The world’s wine regions are not only about the grape but also about culture, history, and scenery – offering enough diversity for all wine lovers on their wine-oriented vacation. Grapes for the production of wine usually grow in moderately temperate climatic regions.
As good fortune has it, the best wine and vineyards vacations can be a combination of not only visits to wineries but also with some very interesting non-wine attractions and activities. So, let’s look at 8 different countries covering both the northern and southern hemispheres.
The Burgundy region excels in both red and white wines with 33 vineyards producing Grand Cru wines. Dijon, the capital city is a good base for touring. Beaune is also an excellent place to use as a base plus there are several mediaeval towns to visit on a France vacation.
Bordeaux has been a very important wine exporter for centuries. The beautiful city of Bordeaux is not only extremely convenient for excursions into the wine-producing areas but is also a historical city which has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. View one of our recommended travel packages to Bordeaux below.
The Loire Valley, the third-largest wine-producing region in France, is only one hour by train away from Paris. On a France vacation, there are 300 superb chateaux in the Loire Valley. Many of which are open to the public. There are also a number of superb mediaeval towns and cities to visit.
The Champagne region is where many of the best-known types of champagne are produced such as Mumm, Bollinger etc. Reims is the largest city in the region and home to the headquarters of Taittingers and Moet et Chandon. Here you can visit the 13th Century Notre Dame cathedral, and the Palais du Tau, where Princes stayed before their coronations. Epernay is the real centre of the champagne industry with many wineries, most of which offer tours and tastings.
Because of its proximity to Germany, some of the Alsace wines are similar in variety. The white wines include Riesling, Pinot Gris, and the spicy Gewurztraminer. Strasbourg is the European capital and its centre has been awarded a UNESCO World Heritage listing with its attractive streets and buildings.
On your next France vacation, sample the nectar of the gods combined with some of the best of French culture.
If you study a map of Italy, you will recognize immediately familiar regional names such as Tuscany, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, etc. You will also see that practically the whole of the country’s regions produce wine.
Tuscany has to be the most renowned wine region of Italy. Its wines are known worldwide from dry whites to full-bodied reds. Visitors to Tuscany can take organized day wine tours from Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, and Lucca. The region offers mountainous landscapes, outstanding architecture, fascinating mediaeval hill towns, and an attractive coastline.
Italy’s next best-known wine-producing province is the Piedmont region. There are literally hundreds of wineries in Piedmont and most welcome visitors for tours and tastings. Piedmont is surrounded on three sides by the Alps and is known for its lakes, mountain scenery, mediaeval castles, and palaces.
Veneto is a relatively small wine-producing region but an excellent place to combine wineries with exceptional cities such as Venice, Verona, and Padua. Well-known wines which come from this region are Valpolicella, Amarone, Soave, Bardolino, and many people’s favourite sparkling wine, Prosecco.
There are so many other wine-producing regions in Italy. You might consider Lazio which is close to Rome, Lombardy which offers proximity to Milan and the Italian lakes, Sicily and Sardinia, all excelling in wine production.
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German wine is primarily produced in the west along the River Rhine and its tributaries. Approximately 60 per cent of German wine production is from the Rhineland-Palatinate, where 6 of the 13 regions for quality wine are located. Germany offers the world's most elegant and aromatically pure white wines While mainly a white wine country, red wine, although less in volume is readily available. German wine regions are in some of the most northerly in the world. The wines are all produced around rivers often sheltered by mountains. These rivers have microclimates that moderate the temperature. The vineyards are extremely small compared to many other wine-producing countries but quality is the key.
This region offers wonderful Germany vacations. One of the most beautiful cities on travel to Germany is Heidelberg, attractively situated on the River Neckar. It has Germany’s oldest and most famous university., its Aldstadt (Old Town) with unspoilt mediaeval architecture, old churches and a large selection of shops, cafes and restaurants. The Black Forest is a large forested mountain range, its name derived from its dark-covered evergreen hills. Baden-Baden, the spa town, which has been a perennial favourite since the 19th Century, is blessed with a mild climate and numerous hot springs.
Probably Europe’s best-known river, the Rhine is one of the most popular on which to embark on European river cruises. Along its banks are outstanding fortresses, romantic castles and ancient homes. As you sail along the river, you will pass countless vineyards and you can visit charming and quaint historic towns such as Rudesheim, Bingen and Koblenz as well as large and interesting cities such as Bonn and Cologne.
Spain can compete with France and Italy when it comes to quality wines. There are many wine-producing regions spread out over the country. Two of the most important are The Rioja region and the Jerez region. Rioja is located in the north-central area of the country which has a rich history having been invaded by the Phoenicians Romans, Moors and the Crusaders. Ancient sites of Roman wineries still exist in and around the area today. Not far from the Rioja region is San Sebastian, a stunning and sophisticated, Internationally-renowned city and resort in the Basque region of Spain. It has one of the best beaches in Europe, ideal on trips to Spain. It is also known as the culinary capital of Spain with around 30 Michelin-rated restaurants.
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Sherry, of course, is synonymous with Spain. This fortified wine is produced in the far south-west corner of the country in Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria. Sherry has been produced in a range of styles since the 1600s. When considering a visit to Jerez, you are not too far from Andalusia, a unique region in Spain like no other. Three cities worth visiting individually are Granada, Seville, and Cordoba. Visiting these cities on Spain tours is like taking a stroll through history. Even closer is the Costa del Sol with resorts varying from touristy to quaint. The region has the highest concentration of world-class golf courses in Spain – more than 60. Marbella is probably the best-known resort on the Costa del Sol due to its reputation for elegance and style.
Once again, this country has many wine-producing regions. However, the following are not only the better-known but also give the opportunity to visit interesting places on a Portugal vacation.
The Douro Valley Portugal's most famous wine region is where Port is produced. The beverage is fermented in this region and then sent to mature in the city of Porto. 100 kilometres/62 miles away. A UNESCO World Heritage site in Porto is the picturesque riverfront promenade, Cais da Ribeira, which features houses located in mediaeval narrow streets and comes to life in the evening when the numerous cafes, bars and restaurants are at their busiest. Across the river from Porto is Vila Nova de Gaia with more than 20 port-wine lodges open for tours and tastings. You can select from a huge port wine list and sip a glass on a terrace with stunning views of the city of Porto.
Sebutal is situated across the Tagus River from Lisbon. The region, famous for its Moscatel wine, produces fortified sweet wines and exportable reds and dry whites. And Lisbon is a city to keep you enchanted and occupied for any length of time. The city is built on seven hills, one of which is the quaint Alfama district where Fado (the haunting folk music of Portugal) grew up.
The Alentejo wine region covers one-third of Portugal. It is also noted for its large cork production. Some producers of this region still make wine in great potteries as in Roman times. If visiting this region, it is essential to travel to Evora, one of the most beautiful and charming mediaeval towns in Portugal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its well-preserved old town centre partially enclosed by medieval 14th Century walls.
Australia’sclimate and soil offer the ability to produce exceptional wines. There are 60 designated wine regions. Here are a few to consider.
The Barossa Valley, about an hour’s drive north of Adelaide in South Australia is Australia’s best-known wine region with over 50 wineries. At most wineries, you can sample and purchase the wines produced and, in many cases, enjoy lunch or dinner. The Barossa Valley is an attractively scenic region. There are 3 major towns, each with its own individual characteristics - Tanunda, the most German-influenced, Angaston, more English and also home to some of the Barossa’s best food and Nuriootpa with German and English influences.
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The Hunter Valley in New South Wales enjoys a warm climate and lovely scenery together with world-renowned vineyards. Also here, one can play golf, visit spa and health resorts, go camping, hiking, fishing, hot-air ballooning, take scenic flights, and visit botanical gardens. The wineries are concentrated in the Lower Hunter Valley where, of around 50 wineries, most are open to the public for both wine tasting and purchases. The Hunter Valley is renowned for its fine dining with an abundance of excellent restaurants to choose from.
The Yarra Valley in Victoria has around 160 wineries producing high-quality chardonnay, pinot noir, and sparkling wine. You can take a Wine Flight, with both feet on the ground. This consists of tasting multiple wines while touring the region. In the Yarra Valley are several vantage points to enjoy panoramic views of the area including, on a clear day, Melbourne and spectacular views of the Victorian Alps.
7. New Zealand
New Zealand has, in total, 11 wine-producing regions. the best-known New Zealand wine region is Marlborough in the northeast of the South Island which produces 77% of all wine production and also, an excellent Sauvignon Blanc. The attractive vineyards lie beneath towering mountain ranges to the north and south. There are many local attractions and activities to keep you occupied. Outdoor activities include hiking on the scenic 70 kilometre/45-mile Queen Charlotte Track, scuba diving in the Marlborough Sounds and kayaking on the Queen Charlotte Sound. Less active attractions can include a visit to the wildlife centre, and the aquarium in and close to Picton and a cruise on the Marlborough Sounds
Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second-largest and oldest wine-producing region. It is located on the eastern shore of the North Island. The climate and soil here are conducive to producing a wider range of grape varieties producing both excellent red and white wines. From Napier, you can take in the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail tour and enjoy visits to wineries plus experience stunning scenery and beautiful forest parks. Napier is one of the country’s most attractive cities partly because it possesses some totally unique Art Deco architecture.
Gisborne is a city on the east coast of the North Island known for its wineries. Chardonnay is produced by around half of Gisborne's vineyards and the region is known as the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand. It is also famous for its beaches, beautiful coastline and densely forested mountain parks. You can visit the Tairawhiti Museum with its exhibits of indigenous and colonial history Wyllie Cottage, an early European house, Titirangi Reserve which has lookouts and a monument to explorer James Cook. The National Arboretum of New Zealand is located just north of Gisborne and known for being the largest showcase of Northern Hemisphere trees south of the equator.
8. South Africa
South Africa is certainly known for its wine and therefore, the Cape Winelands, approximately 40 kilometres/25 miles away from Cape Town, is ideal for visits to wineries The region is a collection of historic towns and Cape Dutch farmsteads that produce excellent wines known worldwide to be enjoyed on South Africa tours. The main centres are Stellenbosch, a charming old university town and the second-oldest town in South Africa, Paarl with its beautifully restored Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian buildings and Franschhoek in one of the most beautiful valleys of the region. The latter has a wonderful collection of art and antique shops and galleries. In all of these, you will have world-class wineries that offer tours of their vineyards as well as tastings. You can easily reach the Cape Winelands from Cape Town. You should start your South Africa vacation here and spend several nights in this city. Highlights include Table Mountain dominating the city skyline with fantastic views of Cape Town, Robben Island famous because the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned there for 18 of the 27 years he served behind bars, the Cape of Good Hope where the currents of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet and Boulders Beach to watch the colony of African penguins which makes its home on the beach in the town centre.
If you head east from the Cape Winelands, you will arrive at the Garden Route, a beautiful stretch of coastal scenery and South Africa’s “Garden of Eden” It stretches along the coast for 300 kilometres/185 miles from roughly Mossel Bay in the west to Plettenberg Bay in the east with exceptional scenic coastline, excellent beaches picturesque lakes and lagoons, ancient indigenous dense forests, dramatic ravines, deep gorges, and abundant wildlife. The main centres are George, The Wilderness, and Knysna. Tsitsikamma National Park is a coastal reserve known for its indigenous forests, dramatic coastline, deep canyons, and wildlife sanctuaries.
So, what could be more enjoyable than indulging in one of life’s pleasures, wine and combining it with some of the world’s most interesting and varied destinations.
3 Feb 2020, 5:52 p.m.