Top 10 wine spots, none in U.S.

I realize that, on the world stage, our homeland isn’t exactly the most popular place right now. Part of it stems from eight years of political buffoonery, and a healthy dose comes from traditional “old world” bias against the United States. Like most of us, I’ve learned to adjust for a touch of this when I read international news coverage. To a certain extent, I understand it … we’re more like France than we realize. But, it’s tough when our country doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

This is especially the case for wine.

In an article detailing the top 10 wine spots in the world, Forbes deemed none in the United States worthy of the list.

1. Castello Banfi, Tuscany, Italy: not an adventurous pick for the top spot
2. Montes, Colchagua Valley, Chile: trying to seem enlightened, succeeds
3. Ken Forrester, Stellenbosch, South Africa: see #2, with the same results
4. Fournier, Mendoza, Argentina: doubling up on South America in the top five? Trying too hard …
5. Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River, Australia: could call for the middle of the pack
6. Felton Road, Central Otago, New Zealand: again with the doubling up …
7. Bodegas Ysios, Rioja, Spain: classic location, should probably be higher
8. Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley, Portugal: this would have been more exciting at #3 or #4
9. Chateau Lynch-Bages, Bordeaux, France: obligatory, but at #9?
10. Peter Jakob Kuhn Oestrich, Rhein/Mosel, Germany: obviously added to the list out of a sense of obligation

And, where are we? No Sonoma? No Napa? Or, a break from the norm with Oregon?

The collection of wine destinations seems to a certain extent like a Little League awards banquet. No country is on the list twice, giving the impression that the reporter sought to dish out as many trophies as possible. The wide reach, of course, makes those absent even more evident.

As you can see, the list is more likely the result of a careful analysis of balancing out different regions and meeting reader expectations than it is a genuine reflection on the most interesting wine destinations in the world.

This is why I hate “listicles”: they have less to do with the content than they do with managing perception. Blech.

South Africa on the Cheap

Earlier this week we learned how 2009 is shaping up to be the most affordable year to visit Africa ever and now it seems the New York Times agrees, saying that Cape Town has plenty of bargains to offer travelers willing to make the trip.

Cape Town, South Africa is amongst the more unique and interesting cities in the world. The city of 3.5 million people is a thriving modern metropolis, surrounded by some outstanding natural wonders, with amazing beaches, rolling hills, and sheer rocky cliffs making a dramatic backdrop along the city’s horizon. The region is also known for some of the best wines anywhere in the world, and of course, you can’t go to South Africa without taking in a safari.

The impact of the global economic condition on the South African currency is one of the major reasons it is now a more affordable place to visit. The value of the rand versus the American dollar is at its lowest point in more than five years, and inflation has caused prices to go up when paying in rands but down when using dollars, resulting in some excellent deals on hotels and meals.

The article recommends some of the better places to stay and eat, as well as what to see and do while in Cape Town. But the Times also has an excellent travel guide with even more great suggestions. The city is a great mix of culture and cuisine, with access to plenty of nearby outdoor adventures as well.

With the cheap airfares to Africa, and the strong dollar compared to the local currency, we’re all running out of excuses as to why we shouldn’t go!