From California’s Napa Valley to South Africa’s Stellenbosch and Spain’s Rioja, discover 17 regions that all wine lovers should visit.
There’s no better time to hit the wineries then when the grapes have gently ripened and the harvest is in full swing. Starting around mid-September and running until mid-October, it’s an oenophile’s dream. Not only is it a chance to see wine production in action, you’ll also get to experience the vineyards blazing in fall colors. And if you’re not sure where to go, Musement has made a list of 17 wine regions from around the world that are perfect for your next wine tour.
1. Napa Valley, United States
California’s Napa Valley is an ideal place for wine producing due to its warm, Mediterranean climate. Grape vines were first cultivated here in the mid-19th century and today there are already more than 400 vineyards in the valley. The region mainly grows cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay varieties and has been one of the leading wine regions in the world since the 1970s. The combination of tranquility, nature, luxury and wine has made it a hugely popular destination for tourists. We recommend taking the Napa Valley Wine Train to explore this region. Otherwise, if you’re staying in San Francisco, a day excursion with wine tasting is another excellent option.
2. Kakheti, Georgia
Few happen to know that Georgia has a wine history dating back more than 8,000 years, making it arguably the oldest brewer in the world. The main region for wine production is Kakheti, which accounts for 70% of the country’s production. With a woody countryside, vineyards and ancient villages, Kakheti will charm you as much as the wine. If you stay in Tbilisi, the capital (and a popular foodie destination), make a stop at the Georgian National Museum, where you can view archaeological finds that recount more than 8,000 years of wine history. Relics include fragmented jars that were used to store wine from as early as 6th century BCE.
3. Bordeaux, France
The Bordeaux region is undoubtedly one of the most famous wine destinations in the world—and for good reason. From Saint-Emilion to the Route du vin de Bordeaux, this region is the cradle of some of the world’s finest, best-known vintages. Grape vines have been cultivated here since 1st century CE and today there are more than 6,000 wineries that together produce almost 900 million bottles of Bordeaux wine a year. If you want to learn more about the basics of winemaking, don’t miss the Cité du Vin.
4. Stellenbosch, South Africa
Wine has been produced in Stellenbosch since the first Dutch colonists settled in Cape Town in 1659. The high clay content and soils that retain moisture well make the site ideal for red wines. Viticulture has since become a serious passion for the city, and even the university has a department dedicated to viticulture and oenology. There’s also a Wine Academy for enthusiasts who want to take their knowledge to a higher level. Sample some of South Africa’s finest wines in a truly exceptional setting.
5. Douro Valley, Portugal
Lovers of sweet wines may have already heard of this UNESCO World Heritage Listed region in the Douro Valley. Mainly focused on port wines, in recent years it’s started to produce more and more red and white wines. The landscape is simply beautiful; vineyards are laid out on terraces carved into the steep slopes along the eponymous river, which starts in Spain and flows into the city of Porto. Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto also happens to brim with coastal charm, and if you have the time, we recommend squeezing in a visit.
6. Tuscany, Italy
Italy is without a doubt one of the top wine countries in the world and it goes without saying that when you hear Tuscany you think of a hilly landscape carpeted in green vineyards. And while there are several wine regions in Tuscany, the best known is without a doubt Chianti. In 2018 the reputation of Tuscan wine was further bolstered by a 2015 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia Bolgheri, which was voted “Best Wine in the World” by Wine Spectator. Countless wine tours and tastings excursions can also be enjoyed in the regional capital of Florence.
7. Lavaux, Switzerland
While Switzerland may not immediately come to mind when thinking about wine, it’s still a place where you can sip a delicious glass of the stuff, especially in the Lavaux region. In the 11th century Benedictine and Cistercian monks carved out mountain terraces to plant their grape vines. Now this unique and characteristic wine landscape, overlooking Lake Geneva, has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s well worth a visit. A scenic way to explore around the vineyards is by taking a boat trip on Lake Geneva.
8. Tokaji, Hungary
The production and history of Tokaj wines are among the most interesting in the world. They were the favorite sweet wines of Louis XIV, who called them “vinum regum rex vinorum” (“the king of wines and wine of kings” in Latin) by Louis XIV, and thus their popularity took off at Versailles. The region produces only white wines and is located in northeastern Hungary while also covering part of Slovakia. Don’t leave Hungary without visiting the area’s historic wineries, such as those near the village of Szegi.
9. Piedmont, Italy
This wine region in northwestern Italy is also one of the most important in the world and even non-wine connoisseurs will have heard of its two red superstars Barolo and Barbaresco. But have you heard of Timorasso? This indigenous variety was saved from near-complete disappearance in the 1980s. It’s a bold white wine with more body than the classic white grape varieties, and is particularly appreciated for its aging potential. This region, as in the rest of the country, has the wonderful Strada dei Vini, which are official wine routes that give you the chance to discover local wineries.
10. Hunter Valley, Australia
Although large parts of Australia are simply too dry, the southeast of the country is extremely suitable for the cultivation of grape vines. Hunter Valley in New South Wales, just above Sydney, is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions and an essential stop for food and wine lovers visiting the Land Down Under. Although Hunter Valley has a hot climate, wine production is possible thanks to the cooling ocean breezes that blow over the region. The majority of grape varieties planted are chardonnay, Sémillon, Shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.
11. Santorini, Greece
With its volcanic soil, extreme climatic conditions, and almost zero rainfall, Santorini’s vineyards must be grown according to a traditional method of pruning and weaving called “koulouri.” Practiced only in Santorini and Pantelleria in Sicily, this technique protects the grapes from wind and direct sunlight, and is a traditional way of adapting to the climate conditions. The vineyards are a must-see if you happen to visit the Greek islands.
12. Burgundy, France
A land of wine and gastronomy, Burgundy has long been a flagship destination for epicureans from around the world. Located in the east of the country, this region is best known for its red pinot noir and its white chardonnay. With no less than 29,500 hectares of vineyards, it’s an ideal destination if you want to discover the terroir of some of France’s greatest wines. And if you’re feeling active why not combine the vineyards with a spot of cycling on our Burgundy bike tour.
13. Sicily, Italy
Sicily is a destination that enchants anyone who visits it. Its vineyards offer a complete and diversified palette of wines teeming with character that express, each in its own way, the terroir that shaped it. From the dry wines of Mount Etna and Pantelleria to Marsala’s sweeter wines, there’s endless potential for discoveries of the palate.
14. Finger Lakes, United States
Rather unknown to Europeans, the Finger Lakes wine region in upstate New York—just two hours from Niagara Falls—has a stellar reputation on that side of the Atlantic. It was even voted “Best Wine Travel Destination” for 2015 by the magazine Wine Enthusiast. You’ll be able to taste exceptional oaked Chardonnay and some of the best Rieslings North America has to offer.
15. Champagne, France
If you’re a true oenophile and haven’t yet made the pilgrimage to Champagne, it’s surely on your list. Wine tourism is well developed in here, and local winemakers will happily guide your through their cellars showing you how this world-famous sparkling wine is produced. The verdant green landscape in this region is also simply stunning, while cities such as Reims, Troyes and Langres will undoubtedly charm you. If you need help planning your visit check out options here, from excursions outside Paris to e-bike tours through the vineyards.
16. Province of Mendoza, Argentina
With more than 70% of the country’s total vineyards, Mendoza is Argentina’s biggest wine-producing province. Previously, the Criolla grape was mainly grown to make wines for the local population. However, since the arrival of European varieties such as chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, Argentine wines have acquired an international reputation. Located to the west along the Chilean border and the Andes Mountains, the landscape is nothing short of spectacular. Who could say no to a vineyard tour with the majestic Andes in the background?
17. La Rioja Spain
As well as being Spain’s oldest wine region, La Rioja is home to some of the country’s best-known wines and is well-developed for wine tourism. After visiting the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture, we recommend exploring the vineyards by bike or horseback, stopping at several wineries along the way for tastings. The region has two wine capitals, Logroño and Haro, where local wines and tapas take center stage. There are as many as 500 bodegas around these cities, dozens of which open their doors to visitors. From the third week of September, the San Mateo wine harvest festival is also celebrated. And for those wanting to explore the area there are scenic cycling and walking tours.