Red wine, white wine, sparkling champagne – whatever floats your boat, somewhere out there you’ll find a wine travel destination that ticks all your boxes too. Hitting the wine trail in California mixes sun, sea and vineyards in ideal quantities; while a trip to the Bourgogne region of France will put you at the heart of some of the best wine tasting trails in the world.
Beaune, Bourgogne Region by daffyduke via Flickr Creative Commons
As with all travel, wine travel is dependent on environment and personality as well as the product you have come to sample. There’s no pint, for example, in schlepping halfway around the world to visit a legendary vineyard if it’s in the middle of an environment you dislike.
1: The UK
Yes, believe it or not the United Kingdom is on the wine travel map. The south of England has started to produce some excellent wines, including “British Champagne”: and one or two of the bigger vineyards are open for a tour. The Purbeck vineyard in Dorset is a prime example – offering accommodation and tours in one of the country’s prettiest counties.
Still one of the world’s most renowned producers of all three major styles of wine, France heads up wine tour lists every year for obvious reasons. There are roughly 13 specific wine regions in France, most of them so famous that their name (the French call it a terroir, which is literally a territory) is given to whole styles of white wine and red wine. Chablis; Rhone; Beaujolais; and Bordeaux are but a few.
Bar a Vin Caviste by quinet via Flickr Creative Commons
Every region is full of cavistes – stores that sell the wine on for the vineyards. It is possible to conduct wine tasting tours of the vineyards themselves, or to explore the cavistes. In either incarnation, the French wine holiday is one of the greatest in the world, for sheer variety of taste and countryside. You can pick according to your favourite wine style, or for the ambience of the region.
California was one of the first “New World” (i.e., not French) locations to seriously challenge the dominance of the French winemakers. In the 1970s, an enterprising Californian vineyard went head to head with a selection of the best French wines in a blind tasting and won – putting California on the winemaking map forever.
Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, California by star5112 via Flickr Creative Commons
Generically referred to as “Wine Country”, California’s wine producing regions are in actual fact split up by mountains and valleys. The Sonoma Valley and the Napa Valley are potentially the most famous of the lot, though the serious wine buff can tour as many as six individual wine producing valleys during a prolonged visit.
Clearly California has other attractions beyond its wine – notably its deserts and its coastal cities. It is, then, perhaps the most user-friendly of wine travel destinations in that one can travel there with a spouse or with friends and do things other than simply tasting wine.
4: New Zealand
The wine lover with a taste for outdoor adventure could do a lot worse than heading to the southern hemisphere for a wine trip. New Zealand’s wine producing region is pretty much isolated in a single valley on the South Island; but the wines that come from there (the Marlborough Region) are outstanding, and a tour of the vineyards can be combined with a tour of the South Island in general.
Grove Mill Winery, Marlborough Region, NZ by swifant via Flickr Creative Commons
Recommended methods of travel in New Zealand include cycling. As one of the only countries in the world where almost no wildlife is dangerous to humans, New Zealand supports wilderness camping with a range of well maintained sites all the way up the two islands. A wine tour is an ideal part of a cycle trip – or a perfect reason for going on one.