Visit any of the great wine regions in Europe and you will be rewarded with more than an incredible wine tasting experience. Where else can you watch the sun rise over rolling green hills, dotted with medieval villages and row upon row of ripening vineyards which have been cared for and cultivated for by families for centuries on end?
There is no doubt that Europe is the home of winemaking. The history, climate culture and soil of each area is infused in the flavours, methods and customs unique to each wine region. It is these qualities, the earthiness or “terroir” of Old World wines, which cannot be replicated even by excellent wine making countries in the New World, such as Australia and New Zealand. So which are the best European wine regions to visit?
Tuscany is perhaps the most famous wine region in the world. The ancient cellar doors, picture perfect scenery and temperate climate attract thousands of visitors each year. Chianti is the most recognised wine from this region and more recently, emerging are the award winning “Super Tuscans”. It is hard to find a bad glass of wine in Tuscany, where even the most humble
trattoria will serve an excellent house red. Any visit to this region would not be complete without spending some time in Florence with its famous museums, including the renowned Uffizi, home to numerous works of the great Renaissance masters.
Only sparkling wine made in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France can claim the title of true “champagne”. Beneath the soil is the secret to the champagne method of wine making. The region is famous for its chalky soil and caves and the wine is cooled in chalk cellars for a minimum of one and a half years. A tour of this beautiful region is like a who’s who of famous luxury brands such as Vueve Cliquot, Cristal, Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon. The natural beauty of the region matches its deserved fame and is a lovely place for long walks after a delicious lunch of homemade French food with matching wines.
Portugal may not immediately spring to mind as one of Europe’s great wine regions, but it would be amiss to overlook the home of fortified wine. Like all Europe’s wine regions, it is also steeped in history. When the English was at war with France, they decided to try importing wines from Portugal instead but found the wine spoiled on the longer passage. The decision was made to fortify the wine instead and port has remained a popular wine ever since.
Port is matched perfectly with desserts and many port houses will offer accompanying chocolate tasting or other flavours to bring out the complex notes of a fine port. Porto is a beautiful seaside town and worthy of several days on your travel itinerary.
Arguably the most beautiful wine region in France, and there are many, is Burgundy. Famous for its full bodied pinot noirs and chardonnays, this region boasts breathtaking landscapes and historical treasures. In a single day you can sample numerous boutique and world class wines, while also visiting a 16th century castle and seeing Roman ruins. One of the best ways to get the most out of this region is on a guided tour. Be sure to find one which includes a visit to a local cheese artisan for some cheese tasting which is also famous in this area.
La Rioja, Spain
La Rioja is a wine making region in Spain set in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains and known world over for the quality of its wines. In fact, wines have been produced here in vast quantities since Roman times. There is a great variety of things to see and do nearby. Be sure to include a day trip into the mountains for some walking or simply to take in the view. La Rioja is also close to the Way of St James pilgrim route and boasts a number of important cathedral and monasteries which have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
The Mosel-Saar Ruwer, or Mosel for short, is the river running through this famous wine region in Germany. Vineyards dot the steep hillsides of this cooler wine making region, which is perfect for the production of riesling grapes. Riesling is generally lighter and crisper than the other styles of wine and has been produced here successfully since the 15th century. Towns in these regions are paved in cobble stone and surrounded by green countryside, great for hiking or enjoying a picnic lunch. This part of Germany is also close to France and Luxembourg making it a perfect detour on a driving holiday.
Last, but by no means least, is the Bordeaux region in the south west of France. Argued by some to be the wine capital of the world, this ancient region is littered with stunning heritage-listed buildings, beautiful countryside, medieval villages and sea-side townships. Where else can you combine site seeing, shopping and winery tours by day and then spend you evenings dining in a castle? The variety of great wines produced in this region is legendary and it continues to be one of the fastest wine-growing regions in the world. With so many cellar doors to visit and so much history to soak in, a professional wine tasting tour is recommended as the best way to get the most from this region.
Choose any of these spectacular wine regions as your holiday destination for a holiday experience that you will never forget. Good food, breathtaking scenery and spectacular historical sites are a perfect match for the best wines that Europe has to offer.