In the vast world of wine there are some standout venues, writes Sarah Knowles

In thinking of just four wine regions I love to visit as a commercial buyer, it was almost impossible to whittle down my list. I would have loved to include the classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja, Rhone, Mosel and Tuscany. I also omitted any of the South African, Chilean and Argentinean regions that are home to some of the most dramatic wine lands in the world. And the fires in Sonoma removed that region from the list. However, I thought that these four recently visited regions really were fantastic to sip around ...

ALTO ADIGE

This is a fairytale Italian alpine region bordering Austria and Switzerland. With spectacular mountains, steeply terraced vineyards and picturesque castle-strewn villages this is a wonderful region to visit. Also known as Sudtirol this region produces stunning crisp aromatic white wines from sauvignon, pinot bianco and pinot gris. Indigenous red variety schiava makes lovely light cherry-scented, easy-drinking wines whereas lagrein can make deep, complex and cellar-worthy reds. There is an increasing focus on pinot noir as the mountain slopes are explored.

DOURO

This traditional Portuguese region has been designated as an Unesco world heritage site and it is so remarkably beautiful. The historic stonewalled terraces fall dramatically into the Douro River where barges still transport people and goods to the sea. Aside from the beauty of this region, the specialist fortified wines — ports — really offer remarkable value. Made in many styles, the best can be unbelievably intense, rich and expressive and can age for decades. I am also pretty partial to a white port and tonic — a great aperitif simple to make and easy to slip down.

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Sarah Knowles.
Sarah Knowles.

CENTRAL OTAGO

Flying into Queenstown is always a bit of a thrill. A wine region dominated by snow-capped, brutal mountains and deep blue glass-like lakes, it really is one of the world's most dramatically beautiful wine regions. The fact that it is now also making world-class pinots is a wonderful bonus. Perfumed, elegant, poised and concentrated the best examples can cellar well. Wonderful chardonnays and rieslings are also produced across the region and gaining in reputation.

MARGARET RIVER

A region that makes some of my favourite styles of wine — age-worthy, fruitcake and spice-laden cabernet merlot blends and rich or reductive always complex chardonnays. Despite being packed full of superstar wineries there is a laidback feeling and cellar doors are welcoming and home to some wonderful chefs too. Margaret River was also where I first witnessed the iconic Aussie image of a kangaroo bounding down a line of vines - tourist gold.

Sarah Knowles MW is an international judge at this year's Air New Zealand Wine Awards.


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