Wine tourism: The best countries to taste wine

Where to go for the ultimate wine experience? We asked some of the wine-loving-world-trotting travelers for recommendations on the best countries to taste wine. So let’s go ahead and practice wine tourism all over the world! In this article, you will find world-known wine destinations as well as lesser-known and off-the-beaten-wine-path spots. Cheers, and enjoy the divine liquid at all these amazing places!

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine

Portugal

James | Portugalist

Aside from Port wine, Portuguese wine isn’t particularly well known outside of Portugal. Even then, wine shops rarely stock much more than a tawny and a ruby. If you want to learn about Portuguese wine, you really have to come to Portugal.

One of the reasons that so little is known about Portuguese wine is that Portugal has more than 250 different grape varieties. Although some of these grapes exist in other countries, the vast majority don’t. This makes it more difficult to market internationally, which in turn means it has been ignored by wine experts for a very long time.

But, rather than grapes, it’s probably best to start with regions. Some regions, particularly the Douro but also the Alentejo and Dão, are known for producing the best quality Portuguese wine. Vinho Verde, a northern wine region known for producing wines of the same name, is another definite for the bucket list.

You’ll find wines from each of these regions in any Portuguese supermarket or wine shops but, if you have the time, it’s much more fun to actually go to the wine region and take the time to visit a few vineyards.

Of course, you can still pay a visit to a Portuguese wine shop as well. Just be sure to bring an empty suitcase, as there are a lot of wines that you’ll want to bring back home.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: vineyard in Portugal

Madeira Island

Edyta | Say Yes to Madeira

What is a better place to taste Madeira Wine than Madeira Island itself?

Madeira wine has been an important factor in the economic growth of the island. There are a couple of places to enjoy Madeira Wine tastings on the island. The most popular among tourists is Blandy’s Wine Lodge.

Conveniently located in the center of Funchal, very close to the Cruise Terminal, it is a great place to learn the history of Madeira Wine, take one of the guided tours (in Portuguese, English, German, French or Spanish) and enjoy a nice wine tasting. Individual tastings are available for all the wines, blends, and dated wines, but they also offer a variety of tasting experiences. There is also a store with a wide selection of their award-winning wines. The wines can be packed for you, or, if you prefer, shipped directly to your place of residence. Be sure to visit Blandy’s if you are a true Madeira Wine lover.

For us this place has a special meaning; it was a set of tiny bottles of Blandy’s Madeira Wine and little Madeira Honey Cakes what we gave our dearest guests as our wedding favors during our destination wedding in Madeira.

This year is a particularly good time to plan your trip to this magnificent Portuguese Island – The Island is celebrating its 600th anniversary. Would like to know more about Madeira? Be sure to check my blog!

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: wine barrels in Madeira

Tenerife island, Spain

Chris | Being a nomad

At the end of 2017, my wife and I did some voluntary work in Tenerife’s Midlands, in the Valley of Güímar, just above the town of Candelaria. There, our host introduced us to guachinches.

These local establishments are dotted around the island, where they serve up local wine and food to locals, and they offer a truly authentic experience. Our host took us regularly up to Guachinche Casa Manuel in the Güímar valley.

Here, Manuel (a 90-year old man) serves local eco-wine and dishes like barbecued wreckfish, gofio and cabra (goat) to local villagers. He owns both the vineyard and the guachinche, where he brews wine in barrels in a wine cellar built into a small cave. Like other local winemakers’, his wine is sulfite-free (meaning no hangovers) and it tastes great.

If you find yourself in Tenerife and want to experience one of Tenerife’s best-kept secrets, I recommend trying ethically sourced wine at one of Tenerife’s Guachinces.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: guachinches Tenerife

Sardinia, Italy

Claudia | My Adventures Across The World

While everyone knows that Italy is a fantastic wine-producing country, making some of the best wines in the world, hardly anybody outside of Italy associates the name of Sardinia with that of wine. Most people visit the island to enjoy its beautiful beaches. However, wine tourism is on the rise, and more and more people travel to Sardinia off-season for a chance to visit the vineyards and get to know its wine.

There are many beautiful vineyards and fantastic wineries in Sardinia. Most of them now offer wine tasting tours. Villages near Cagliari, such as Serdiana and Dolianova, have some fabulous wineries such as Argiolas and Pala. Adding to this experience, visitors can also enjoy wine festivals that take place throughout the year. Sagra del Vino Novello takes place in November in San Vero Milis; Cantine Aperte is in May in Serdiana and Dolianova; Calici di Stelle happens in the second week of August in Jerzu, and combines wine tasting with stargazing. Among the grapes that are specific to Sardinia, there are nuragus, vermentino, bovale, monica, carignano, and vernaccia. Among the wines to try, there’s the popular Nepente di Oliena, loved by Italian revolutionary Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Turriga, of Cantine Argiolas.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: winery in Sardinia, Italy

Bordeaux, France

Jennifer and Tim | Luxe Adventure Traveler

France is known as one of the premier wine-producing countries of the world, and Bordeaux is one of its’ most famous wine regions. For years Bordeaux was pretty closed off to the world with the majority of its wine sold at auction. Châteaux didn’t open its doors to the public. But Bordeaux has experienced a revolution when it comes to wine tourism.

Bordeaux-based locals Jennifer & Tim of Luxe Adventure Traveler have spent years intimately getting to know the wine region. There’s something for everyone, no matter your level of wine knowledge or interest. Wine aficionados might like to take a course, and everything from WSET courses to Bordeaux pairing courses is available. Adventurous wine tasters can take part in unique experiences like tasting wine in a 200-year-old treetop with a birds’ eye view of the château. You can even spend the night in a wine vat converted into a mini-apartment right alongside the vineyards.

No matter how you choose to explore Bordeaux, there’s world-class wine waiting for you to try. Be sure to branch out from the traditional Bordeaux blend, and also sample Bordeaux’s Sauternes and white Bordeaux appellations. Follow Jennifer & Tim’s 3-day Bordeaux itinerary for all the best the region has to offer.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Chateau Cantenac, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, France

Loire Valley, France

Eloise | My favourite escapes

With more than a thousand vineyards open to the public between Nantes and Sancerre, the Loire Valley is the longest wine route in France. The diversity of wines produced in the region – more than 80 – is a guarantee to find something to your taste whether you prefer white, rosé, red or sparkling wines. Some of the most famous wines are Bourgueil, Cheverny, Vouvray, Pouilly Fumé…

Although it’s well-known for being the third biggest French wine region, wine lovers traveling to the Loire Valley will find a lot more than usual wine tasting experiences.

With stunning castles, historical monuments and picturesque villages, the region is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Chinon and Saumur, for example, are famous names for both their wines and castles.

The architecture masterpiece Chateau de Chenonceaux is one of the best-known castles in the Loire Valley region. The most visited French castle after Versailles has had vineyards on the property since the 16thcentury. Visitors can taste the production in the beautiful historic cellar, the Cave des Dômes. Wine tasting in the Loire Valley can be an excellent opportunity to visit impressive troglodyte cellars.

Reputed wines and splendid castles. Doesn’t it sound like a perfect combination?

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Loire Valley Chenonceau Castle, France

Lavaux, Switzerland

Deeptha | The Globe Trotter

Swiss wines are mainly produced in the cantons of Valais, Geneva, Neuchatel, and Vaud. Lavaux in the Canton of Vaud consists of more than 800 hectares of beautifully terraced vineyards reaching out from St-Saphorin to Lutry. These stunning sloped vineyard patios have a history that goes back to the twelfth century when vines were developed in the area with the assistance and support of the Cistercian priests who lived there. With additional help from the then Bishops of Lausanne, these vineyards were worked upon during the 1330s, and from that point forward the vineyards have turned into an important aspect of the canton’s economy. The Lavaux vineyards gained even more popularity when they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The most popular wine grape variety grown in Switzerland is Chasselas. During my trip to the Canton of Vaud last year, I visited the Lavaux vineyards and sampled Chasselas in a few different vineyards and fell in love with it. It is a dry and fruity white wine that is not very intense; rather a fresh and pleasant wine that pairs very well with fondue. If you are visiting Switzerland, Chasselas is one wine that you must try. Other popular wines that you could try are the reds by Pinot Noir and Gamay. For wine lovers traveling to Switzerland, I would highly recommend a visit to the Lavaux Vineyards which are also referred to as the Swiss Wine Route. The vineyards are as lovely as the wine that is produced there.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Lavaux Vineyards, Switzerland

Croatia

Tea | Culture Tourist

Croatia is home to some really amazing wines. Being a small country, but with quite diverse regions, you’re going to find some different wine types there, too.

When taking a road trip through Croatia, you’re going to drive through so many vineyards. In the coastal area, called Dalmatia, and on its islands, you’re going to find some stronger red wines like Merlot and Dingač. Istria, the biggest peninsula in the country, is home to a white wine called Malvasia and a red wine called Teran. And then, in Croatia’s mainland, the region of Slavonia, you’re going to find many white wines similar to Riesling.

Many of those wineries are family-owned and you can visit them. They are often organizing informal wine tastings for their visitors. So, you can try some wines, chat with the owners and often try some local food, as well.

Wine production in Croatia is quite small and you won’t find many of those wines in big supermarkets around the world. But, that’s why it’s quite nice to include some wine tasting during your visit to Croatia. And to try some Croatian wines while there.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Croatia

Czech Republic

Darja | DeeGees Travel

If you are interested in enjoying a wine tasting tour off the beaten track, the Czech Republic is just the place for you. Besides its delicious and world-famous beer, the provinces in the south of the Czech Republic have a centuries-long tradition of growing vines. Celebrated by the locals and appreciated by its neighbors, the country remains to be truly discovered by wine lovers worldwide.

There are many ways to explore Czech wine. However, the most fun and unique way to get a glimpse into the Czech wine culture is to join a burčák march taking place on the second Saturday in October in Mutenice, south Moravia. “Burčák” is the local name for a young, still fermenting wine. As you join crowds of other (mostly local) wine enthusiasts on the trail through the vineyards, every few hundred meters you can try burčák from the small local cellars. Sweet and fruity, the young wine is a great accompaniment to the idyllic countryside scenery!

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Burcak march Czech Republic

Georgia

Inna | Executive Thrillseeker

Wine is an inseparable part of Georgian culture, tradition, and economy. Anyone who tasted Georgian wine will argue that it is a must-try! Wine can be different: white and red, bad and good, sweet and sour, strong and light but Georgian wine stands apart from all these characteristics because it is special.

What makes it so special? Of course, grapes! The most famous Georgian kinds of grapes are Saperavi, Mtsvane, Chinuri, Rkatsiteli, Aleksandrouli, and Tsolikouri. Well, in general, about five hundred various types grow in Georgia. The uniqueness of Georgian grapes is that it was not brought here from overseas, it always grew here. At first, it was wild and then cultivated by people. In Georgia, grapes grow on the plains and foothills; 60% of all Georgian grapes grow in Kakheti.

We sort of figured it out with the grapes, but it is not the only reason why Georgian wine is different from others. Georgia not only grows its own grapes but also uses special winemaking technologies. There are three main technologies for wine production: European, Kakhetian, and Imereti. Opt for Georgian traditional wine as the one made using European technology can be tasted elsewhere. Try not only factory bottled wines but also wines from small businesses. The only difference is that such wines are produced in smaller quantities. The quality is not inferior to the factory wine in 90% of cases. After all, a bottle of factory Georgian wine can be bought at home in the supermarket.

Want to try a really exclusive wine – go to Kakheti. From personal experience, I can say that the best wine is made in this region.

Check out the winery called Telavi Wine Cellar that is located in Telavi, the capital of Kakheti, and is one of the largest enterprises in the region. 

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: vineyard in Georgia

Cafayate, Argentina

Julie | Why Not Ju

Located about 14 hours from the more famous Argentinean wine district of Mendoza, is Cafayate. The lesser-known wine town is located in the province of Salta. It is a small town of fewer than 12000 inhabitants. surrounded by huge wine yards, bright red mountains, and waterfalls, this is the perfect place for a relaxing holiday for wine lovers. The area is mostly known for its white wines, but also have a variety of delicious red wines. You can find wines for every taste here, and the outskirts of Cafayate is covered in old and new vineyards. Some organic and smaller, and some bigger and more commercialized.

Almost all wineries have a variety of wines. Some of the grapes used today were once imported from different parts of Europe. But they also make wines from grapes native to Argentina, like the famous Torrontés grape. It’s not just the climate and the soil that makes Cafayate the perfect place for winegrowers. It’s also special because the wines are all cultivated in an altitude between 1700 to 3000 meters above the ocean.

Additional recommendation: The oldest winery in Cafayate, is Vasija Secreta, earlier, La Banda. They have free tours with wine tastings every day until 6 pm.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: vineyards in Cafayate, Argentina

Chile

James | Travel Collecting

Chilean wine is sold all around the world. There are at least ten major wine growing regions scattered around the central area of the long country, with a climate and soil perfect for growing grapes.  Around Santiago, which is smack bang in the middle of the wine regions, the nearby Maipo Valley is famous for its red wines.  The largest winery in Chile is Concha y Toro, and a tour of their winery is a highlight of any visit to Chile.  The tour includes a visit to their legendary Cellar of the Devil/ Casillero del Diablo and a tasting of the carbonere with the same name.  For more than 100 years carbonere was thought to be extinct, wiped out by plague on France.  However, it was recently discovered that a wine that had been labeled Chile Merlot because it didn’t quite taste the same as other merlot, was in fact, the long lost carbonere. It’s a nice story and the wine is nice too!  There are other wineries to visit, and a tour around the different wineries, and, with more time, the different valleys that make up Chile’s wine-growing regions, each with its own specialties, makes for a great experience.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Chile wine tour Concha y Toro

Salta, Argentina

Lora | Explore with Lora

Salta is the second-largest wine-producing region in the country of Argentina. The heart of the wine region is Cafayate, Just two hours from the capital city of Salta. What Mendoza is to red wine, Cafayate is to white wine. This area is famous for Torrontes, a dry but fruity white wine unique to Argentina.

Several wineries in Cafayate offer tours where you can see the process of how the wine is made from fruit to bottle. During the tour, you will get a chance to taste the wine, which is absolutely delicious. The outside of the wineries is beautiful to walk through with bright vineyards and stunning mountain landscapes as the backdrop. After a wine tour, visit the charming town of Cafayate where you can indulge in wine ice cream and eat world-famous empanadas.

The best way to get to Cafayate is by car, as the province of Salta is an absolute dream to drive through. You will be in the foothills of the Andean mountains so the scenery is stunning, and there are several canyons that you can stop at along the way. If you planning a visit to Argentina, don’t miss the opportunity to visit this premier white wine-growing region.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Salta, Argentina

Santa Barbara, California

Clare | Epic Road Rides

Santa Barbara County in southern California, USA, is a fantastic place to head to taste wine.

The most famous region is the Santa Ynez Valley where you’ll find around 120 wineries, clustered around the pretty towns and villages of Solvang, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez. Many of the wineries open their doors to people who want to come and learn about wine and enjoy some wine tasting.

It’s a wonderful part of the world that’s warm and sunny for much of the year and winters tend to be short and mild. The landscape is gently rolling and dotted with vines, horse ranches, and agricultural fields. The roads tend to be quiet and curl around between fields and buildings. It feels a world away from bustling Santa Barbara, yet it’s only around 40 minutes northwest of the city by car.

Santa Ynez Valley is renowned for its chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, so why not book on a wine tour and visit a range of different wineries in a day. Alternatively, base yourself in one of the pretty villages (we particularly loved Los Olivos for its quiet, old-world charm) and set up camp in your favorite wine tasting room!

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: California, USA, Santa Barbara, Winery Copyright Epic Road Rides

Sierra Foothills, California

Ava | Gold Country Cowgirl

California is well known for its great wine. Most people think of Napa/Sonoma or maybe Paso Robles, but few think of, or even know about, the Sierra Foothills AVA. It is one of the largest AVAs in the US, with 5 sub-regions, and incorporates parts of 8 counties in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California’s Gold Country.

I lived in Gold Country for four years and visited many wineries in three of those 8 counties – Amador, El Dorado, and Calaveras – the counties that produce the majority of top wines in the area. Wine tasting there reminded me of the old days of wine tasting in Napa. Many times, the owner, who is often also the winemaker, will greet and pour for you. They are eager to tell you about their wine and the history of their winery. It’s laid back, fun, and much less expensive than other areas in California.

The area specializes in “big reds” and is the home of Zinfandel. The oldest documented Zinfandel vines in the Americas are in Shenandoah Valley in Amador County. But don’t think reds are all you’ll find there. The vast size of the region provides a range of terroirs that allow growers to produce a wide variety of grapes.

The beautiful countryside, fascinating history, incredible hospitality, and delicious wines make for an amazing wine tasting experience in the Sierra Foothills.

YWine tourism: best countries to taste wine: California, USA, Yorba vineyard Amador County

Niagara Peninsula, Canada

Anisa | Two Traveling Texans

Niagara on the Lake is one of the best places to go wine tasting because it is one of the few places in the world that makes ice wine. The Niagara Peninsula is actually Canada’s largest wine-growing region with around 100 wineries! The region produces many different varietals of wine, but the most popular is ice wine.

Ice wine is a dessert wine made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine.  The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does so the juice is more concentrated.   It will typically take 4 to 5 times as many grapes to make ice wine compared with other wines, so don’t expect it to be cheap.  We visited in the summer, but I would love to go back in January for the Ice Wine Festival.

Niagara on the Lake is only a 30-minute drive from Niagara Falls, so we did a half-day tour while we were there.  Our tour included visits to three wineries and a gourmet dinner. At Jackson Triggs, we also got a tour of their facilities, so that we could learn more about the production process.  We couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle on ice wine to take home for a special occasion.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Canada, Niagara vineyards

Connecticut, USA

Kelly | Fit Fashion Traveler

Think of a popular region in the United States with vineyards and wineries. Perhaps you thought of California, specifically its Napa or Sonoma Valley regions. Or maybe Oregon or Washington state came to mind.

The next time you visit an American vineyard, leave the Northwest and instead travel to the newly-established wine region in the state of Connecticut!

I grew up in Connecticut and consider myself a wine aficionado, having visited wineries worldwide. Even so, I was not aware of the wine industry in the state until I returned to visit as an adult.

There are over 40 wineries in Connecticut stretching to all corners of the state. Every year the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council publishes a Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries, offering prizes for people who visit over half the wineries throughout the year. The options are endless, from Saltwater Farm Vineyard by the shore with its crème-brulée Chardonnay, to Gouveia Vineyards that grows grapes imported from Portugal to Haight-Brown Vineyard that offers a wine tasting accompanied by perfectly-paired chocolate.

The options for vineyards and wineries in Connecticut are endless. With so many wineries in such a small state, you can easily visit multiple locations during your travels. Connecticut is nestled between New York City and Boston, just a couple of hours from both cities, so next time you are in the region, stop by for a glass of wine!

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Connecticut, USA

South Africa

Jessy | PlanetPilgrims

South Africa is pretty well known by now for its amazing wines. However, what not many people realize is how many wine regions there actually are in South Africa. The area gets compared to California a lot but according to American friends, the wine region of South Africa is massive. So there’s really no need to go the very busy places like Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek which are the most famous regions.

I’m lucky enough that I’ve been living in Cape Town now for the last 16 years and that I was able to explore many many more wine regions. One of the most beautiful areas must be the Hemel & Aarde Valley close to Hermanus. Hemel & Aarde means Heaven & Earth and yes when you drive through here, it truly feels like heaven.

There are about 17 wineries in this beautiful valley and most of them are open for tastings. There are also some amazing restaurants in this area so it is a perfect area to base yourself for a couple of days and explore, taste and eat.

Other lesser-known wine regions are Wellington, Tulbagh, The Robertson area, Swartland, and many more. Currently, about 95.000 hectares of vines producing wine grapes are under cultivation in South Africa.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: South Africa

Vietnam

Cazzy Magennis | Dream Big, Travel Far

Wine and Vietnam aren’t necessarily two words you’d place next to each other. However, I can guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised. The wine in Vietnam is produced in two regions, which is the Binh Thuan region and the Ninh Thuan region, both located in the South. The wine culture in Vietnam is a relatively new one, but this means it’s a space to keep an eye on and to be one of the first to try their delicious wines.

My favorite wine is the “Vang Dalat” which produces both red and white wine and it’s one of the more well-known local wines in Vietnam. It has a sharp taste and is best suited to those who enjoy strong flavors The Da Lat winery is the largest producer of wine in Vietnam. The other great thing about Vietnamese wine is that it’s super cheap! If you really want to get involved you can opt for a winery tour across Vietnam as part of your travels. Vietnam is the perfect place to go taste wine for those who want to experience something unique and different and try something completely new.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: halong bay best place to visit in vietnam

Marlborough, New Zealand

Catherine | Traveling with the Littles

Prior to visiting New Zealand, I was not a wine drinker; however, I became one after visiting the Marlborough Region of New Zealand.  Marlborough is located at the northeastern tip of New Zealand’s south island.  What makes Marlborough so unique is that it is known for its Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. While Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are not obscure wines, by any means, they are not as well-known as some wines such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Cabernet.

The primary grape growing area in Marlborough is the Wairau Valley, located at the foot of Renwick and Blenheim. I’d recommend hiring a self-guided bike tour and spending a day moseying your way around the Valley.

We spent a day riding around the Valley, surrounded by mountains, and we were able to visit 8 or 9 vineyards.  It was such a fantastic experience to learn about how Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir grapes are grown, and how the wine is produced.  One thing that I found extraordinary about this tour was the intimacy that we felt at every vineyard.  Most of the vineyards that we visited were not small; however, the attendants at each vineyard had time to chat and answer all of our questions.

I was not a wine drinker before this excursion, and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is now my drink of choice.  If you are ever down in New Zealand I would highly recommend making time for a tour around the Wairau Valley; you will not regret the decision!

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Marlborough, New Zealand, Catherine on a bike

Margaret River, Australia

Luke | The Coastal Campaign

Located on the west coast of Australia, just three hours south of Perth is the Margaret River Region. This region is home to over two hundred wineries and is well known locally and internationally for producing some stunning wines. With over 95 cellar doors within a 45-minute drive, it is easy to cater to the perfect wine tour for any group of people.

The Margaret River region in the southwest of Australia has to be one of the most beautiful places to taste wine. Not only can you travel between wineries through spectacular countryside, but you can also stop at some of the most beautiful beaches. White sand and blue water line the coast in this region. Wine tastes so much better when enjoyed with a beautiful view.

The atmosphere in this region is what sets it apart. The relaxed and friendly vibes in this area mean you can enjoy sampling some of the most premium wines whilst wearing your shorts and flip-flops and nobody will bat an eyelid. There is no need to be a connoisseur to enjoy all that Margaret River has to offer.

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine: Margaret river, Australia

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Drop a comment below to add another dream wine location to this post! Get in touch with us if you want to meet over a glass of wine, anywhere on the planet! 

Wine tourism: best countries to taste wine

2 Responses

  1. fujikfujka
    |

    That’s a great post! A nice mix of destinations across the globe 🙂 Glad we could contribute as well 🙂

    • Thank you so much for the wonderful contribution! Cheers!