Who doesn't love kicking back with a wine in hand as rows-upon-rows of vines stretch off across a fertile valley? For wine lovers, a visit to a vineyard or cellar door is something that sneaks its way into every holiday itinerary. And I'm all for it! These five wine regions will give you plenty of inspiration for your next trip.
Marlborough, New Zealand
New Zealand is known for its unbelievable natural landscapes, but tucked away in the very top right hand corner of the South Island, the Marlborough region puts the country on the map for an entirely different reason. Since early pioneer David Herd planted the first block of vines in 1873, the area has become a mecca for wine production with more than 150 wineries spread across nearly 27,000 hectares under vine.
The combination of cool temperatures, plenty of sun, low rainfall and free-draining soil creates perfect growing conditions for a number of varieties. The star is undoubtedly Sauvingon Blanc with its distinctive aromatics and zesty fruit flavours.
A few cellar doors you can’t miss include Cloudy Bay, taken over by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy and famed for their sophisticated Pinot Noir and wild fermented Te Koko; Nautilus Estate, family owned and operated for 25 years and known for their Cuvee Brut; and Yealands Estate, an eco-friendly vineyard with a focus on sustainable wine production.
There are countless reasons to visit Tusacany – to see the leaning tower of Pisa, the hilltop city of San Gimignano, the fasianting city of Florence – but for many, it’s the rolling hills and rows-upon-rows of vines that cover the region of Chianti. Some of the region’s best known wines include Chianti Classico, made from sangiovese grapes, and Brunello di Montalcino. Then there are the Super Tuscan wines – when local grapes are blended with one imported from overseas.
Wine tasting in Tuscany is never a get-in, get-out activity. It’s an immersive experience where patrons can meet the vintners, learn about what goes into making the wine and, in true Italian fashion, there’s always plenty of opportunities to taste delicious local food as well with wine pairings a common occurrence at cellar doors.
When it comes to sampling the local drops, a few wineries really stand out. In Northern Tuscany, Castello di Nipozzano is a must. What could be more Tuscan than tasting wine in a 1,000-year-old castle? A visit will include a tour of the enormous cellard used to age Chianti Rufina, as well as the exceptional views over the valley.
Another favourite is Antinori in Central Tuscany. Offering a more modern approach to winemaking yet owned by one of the regions most historic and prestigious families, this vineyard is less than 20 kilometres from Florence and a wonderful day trip from the city.
Just the name brings about a flurry of adjectives reflective of its stellar reputation. It is one of the most established and respected wine growing regions in the world, steeped in history and continues to attract wine lovers from all over. Bordeaux is not simply one wine region – it is split up into 38 sub-regions across the stunning French countryside, however it can be more easily divided into the Left and Right Bank.
On the Left, centuries-old producers are still today making some of the finest (and most expensive) reds in the world – think names like Chateau Margaux and Lafite. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant flavour with smaller concentrations of Merlot, Cabernet Franca and Malbec. On the Right Bank, Merlot steals the show.
A true fairytale destination, Château d’Agassac dates back to the 13th century. Located in the village of Ludon-Medoc but 15 minutes from the city, the estate is best known for its award-winning Cru Bourgeois. Another great cellar door to visit is Château Pape-Clément, featuring a scenic 30 hectares under vine and producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It also grows a small variety of white grapes such as Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle. It is one of the grandest estates in the area and proud to be making quality red and white wines.
Mendoza is the powerhouse of wine production in Argentina – 70% of the country's wine is made here. Located in the Eastern foothills of the Andes, vineyards are planted at some of the highest altitudes in the world with the average site located 900 to 1,500 metres above sea level. Because of the cool climate the wines are famous for the full bodied fruity flavours.
Malbec and Tempranillo are the hero grapes in the Mendoza region, although Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are also produced on a smaller scale.Some of the best Malbec in the region comes from the Durigutti Family. Since its humble beginning in 1950, today the vineyard produces 500,000 bottles per year and about 500 oak barrels full of the stuff. With three generations working on the vineyard, the family marries new technologies with traditional winemaking concepts – a mix between new styles and old culture.
Los Clop is another favourite in the region. Located in one of the most traditional areas of Mendoza, Maipu Valley, the operation covers more than 170 hectares and producines more than 2.5 million litres of wine every year. With rave reviews from some of the world’;s top wine critics, their signature Los Clop Reserva range is a real treat and something keep in the cellar for a special occasion.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Stellenbosch is not only an excellent wine producing region – it also plays host to one of the most prestigious viticultural schools in the world; the University of Stellenbosch. The region is home to more than 150 wineries and tasting locations which is a huge draw for tourists visiting South Africa.
Located in the rolling hillside in the shadow of Table Mountain, Stellenbosch’s close proximity to the vibrant city of Cape Town makes it a must-do day trip. With granite soil and a mountainous landscape, a very high quality of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown here. Some local producers have even had great success with Bordeaux style red blends. However, the local hero is Pinotage; South Africa’s national grape. It was crafted as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault — a Southern French grape.
Established in 1756 and owned by 8 generations of the Myburgh family, Meerlust Estate is a must for your wine tasting itinerary. The estate produces four different reds and a dazzling chardonnay. There’s also a gorgeous manor house, rose garden, bird sanctuary and a handful of renovated former slave quarters for a unique vineyard stay.
Another great stop is Spier Wine Estate, one of the oldest wine estates in the region. If you’re travelling with kids, they even have grape juice tasting for little ones. And for horse lovers, you can saddle up and tour the vineyard on horseback.
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