The world is your wine glass these days, as there are vineyards producing fine wine the world over.
At APH we thought we’d combine two of our favourite things; a great tipple with a great holiday, so we’ve investigated some of the wine hot spots that also happen to make for exciting vacation destinations.
You don’t have to be a wine expert to enjoy sipping a glass of something cool in a gorgeous location, surrounded by vines, so here are our top wine tasting destinations that really do hit the spot!
Ok so no big surprises here; France is one of the largest producers of wine in the world so its inevitable we’d find ourselves recommending a trip across the channel to sample some of its offerings!
Bordeaux itself has some stunning world heritage architecture and is well worth a visit; but most day-trippers make their way out to the 120,000 hectares of vineyard at first light. This is the largest wine growing region in France and produces some really incredible red wine; Red Bordeaux is generally made from a blend of grapes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec grapes are all permitted.
Head to the stunning, UNESCO World Heritage site that is St Emilion; this picturesque town is built like an amphitheatre and is as good as a living museum. It’s all solid stone walls, Roman pedigree vineyards and acres of limestone caves and it’s the perfect spot to get yourself acquainted with the local tipple.
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec
Top pick: Château Cheval Blanc
Home to the supposed best wine ever made, the ’47 Cheval Blanc; Chateau Cheval Blanc has been producing it’s blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc since the land was first acquired in 1832 by the Ducasse family.The 47 Cheval Blanc is so sought after that cases have gone for £90,000 at auction, that’s nearly £7,500 a bottle! The château is beautiful and there are panoramic views of the vineyards surrounding the property and also of the neighbouring châteaus from the roof top.
Other reasons to visit: Admiring the river front Palais de la Bourse in Bordeaux, indulging in oysters in the coastal town of Arcachon.
Beautiful Santorini may seem an unlikely place to indulge in wine tasting, but its volcanic, mineral-rich soil and great climate make for some seriously drinkable wines!
Assyrtiko is the island’s signature grape; it’s a high acid grape full of citrus that produces a full bodied wine and there are wineries across the island where you can sample it. Santorini is easily accessible by car, and its small size means that you can quickly cover vast stretches of the island. It also happens to be breathtakingly beautiful; white washed villages perch at the edge of the volcanic caldera and make for some incredible views.
Grapes: Indigenous grapes like Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani are used here.
Top pick: Estate Argyros Winery
This is one of the oldest vineyards on the island and hails from as far back as 1903 when it was a mere 5 acres and traditional methods were used to produce wine for the local markets. Today it stands at 65 acres and is run by Yannis Argyros, a third generation-er at Estate Argyros. Ancient and indigenous grapes thrive in the volcanic soil here including Assyrtiko, Aidani, Mandilaria, Mavrathira and Voudomato.
Other reasons to visit: Watching the sunset at the edge of the caldera in picturesque Oia, touring the active volcano at the centre of it all.
Rolling hills, beautiful stone farmhouses, delicious food; Tuscany is a stunning place to visit for any of these reasons, the fact they produce delicious Chianti is just a bonus. This is what wine-tasting is all about; sipping vino in a stunning location with the sun on your back.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to tastings; we recommended starting at a smaller winery where you can get to grips with the basics of Chianti production, before you let yourself loose in the beautiful landscape on a full tour of all this region has to offer.
Grapes: Sangiovese, Colorino
Top pick: Villa Pomona
A great starting point, this typically Tuscan estate is four hectares of vineyards, olive groves and woodland, there’s also a farm that includes an old olive mill. The traditionalist approach to Chianimaking is observed at Villa Romana; the local Colorino grape is added to 95% Sangiovese to create their €10 Chianti Classico. The vines are also in the process of being certified organic.
Other reasons to visit: Admiring amazing art in Florence, indulging in gelato while catching the Palio race in Siena.
Barossa Valley, Australia
Just an hour or two outside of Adelaide, this picturesque region produces some seriously good Shiraz and it’s not too bad to look at either. The cool summers and rainy winters of Barossa’s Mediterranean style climate are perfect for producing top quality red wine. Don’t miss Eden Valley, nestled in the midst of Barossa; the higher altitude of this region makes for a fabulous Riesling.
Barossa is a truly romantic wine destination; hiring a bike and day tripping between the wineries is a great way to explore the area and get a real taste for the Shiraz on offer here. There are hiking trails to be enjoyed and countless farm shops who’s produce is begging to be sampled.
Grapes: This part of the world is famous for its Shiraz, and rightly so. Grenache is also grown here along with Riesling, which does well at the higher altitude of Eden Valley.
Top pick: Peter Lehmann Wines
A must visit, Peter Lehmann Wines is considered by many to have done more for the name of Barossa wine than any other. Taste more than 40 wines in the old stone building followed by sampling some local produce at the on-site café.
Other reasons to visit: Trek to Wilpena Pound in the fabulous Flinders ranges, watching pelicans gather at Coorong National Park.
Marlborough, New Zealand
There are a million reasons to visit New Zealand’s South Island, not least of which is for a taste of the top quality Sauvignon Blanc on offer at its northern end. The Marlborough wine region produces some world class wines, and is easily accessible from Christchurch, or if you’re having a real adventure, by way of the ferry from Wellington on the North Island.
The rugged mountain ranges and fertile plains of the region really make for spectacular views; if you’re feeling active you can hike, jump in a sea kayak, sail the sounds, mountain bike a trail, take a scenic flight, have a go at fishing and take in the sights on horseback.
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc is the real show stopper in this region, which produces some of the finest in the world. You can also find Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Top pick: Highfield
Highfield sits high on the Brookby Ridge; you can see across the Wairau plains to the North Island on a good day. Specialising in Sauvignon Blanc, sample some delicious wine followed by grabbing a bite to eat at the popular on-site restaurant.
Other reasons to visit: Cruising on the stunning Marlborough Sounds, heading south to sail with whales at Kaikoura.
Napa & Sonoma Valleys, California
Handily located north of lively San Francisco, these two neighbouring valleys offer not only drop dead gorgeous views but also some world class wineries. Napa is the bigger brother here, you’ll find well established vineyards and higher prices; Sonoma is all rustic charm and smaller, lower key wineries.
There’s so much to see and do in the region; Napa in particular is like Disneyland for wine connoisseurs and offers a non-stop wining and dining experience.
We recommended staying and playing in Napa as there is more choice in terms of accommodation, dining and drinking, but don’t miss out on a trip to Sonoma for more grape varieties, some real bargain wines and a more down to earth atmosphere.
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are all prominent.
Top pick in Napa: Chappellet
Chappellet produces some of Napa’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon’s and is situated at a stunning high-elevation. You can take a 90 minute tour that includes a walk through the vineyards and a tasting session of all the latest wines.
Top pick in Sonoma: Rodney Strong Vineyards
Rodney Strong Vineyard is a boutique winery that produces premium, small lot wines; but the great drop isn’t the only reason to visit; they also hold a Summer Music Festival every year so you can enjoy your tipple to the sounds of music in a stunning location.
Other reasons to visit: Marvelling at the might of nature at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, heading south to live it up in San Francisco.