The best wine travel destinations … outside South Africa

The best stories are found in the pages of a passport!

Have you been bitten by the travel bug? While every glass of wine is a journey, wine travel will deliver your wine experiences to new heights.

Enotourism is a relatively new travel concept, and it’s growing at a rapid pace. According to a 2007 study by the Travel Industry Association, wine tourism exploded during the first decade of the 21st century. Sixty percent of those surveyed expressed interest in food and wine related travel, while seventeen percent (or 27 million people) confirmed wine-related travel at least once during the previous three years. These numbers have surely increased over the past nine years. That said, wine travel opportunities abound in all corners of the globe. Veer off the beaten path this winter and indulge in some enotourism, as recommended by some of the web’s top wine writers.

Alsace


Choosing my favorite wine vacation is infinitely harder than choosing my favorite child, for the sole reason that I have but two kids yet I have been on countless wine vacations and there are scores more that I would like to take. Forced to pick just one, I would have to go with our family trip to Alsace a few years ago. We rented an apartment in the picturesque town of Riquewihr for a week in October, just as harvest was ending. Riquewihr is surrounded by some of the finest vineyards in all of Alsace and the town itself boasts numerous wineries and tasting rooms (one was a mere 10 meters from our front door!). Being one of the more cycling friendly regions in France, we did not bother with renting a car, opting instead to explore the neighboring towns by bike. We spent our days riding from town to town on deserted roads through golden vineyards, stopping for lunch in tiny restaurants that mostly serve the locals, returning to Riquewihr just as the last tourists were clearing out. To keep the kids entertained, we visited the incredibly restored castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg (we took the bus as it is a rather steep climb), the unforgetable Volarie des Aigles (where birds of prey dive bomb just over your head), and the Montagne des Singes (feeding wild macaques by hand as we walked among them). The culturally rich town of Colmar was only 30 minutes away and the international city of Strasbourg boasts one of the tallest cathedrals in Europe. That bit of goodwill toward the boys paid off as they allowed us to visit wineries along our own little section of the Route des Vins from Kaysersberg to Ribeauvillé, posing for pictures among the vines and searching for the few grapes overlooked during harvest. A testament to the trip? A few years out and the boys both still ask when we are going back....


Anderson Valley, California


Our most recent wine vacation destination was the Anderson Valley. My wife and I enjoy wine tasting in the Anderson Valley for its idyllic landscapes, unaffected, and intimate vibe. Plus, it’s a target rich environment for tasting cool-climate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. It is also home to one of California’s best sparkling wine producers – Roederer Estate ( If you’re looking to taste more bubbly, Scharffenberger Cellars and Lichen Estate also call the Anderson Valley home) The area also has a reputation of excellent  wine from Alsace grape varieties. It’s located about 2.5 hour drive, and a world away from San Francisco in the coastal region of Mendocino County. After a full day of tasting that included lunch at the Valley’s best Mexican restaurant Libby’s, we drove an hour or so north and spent the night along the coast in Fort Bragg. We returned the next day to do more tasting before driving home. Highlights of the trip included great tasting experiences and purchases from familiar favorites like Roederer Estate, and Philips Hill, plus new favorites Baxter and Knez. Whether you are an experienced wine aficionado, or are just discovering the pleasures of drinking good wine, the Anderson Valley merits exploration!

Burgundy, France


I have been to Burgundy a few of times, and each time has been special. All of us know that they are a wine region known for great fine wines, but I have to say that I enjoyed many of the regional Bourgogne value wines the locals would drink every day. Honestly, it is not a region that has dramatic views, even though it certainly has tons of Old World charm. But you don’t go to Burgundy for insane views, you go to experience the people, who are one with their land. It is the birthplace of “terroir”, a strong sense of place, with many single vineyards around the Côte d'Or. Beaune is the best place to stay, being the wine capital of Burgundy. Many people come from all over the world so it is tourist friendly with lots of nice restaurants and big wine négociants like Bouchard Père et Fils giving tours almost everyday. But to me, the most charming aspects of the place are the tiny producers who, many times, make wine in their basement from only a small piece of land. If you are adventurous, knock on their door; even if English may not be spoken, they will give you a smile and invite you in to taste their precious wine – just don’t do this during harvest time!

Champagne, France


Take a surprisingly short (less than two hours!) drive from Paris and you’re in one of wine’s sacred homes: the Champagne valley. The villages are charming and picturesque, but it’s what's underneath them that’s truly astounding. Deep below the famous chalky soil, you’ll find ancient caves and cellars that have housed secret medieval abbeys, hidden soldiers in both World Wars, and allowed our most treasured bubbles to age gracefully and calmly. From the prestigious international Champagne houses to the lesser-known local producers, I felt welcome everywhere I visited. And no, in response to the burning question, you can never have too much Champagne. But, let’s keep testing the theory just in case…Cheers!

Italy


It is where we began our love affair. Something about dining al fresco on the Amalfi coast or maybe the charm of the enoteca off the cobbled streets of Assisi. I fell in love...with wine. I wanted to share this love with my husband before our next adventure, parenthood. Trains, planes, and automobiles carried us; we carried our backpacks. En route from Rome to Florence, our first stop was at La Tana dell'Istrice in Civitella d'Agliano. Bubbles and fried sage leaves began our evening with Sergio Mottura and his family in their agriturismo. We drank Chianti and grappa in Vagliagli. With Brunello, we toasted at a wine festival in Montalcino, another in Florence. We shared a bottle on the edge of the canal in Venice as the sun set, Vermentino on the sands of Monterosso. On our last evening, we watched the sunset color the mountains surrounding Lake Como, Barberesco in hand. Every town, a new cuisine. Every meal, a new adventure. The passion is contagious in Italy: for food, for wine, for life. It was a passion we carried home with us, one that reignites when we dine al fresco or open a Barbaresco. One that we hope to relive one day, another taste of la dolce vita.

 

(Source: SNOOTH)

 

END