The Eight Most Unique Places in the World to Taste Wine
Ernest Hemingway, a famous author, wrote the following about wine: “One of the most natural and civilized things in the world that have attained the highest level of perfection is wine. Compared to other purely sensory things, it offers a wider spectrum of delight and appreciation.” Ernest Hemingway succinctly and precisely generalized the impact of wine. Numerous regions have maintained their unique wine traditions for centuries, and today tourists from all over the world visit these wine destinations to experience these traditions. Check out these eight breathtaking wine-tasting destinations, and find inspiration for your next wine trip.
1. Douro Valley, Portugal
This picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site, which is about an hour drive from Porto, is home to charming quintas (wine estates) from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as picturesque terraced vineyards rising over the Douro River. The well-known sweet, fortified wine, Port is made in the Duoro Valley. This unique wine tasting region is both breathtakingly beautiful and steeped in Old-World history!
Additionally, a few smaller Quintas offer less-known dry, red wines created from indigenous grape varietals like Alfrocheiro. Historic wineries like Quinta da Pacheca, Quinta de La Rosa, and Quinta das Carvalhas provide excellent guided tours and wine tastings to visitors. At Quinta de Guimaraes, Quinta do Bomfim, and Quinta do Crasto, you may savor some of the finest Portuguese pours as well. If you are looking for an adventure don’t pass up the opportunity to discover this region by boat.
2. Madeira, Portugal
Three hundred miles off the coast of Morocco is the Portuguese island, Madeira. Stunning landscape, lush forests, and historic wines make this a fascinating destination. The wine produced here goes through a unique process that allows the wine to stay good for years, even decades after opening. While most modern wine drinkers have never heard of this wine, it was very popular in the colonial period of the United States.
It’s a small island, with only a handful of wineries but many are open for tastings and tours. And when you aren’t wine tasting there are plenty of other activities, like hiking, scuba diving, or swimming. This is one of our favorite unique places in the world for wine tasting.
3. Franschhoek, South Africa
Franschhoek is a wine lover’s paradise, located in the Coastal Region, amongst soaring mountains. The charming settlement is surrounded by vineyards and wineries open to the public. Franschhoek is best known for producing sparkling wine, but there are also some great full bodied, red wines produced here. And in addition to wineries the region is known for great restaurants, and is quickly becoming a culinary capital of South Africa.
Don’t miss out on some of the top wineries in the area including Chamonix, Allée Bleue, La Motte, and Solms-Delta. The region also offers excellent food and wine tours, which include everything from olive and chocolate tasting to wine and grape harvesting.
4. Santorini, Greece
The Greek island of Santorini has been making wine for at least 3,500 years. Tough conditions on the island have created both unusual wines and unusual vineyard methods. Rather than training grapevines to grow up on wires like the rest of the world, their grapevines are trained to grow in circular, nest shapes close to the ground. This odd shape helps protect the grapes from the ever present wind. Although this wind creates difficulties, it is also responsible for blowing salty seawater through the vineyards giving a unique salty character to the wine.
Choose between an organized wine tour, or visit wineries on your own. Just be aware you may have to book ahead to visit certain wineries. What could be a better place for a unique wine tasting experience than amongst the white buildings and blue roofs of Santorini?
5. Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France
Saint Émilion, one of the oldest wine towns in the Bordeaux area, is well-known for its richly colored and robust red wines. One of its top tourist destinations is Les Cordeliers, a rustic vineyard situated amidst the remnants of a Franciscan convent from the fourteenth century. For more than a century, Les Cordeliers has been making sparkling Crémant de Bordeaux wine in its historic cellars. Château Coutet and Château Troplong Mondot are two other outstanding, must-see wineries. Don’t miss a chance to visit Maison du Vin, Saint-Émilion’s wine school, where you can learn the fundamentals of wine tasting.
6. Bodega Colome, Argentina
Bodega Colome, located in Salta, Argentina, is home to some of the world’s highest vineyards, with vines that have been planted as high as 3,111 meters above sea level.
Although it’s a “must-see” for daring wine travelers, wine writer Jacqueline Coleman warns that getting there is difficult: “To get to the property, you have to drive kilometers up the mountain on a dirt road after you leave the small village of Molinos. If you want to stay in touch with the outside world, you will need a reliable automobile, plenty of water, and possibly a satellite phone.”
7. Barossa Valley, Australia
Some of Australia’s best Rieslings and robust Shiraz wines are made in the magnificent Barossa Valley vineyards. In Château Tanunda’s magnificent barrel chamber, you can play a round of croquet while sampling wine. Additionally, the rustic Pindarie Wine offers unique grape varieties like Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano. Thorne-Clarke, Grant Burge, and Seppetsfield are three more noteworthy wineries. For wine drinkers looking for the winemaking experience, Penfold’s gives guests the chance to create their own unique wine by blending Grenache, Shiraz, and Mataro.
8. Sonoma Valley, California
While Sonoma’s neighbor, Napa Valley sees an enormous amount of wine tourists every year, many visitors sleep on the under-rated region of Sonoma. Sonoma wineries produce a wide variety of wines from rich reds, to zippy whites, to sparkling wines. The region is fairly large so it may be worth renting a car or hiring a driver if you are planning on visiting a few different wineries in one day. Be sure to also make a stop at one of Sonoma’s farm-to-table gourmet restaurants.
Want to read more about California’s wine regions? Check out these books!
“Franschhoek | Wine Region Guide.” n.d. Www.vivino.com. Accessed May 26, 2023. https://www.vivino.com/wine-regions/franschhoek.
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“Madeira, Portugal: Sample Historic Wine on This Striking Island.” 2020. Travel. January 10, 2020. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/how-to-visit-the-madeira-islands-wine-and-history.
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