Any wine lover will have a bucket list of places to visit based on fantastic wines tasted on various occasions, such as social events, parties, wine clubs or the like. As we all know, great wine is always made in beautiful places, since vines tend to enjoy growing in favourable climates just as we enjoy visiting them. So what if we could travel around the world, just visiting the greatest places for wine? Where would you start, and where would you stop?
There are over 10,000 grape varietals worldwide and many that turn into outstanding wines., In some cases they’ve put their area on the map, like Sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or pinotage from South Africa. Thinking about this, we’ve put together a possible trip around the world based on visiting wineries and tasting their wines. Of course no trip could do anything but provide a small “tasting” of all the possible venues that exist today.
Let’s assume you’re starting in North America and traveling East from there, though, this being a dream itinerary, feel free to start at any point!
Napa Valley (California, USA) – The Napa Valley counts more than 400 wineries, where Cabernets, fruity Merlots, and Chardonnays dominate the scene. Visiting these producers is usually a beautifully organized event, with some offering contemporary art or food pairing experiences that make for a brilliant day out. If you are already on the West Coast, make a short hop to Oregon, where stunning Pinot Noirs are to be found.
Chile – Chile has been a wine producing country since the 16th century, with many of it’s valleys producing consistent good value wines and some stunning reds. It has been associated with Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. But like many new world wine areas, Chile has adopted a signature grape variety, Carménère, once widely grown in Bordeaux before the 19th century Phylloxera outbreaks.
Mendoza (Argentina) – The Mendoza wine growing region is a New World red wine mecca with a desert climate that’s perfect for growing biodynamic wines with aromatic and intense flavours due to the high altitude and long growing season. A major volume producer, the area has more recently focused on premium wine production, where the Malbec grape leads the way. One to watch? Check out Bodega Argento.
Uruguay – While you’re in the area you might as well hope on over to Uruguay, a new destination for wine travel (only a small amount of its production is exported) that has been coming into its own and developing a true sense of its own unique tradition. Here, you mix European heritage with traditional South American features like yerba mate tea and Charùa cuisine. Producing international grapes like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc., the area’s unique climate makes for fresh and drinkable vintages. The signature grape is Tannat with a direct link to southern France and northern Spain. A visit to the large and sustainable Bodega Garzon might be the closest you can get to Tuscany without flying to the other side of the world, with its olive groves and extensive terraced vines.
Southern Ontario (Canada) – This region bordering on the state of New York has recently been gathering accolades and makes for an interesting visit. In particular, this is the only place you’ll taste original ice wine – since the weather can be extreme enough to make it! Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Bordeaux varieties abound. On top of the wine, you’ll get to visit the world-famous Niagara Falls which are just stunning.
Rhine Valley (Germany) – White-wine lovers who also enjoy bratwurst and castles ought to hit up the Rhine valley for the Riesling, as the variety originated here. Pure fruit, with a shining personality and surprising depth, it’s worth investigating some of the area’s top wineries in person to experience the great range of this grape.
France – In France you have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to wine… would you go to Burgundy? Bordeaux? The Loire (if you prefer whites) or Rhône Valleys? The varieties first grown in these regions (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cab Sauvignon) have become rightly famous and loved to the point that they are now cultivated “internationally”. French wines hit the market already aged, and with an uncountable number of small wineries, there are some serious gems just waiting to be tasted. Just about anywhere you visit will be memorable, so tailor this part of your trip based on any other interests you might have; for example, the Loire Valley also has marvelous castles to visit, which might provide a bit of a break from all this eating and drinking.
Tuscany (Italy) – Italy is synonymous with wine, but its center and North are where the best stuff is made. Perhaps one of the most famous and oldest denominations is the Chianti Classico region, which certainly merits a visit also for its extreme natural beauty. Tuscany’s signature grape is Sangiovese, and a trip here means discovering the many expressions of this fruit based on terroir. But don’t forget the Super Tuscans from Bolgheri, the now quite famous area on the coast.
Portugal – While still in Europe, a hop over to Portugal is an interesting addition to this itinerary. The mountainous Alentejo region south-east of Lisbon is now emerging is a world-class wine destination producing age-worthy reds thanks to scorching hot summers, clay terrain and mitigating ocean winds, and is leading Portugal’s wine renaissance. Visit the region’s capital city, Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring an important Roman temple.
South Africa – From Portugal it’s a straight shot down (although a long flight!) to South Africa, where you’ll want to fly into Cape Town and head to the Western Cape region, where most of the country’s wine comes from. With over 300 years of winemaking history, the area has bridged the gap between old world and new. The grapes that have made this area famous most recently are Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Syrah and Pinotage.
Australia – Australia ranks sixth in the world in wine production and is the fourth largest exporter of wine. With a huge range of climatic and geographical conditions, it is one of the world’s most versatile wine growing countries. The portfolio is as complete as one can imagine with cult Shiraz, Rhone style blends, etc from South Australia’s famous Barossa, Eden and Claire valleys making up half of the country’s total output.
New Zealand – Our wine trip around the world wouldn’t be complete without a stop in New Zealand! The whole country’s climate makes it ideal for grape growing, and you’re never far from a tasting room, so that’s the great (grape!) news. While the Marlborough region is by far the largest and best known for sauvignon blanc, a visit here might be an opportunity to also explore the smaller areas like Nelson (with its light reds and aromatic whites) or Canterbury (the newcomer with elegant cool climate whites).
We know we’ve just given you a “taste” of your options, but we’d love to hear if you’re planning a trip around the world based on wine, and where you will be stopping!