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10 Vacation Destinations For Wine And History Lovers

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Top Destinations For Wine And History Lovers

Vacations are a great opportunity to learn more about a location and its rich history. Nothing says vacation quite like serene landscapes, world-class wine, top-notch dining, and an interesting history. Be sure to add these top vacation destinations for wine and history lovers to your must-visit list. All of these locations have a fascinating history, along with delicious wines to enjoy.

1.   Burgundy

Medieval villages, winding waterways, and some of the most renowned wineries in the world make Burgundy one of the top wine vacation destinations. It’s thought that wine has been produced in the area since 50 BC. Today the region is known as one of the best regions in the world for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Burgundy’s Wine History

Burgundy’s terroir was created millions of years ago when the land was covered by the sea, resulting in a limestone and marl soil that gives the wines of the area the prestigious mineral flavor it’s known for. Some historians think the Celts first produced wine in Burgundy as far back as 50 BC before the Romans conquered them. Over a thousand years later, Cistercian monks turned the land and the wine into what it would become today with their careful record-keeping and tireless efforts to cultivate the land.

Now the land is owned by private winemakers and produces some, if not the, most prestigious wines in the world.

You can learn more about the history of Burgundy here.

top wine vacation

Burgundy Wine Tours

Enjoy a day exploring multiple vineyards in Burgundy and trying 15 to 20 wines with personalized English tours. Burgundy Discovery offers full-day guided tours where you’ll learn all about the beautiful area, ancient history, and domaines, from the basics to more detailed history and flavor profiles. You’ll even stop for lunch at an authentic Burgundian eatery. You can learn more about Burgundy Discovery tours here.

2.   Willamette Valley

The rolling hills of the Willamette Valley are only improved by the breathtaking mountains surrounding it and the creeks and rivers that weave through the valley. The area has been producing wine since the 1800s but didn’t receive recognition until about 50 years ago. It’s now considered one of the premier Pinot Noir regions worldwide.

Willamette Valley’s Wine History

In 1847, Henderson Luelling, an Oregon Trail pioneer, brought the first grape planting to Oregon. Six years later, a French immigrant started the first winery in the Willamette Valley. The first award given to an Oregon wine was in 1904. Unfortunately, Prohibition in the 1920’s all but destroyed the wine industry in the Willamette Valley.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that Oregon, and other wine regions in the US, started to get back into the craft. Pinot Noir began to take off at this time, and production expanded. In the 1980s, blind taste tests had trouble distinguishing between Oregon and Burgundy Pinot Noirs, and many tasters even preferred Oregon wines to Burgundy. After that, Oregon wines took off.

Today, Willamette Valley has over 700 wineries and is a wonderful destination for your next wine tour vacation.

Willamette valley vineyard in spring
RobertCrum | Getty Images

Best Wine Tours in the Willamette Valley

If you’re looking for informative and tasty wine tours in the Willamette Valley, look no further than Willamette Valley Wine History Tours. Led by a graduate school professor and Pinot historian, you’ll get a personalized tour of the area’s wineries while learning all about the region’s history and its winemakers. Learn more about Willamette Valley wine tours here.

3.   Napa Valley

The idyllic vineyards, world-class wines, Michelin-rated restaurants, and sunny days of Napa Valley make this location a favorite for wine-loving holidaymakers. Like many American wine regions, wines have been produced in the area since the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the art and science of winemaking in Napa Valley took off. Today, Napa Valley is arguably one of the best regions in the world to enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, as well as many other varieties.

Napa Valley’s Wine History

In 1861, the first commercial winery opened in Napa Valley. Over the next 30 years, more than 140 wineries opened in the region. Unfortunately, many Americans weren’t wine drinkers then, and most wineries ultimately went out of business. During Prohibition, many vineyards were completely abandoned or replanted to other crops.

After 1933, winemaking slowly began to re-emerge in Napa Valley. In 1944, the Napa Valley Vintners was founded with seven members. Today there are over 539 wineries.

Robert Mondavi was a vintner and investor that helped make Napa famous thanks to his marketing brain. Then, the 1976 Judgement of Paris blind tasting brought Napa worldwide fame, skyrocketing the region’s wines to international heights.

Today, Napa Valley has over 400 wineries and is known around the world for its wines.

Best Napa Valley Wine Tours

There are many wine tours to choose from in Napa Valley, but if you’re looking for something a bit different, Visit Napa Valley has a list of some of the most unique wineries and wine tours. Visit some of the oldest, most picturesque wineries in the area with these tours. If you’re in Napa from August to October, you might even get to participate in grape stomping activities.

Go deeper: Napa Valley AVA’s

top wine vacations

4.   Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany’s beautiful countryside, ancient towns, and cuisine make it one of the most-visited places in the world. Their wine region produces Chianti, Brunello, and other famous Sangiovese-based dry red wines. It’s thought that the area has been producing wines for millennia. The limestone soil and the perfect combination of sun, rain, and temperature make it a prolific wine region.

Tuscany’s Wine History

The Ancient Etruscans settled in Tuscany in the 8th century and began cultivating the land with grapes. It is believed that they either brought these grapes from Asia or that wild grapes were already growing there, and the Etruscans domesticated them. Tuscany and the surrounding area was called Enotris, translating to the land of wine  when the Romans conquered the area.

With the spread of Christianity, vineyards started to be systematically grown. In the 1700s, Tuscan wine was exported outside the region for the first time.

New laws in the 1960s and the Designation of Origin created a new interest in perfecting and protecting Tuscan wine. The wines of Tuscany, especially Chianti, became prestigious around the world.

Explore: Tuscan Wine Travel Trips.

Vineyard in Tuscany, Italy
Michal Collection

Tuscany Wine Tours

Discover the wine, history, and people of Tuscan wine with a private or group tour with Montalcino Wine Tours on your next vacation. The town of Montalcino is known for its history and wine, including Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino and you can explore it all with a tour of your choosing. Pick from several themes, including your favorite wine varieties or a truffle hunting tour with wine pairings. Learn more about Montalcino Wine Tours here.

5.   Douro Valley

If you’re looking for a destination full of picturesque landscapes, savory food, and wine, all steeped in history, look non further than the Douro Valley. The Douro Valley was the first wine-growing region to have clearly delineated vineyards (aka be legally demarcated) in 1756, and much of it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also the home of Port but is known for other kinds of wine as well. The history of winemaking in the Douro Valley is over 2,000 years old.

Douro Valley’s Wine History

The Douro Valley has been producing wine since the Romans realized it had ideal weather for growing grapes. It became the first recognized wine region in the world in 1756. When Portugal became a kingdom, wine exports were essential to the economy. But it wasn’t until the 1700s that Port came on the market. Port was first created in an effort to make a high alcohol wine that could survive long sea voyages.

If you’re not a Port lover, the region has been producing unfortified red and white wines for even longer.

top wine vacations

Douro Valley Wine Tours

Take a picturesque river cruise to the Douro Valley on a guided tour from Porto. You’ll be able to taste different wines and olive oils from the region and eat a traditional meal on a boat. You can learn more about the tour here.

6.   Cape Winelands, South Africa

You’re missing out if you’ve never considered Cape Winelands, South Africa as a destination for your next wine vacation. The lush landscape framed by mountains that just happens to have the perfect climate for growing grapes is the ideal vacation spot for wine lovers. Founded when the Dutch settled in the region in the 1600s, the wines were referenced by both Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, and were enjoyed by Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis XVI. Today the region grows a variety of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, and more, and is split into three main areas: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl.

Cape Winelands’ History

The Dutch settled in South Africa in 1652 and wasted no time planting grapes in the area. In 1659, the first wine was made. It didn’t take long for South African wine to be exported to different colonies, catching the attention of Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis XVI with Vin de Constance (the estate where it was made can still be visited, Groot Constantia).

Jane Austen wrote in Sense and Sensibility, “My dear,” said she, entering, “I have just recollected that I have some of the finest old Constantia wine in the house that ever was tasted, so I have brought a glass of it for your sister. My poor husband! how fond he was of it! Whenever he had a touch of his old colicky gout, he said it did him more good than anything else in the world. Do take it to your sister.”

Charles Dickens recorded in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, “As, whenever the Reverend Septimus fell a–musing, his good mother took it to be an infallible sign that he ‘wanted support,’ the blooming old lady made all haste to the dining–room closet, to produce from it the support embodied in a glass of Constantia and a homemade biscuit.”

Cape Winelands top wine vacations
Home | Getty Images

Cape Winelands Wine Tours

If you want to visit the winery that has gone down in history, Groot Constantia is the place to go. The winery offers guided tours that include visits to the original Dutch Manor House, the cellar where Grand Constance wine was born, the wine museum, and the vineyards. You can book your wine tasting at Groot Constantia here.

7.   La Rioja, Spain

Ancient ruins and rolling hills of vineyards are set against the backdrop of rugged mountains in La Rioja, Spain. Best known for its wine with the same name, the region is the perfect blend of culture and gastronomy. The history of winemaking in the region dates back to the 11th century BC, with consistent production since then. Rioja wines are some of the most acclaimed in the world, and Tempranillo and Grenache are the most popular varieties grown here. While the region is most famous for its full-bodied red wines, it also makes whites, rosés, and even sparkling wines.

Rioja’s Wine History

The earliest record of wine growing in Spain dates back to 1100 BC, but many archaeologists believe that grapes were being cultivated here as far back as 4000 and 3000 BC. The records claim the Phoenicians started trading grapes when they arrived in the area. The Carthaginians then took over, followed by the Romans.

One of Rioja wines’ best-unintended marketing tactics was the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims would enjoy the wine given to them during their journey through Rioja and go back to talk about the delicious wine they had tasted.

Although it wasn’t until the railroad was completed in the 19th century that Rioja’s wines could be easily exported. When phylloxera wiped out many French wines, many winemakers moved to Rioja, bringing their experience. By the time phylloxera hit Spain, winemakers knew to graft vines onto American roots to prevent the spread.

Today Rioja’s wines are known worldwide for their exceptional flavor often at an affordable price point.

Rioja Wine Tours

Experience the diversity of Rioja with Rioja Wine Trip tours that are off the beaten track. Create your own tour that includes meeting the winemakers, architecture, hidden non-touristy spots, and many more options. All tours include transportation, lunch, a local host, and wine tastings. Learn more about Rioja Wine Tours options here.

top wine vacations

8.   Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

The welcoming landscape, weather, and wine of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, make this region a must-visit destination for wine lovers. When you’re not enjoying Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot, or Chardonnay, you can explore the numerous beaches and waterways throughout the almost Mediterranean-feeling area. While the region isn’t as prolific as nearby Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay is the birthplace of New Zealand wine.

Hawke’s Bay Wine History

The first wineries were founded in New Zealand by French missionaries in the 1800s. In 1851, the first winery was established in Hawke’s Bay, the still-standing Mission Estate, which was run by Catholic missionaries. The wine was mainly used for religious purposes, but in 1870, one of the monks sold the first wine in New Zealand. Other wineries began popping up in the 1920s, and most of them are still standing today.

Hawke’s bay winery top wine vacations
Tristanbnz | Getty Images

Hawke’s Bay Wine Tours

Discover Hawke’s Bay like a local with personalized tours of boutiques and historic wineries of the region. You can design your own tour or pick from half-day, full-day, and cruise wine tour experiences. Learn more about Wine Tours Hawke’s Bay here.

9.   Parras Valley, Mexico

Nestled in the Mexican state of Coahuila, underneath Texas, sits the oldest winemaking region in the New World, Parras Valley. If you’ve never heard of this region, you’re not alone. Few oenophiles and Mexicans know about the Parras Valley, but the sprawling wineries, historical architecture, and ancient trees make this region a gorgeous destination for wine and history lovers alike. Although this region doesn’t produce a lot of wine, it has a long history and exports to 27 countries. You’ll enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, and Tempranillo in this high altitude, low humidity valley in Coahuila, Mexico.

Did You Know: In addition to wine these region also produces brandy from their grapes.

Parras Valley’s Wine History

When the Spanish began colonizing Mexico, they tried to plant vineyards. In fact, legend says that Hernan Cortez, the governor of New Spain, ordered that for every 100 native employees, one thousand grapevines should be planted.

The grapes died in the tropical regions of Mexico and South America. It wasn’t until they discovered the Parras Valley that the first vineyards took root in the Americas. The year was 1597 — almost 80 years after the Spanish started planting grapes.

Wine regions spread throughout Mexico, even after the King of Spain forbade all wine production except for within the  Catholic missions. Now Mexico has many prosperous wine regions, but none as old as the Parras Valley.

Today, you can enjoy traditional wines, some that are directly descended from 15th-century Spanish varieties as well innovative new blends.

Parras Valley Wine Tours

You’ll want to visit the oldest winery in the Americas when you’re in Parras Valley. Casa Madero is about a two-hour drive from the closest airport, Monterrey. It’s best to visit during harvest festivities in August, where you can stomp on grapes with locals in the facilities. Stay late and enjoy a traditional dinner aftward, paired with your choice of 20 different varieties of wine.

top wine vacation

10. Mosel Valley, Germany

If romantic wine regions don’t come to mind when you think of Germany, you haven’t visited the Mosel Valley. The steeply terraced vineyards on either side of the winding river traverse through historic towns and castles in Germany’s most prestigious wine region. The history of winemaking in the area dates to the Romans. Today, Mosel is a premier location for a wine-lovers vacation, especially for lovers of German Riesling.

Mosel Valley’s Wine History

The Romans likely planted the first vineyards in Mosel Valley in the 2nd century. The Roman poet Ausonius mentioned the region in the 4th century: “Here one sees the sky without branches twined together, green and dark, buried in fog, here the brightness of daylight never hides. I saw this land of well-tended fields and estates set on hills and cliffs green with vines and hedges running across the slopes like schoolboys at play and murmuring below in the valley, the Moselle, my new-found river hurried along. The pleasant scene recalled to me my distant home, Bordeaux. May I pay my respects to the river praised by every man working in his field? You bring the honor of empire to Trier.”

The most famous grape variety here, Riesling was first mentioned in 1435. In the 1700s, Riesling became the wine of choice for the king of Saxony, and the Mosel Valley gained popularity.

Today you can tour old Roman buildings, medieval castles, and wineries dating from over a thousand years ago.

Moselle Valley
Tama66 | Pixabay

Mosel Valley Wine History Tours

Mosel Valley wineries are best discovered on foot, and there are several hiking tours in the area. You can book a guided tour of the Mosel Valley with a wine and culture expert. How do you book a Mosel Valley tour? You must contact an expert individually to ask for their availability, or you can do self-guided tours following these trails. Don’t forget to visit Staffelter Hof — the oldest winery in Germany.

Want to read more? Try these books!

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