
Tonya Pitts, Photo shared by One Market Restaurant in San Francisco

What is your favorite international wine region – right now – and why? 

I call it going back to my roots. As a young sommelier and hospitality person, I was exposed to wines of the old world. One place, in particular, keeps coming back to me as an everyday, all-day anytime region. It’s the Loire Valley. There are so many variations in texture, flavor, and intensity. There is something for everyone.

What is it about the region that you enjoy?

I love that it has a high-low attitude about wine drinking- meaning it’s accessible anytime for any occasion. The price points vary to everyday drinking to age-able and different flavor profiles. It meets the wine drinker where their palate is currently located. There is something for everyone. Also, the wines can be sustainable, organic or biodynamic. There is a responsibility to the land and how things are grown.

What is your favorite wine from this region (brand or style)?

This is a tough one, I love Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc. One of the most forgotten about regions is Muscadet. This grape is Melon de Bourgogne. It has great aromatics, clean, fresh, and can be mouthwatering. And, it’s great to pair with fresh oysters and fried clams or smelts.

What undiscovered or emerging international wine region deserves our attention now?

Portugal is beautiful. The wines are delicious and there is lots of history and culture in the country. There is so much to learn and so many wonderful sights to take in. They have incredible beaches and the vineyards can be rustic and beautiful. 


Kevin Day

Kevin Day is an award-winning wine journalist based in Colorado. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Opening a Bottle Magazine. He focuses on wine and wine travel, particularly Italian wine. He helms his own content strategy firm using his background as a consultant. He is also a wine educator. 

What is your favorite international wine region – right now – and why? 

Piedmont. No question.

What is your favorite wine from this region (brand or style)?

Where to begin? For one, no other place on earth combines the wide spectrum of variety from local grapes plus a high degree of quality quite like Piedmont. It’s not just Barolo and Barbaresco. It’s Carema and Erbaluce di Caluso. It’s Colli Tortonesi and its Timorasso. It’s Gattinara and Brattimera, and Barbera d’Asti and Freisa. It’s endlessly fascinating, and surrounded on three sides by towering mountains, with some of the most refined cuisines in Italy. 

What is your favorite wine from this region (brand or style)?

I’d get into trouble picking just one. To use a baseball term, Barolo has the highest “batting average” of any wine region in Italy, but I love Barbaresco equally. These are wines that shift shape and reveal all sorts of intricacies if you have the patience and time to survey them. I just wrote about this, but I think consumers can fair very well with the classic blends instead of the single-vineyard wines. Just as refined, and often half the price.

That said, I am also currently swooning over the wines of Ferrando in Erbaluce di Caluso and Carema.

It’s cliche to say white truffles with Barolo, but then again, it is not of this world. A culinary pairing that exceeds the hype. But they also love sage-butter pasta in Piedmont, which complements Erbaluce di Caluso quite nicely.

If you visit Piedmont, try to visit More + Macine in La Morra. Its a bit raucous, its a bit thrown-together, but its food is refined and the wine list is extensive.

What undiscovered or emerging international wine region deserves our attention now?

Slovenia. I barely know it, but every encounter has raised my eyebrows a bit.

One top wine pro I know visits his favorite region Friuli Venezia Giulia often because “it is the area that gave us Vini Macerati, it is the region that is very diverse and historically has been very diverse.” However, he has his eye on Slovenia now as well. “I think the wines of the whole country of Slovenia are very exciting right now. I think that was a country that had great vineyards and a great culture for so long, but Communism is a very tough thing for quality and the fact that it was under communism under Tito and is now emerging out of that is very exciting.” He went on to note that “while I’m very excited to discuss emerging and undiscovered wine regions, emerging and undiscovered regions are very exciting, but we shouldn’t turn our back on the things that are really great.”

Simone Spinner

Simone FM Spinner, CWS MH

Simone FM Spinner is a wine writer, consultant, judge, speaker, and published author. She is a certified sommelier with 13 advanced wine certifications, a bachelor’s and master’s degree in wine studies, and is pursuing her doctorate researching wine, climate change, and legacy. She is the Women of the Vine & Spirits 2020 WSET Diploma scholar.