Wine Lover’s Guide to Europe
Sipping wine on a lush green vineyard, just feet from where the grapes were harvested, is nothing short of enchanting and romantic. Doing so following an afternoon of exploring the different varietals as the sun sinks into the sky behind you is even more alluring. For a journey that will take you back in time, allow you to explore unique regions, and ignite each and every one of your senses, consider a tour through the European wine regions.
While regions such as Rioja, Tuscany, and Bordeaux are among the first names that come to mind when you think of European vineyards, true wine pundits will know that those sprawling acres of grape vines are just the beginning. In addition to the traditional Spanish, Italian, and French wine tours, the valleys of Croatia, Romania, and other Eastern European regions are being recognized for their unique and rich wine offerings.
There is great diversity of vineyards and wines across Europe just waiting to be explored and tasted. When planning your next wine trip, consider these six locations:
1. The Douro Valley, Portugal
Named one of the top 10 trips in the world for wine lovers, the Douro Valley in northern Portugal is the home of port – the sweet red wine that is generally served as dessert. Situated above the Douro River, the steep terraces that make up the vineyard began producing the red varietal as far back as the third century A.D. The Romans were among the first to begin producing wine in this region, making the vineyard one of the oldest worldwide. Traveling by train is usually advised as the steep roads to the vineyards of this region are incredibly curvy and narrow. You can also glimpse the beauty of the region with a boat tour along the Douro River.
2. Tuscany, Italy
There is little that the renowned region of Tuscany doesn’t offer.With 350 official wine varieties in the region ranging from rich, full-bodied reds to light, crisp whites, Tuscany should top the travel bucket list of any wine lover. A visit to any of Tuscany’s vineyards offers far more than just a glass of wine; it rewards the traveler with a historic look at the winemaking process, the inspiration of the people behind the wine and a true taste of the region.
3. Champagne, France
Between the reds and the whites is the bubbles: a libation often served for celebratory occasions. But not all sparkling wines with a touch of fizz are considered champagne. Bubbles from Spain are called cava and Italian bubbles are called prosecco. Only the true product from the Champagne region in northern France, just south of Paris can take that name. Topping most French wine tours, those throughout the nearly 75,000 acres of the Champagne-Ardenne region are heralded for their standard and distinction.
4. Istria, Croatia
Blending the cultures and landscapes of Western and Central Europe, Croatia’s Istrian coast excels at producing complex and distinctive lines of wines. Ivica Matošević, considered one of the best producers in Istria, especially does well with white wines such as Malvasia Istriana. You can also find red varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Teran. Winemaking in the south of Croatia produces whites that are much more dry and crisp than the ones in the north, as well as aromatic. The reds are also different in the south, producing an intense variety of notes of flavor. For wine vacations like no other, consider venturing through this central European nation.
5. Santorini, Greece
Though most only venture to the Mediterranean island of Santorini for romantic sun-drenched getaways amid bright white architecture and deep blue seas, some luxury vacation packages may include a wine tour as well. Best known for its white wine grape Assyrtiko, Santorini boasts a number of vineyards. Winemaking at Estate Argryos dates back more than a century. With a visit to this vineyard, you’ll meet a fourth generation winemaker doing what he does best. The vineyard Gaia which sits along the beach, up-and- coming Domaine Segalas, and Santo Wines also provide unmatched wine-tasting experiences.
6. Catalonia, Spain
Level temperatures and year-round sunlight make Catalonia an ideal region for growing grapes. The Mediterranean climate and versatility of the region allow for 11 different designations of origin, known as DO, for wine. Lively and welcoming, the region hosts wine festivals, offers great wine tastings and walks, and provides culinary classes that teach you the best wines for food pairings. Wine therapy treatments are even being offered at several wellness centers in the region!
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