There’s nothing quite as enchanting as a vacation in one of the world’s great wine regions, where stunningly beautiful vineyards serve as the perfect backdrop for tasting some of the best vintages available. And while more and more wine destinations seem to sprout up every year, some places will always set the standard for wine lovers. Whether you want to taste your way across Burgundy, Piedmont, Sonoma, or the Douro Valley, these 10 essential trips will inspire you to explore the wide world of winemaking.
Founded in 1679 by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, the South African town ofStellenboschis set against majestic mountains and boasts historic, oak-lined streets — the perfect starting point for wine-tippling tours along theStellenbosch Wine Route. Established in 1971, it’s the oldest in South Africa. Dozens of high-quality wineries that produce the region’s signature chenin blanc and pinotage wines are within a day’s drive. Don’t miss South Africa’s only certified biodynamic winery,Reyneke Wines, or a tasting at innovativeDeMorgenzon, which pipes Baroque music throughout the estate (see if you can taste the difference).
Insider Tip: Many Stellenboscharea wineries offer additional attractions, such as wildlife adventures or carriage rides, rounding out a wine-focused visit to the Western Cape.
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With Napa Valley as its closest neighbor, it’s not shocking that Sonoma County is pouring prestigious wines,but the California region is sometimes overlooked (and thus, lacking in crowds). Just an hour’s drive fromSan Francisco, Sonoma County is quintessential California wine country.There are some 400 wineries to explore — many focus on cool-climate wines such aspinot noirs and chardonnays—set in striking redwood forests and beside rugged coastline environs. Along Highway 116, visitors can make stops atIron Horse,Merry EdwardsandPaul Hobbsvineyards, or sip flights inSebastopol, where many area vintners have established convenient tasting rooms.
Insider Tip: Want to take a break from vino? Sonoma County counts more than 50 nature parks with miles of hiking and biking trails (there’s ziplining and kayaking, too).
If you’ve ever been asked whether you’re more Burgundy orBordeaux, you knowBurgundyis one of France’s two powerhouse winemaking regionsand a must-visit for any true oenophile. Unlike other wine regions around the world, getting in the cellar door is no easy feat (don’t expect toturn up atDomaine de la Romanée Contiand expect a tour and tasting). There are a variety of options for gainingentrée, including overnight tours that barge along scenic rivers and canals, passing the area’s Romanesque churches and rolling green hills, or day trips departing from the pretty medieval city ofDijon. All organized tours should be booked well in advance.
Insider Tip: Tasting rooms tend to be small, and Burgundy’s vineyards rarely allow visits without reservations (read: French-speaking guides), but the legwork will be worth it. Sipping Burgundy’s elegant pinot noirs and nuanced chardonnays arethereason to make the trek.
Just an hour away from AdelaideinSouth Australialies the scenicBarossa Valley, wowing wine lovers the world over by producing bold, jammy Shiraz wines and some of Australia’s finest rieslings,mainly from the high-altitude Eden Valley. Australian charm and openness to visitors pervades here.Almost all wineries offer tastings, and many boast free tours and delicious on-site eateries. Spend an afternoon atYalumba, Australia’s oldest family run winery (it has a comfortable tasting room with a fireplace and its own cooperage), or take in thepalm tree-lined drive toSeppeltsfield Winery, renowned for its Centennial Collection,a line of Tawny from every vintage beginning in 1878.
As if Italy's sumptuous Barolos and Barbarescos produced in Piedmont weren’t reason enough, the area’s high concentration ofMichelin-starred restaurants, luxurious hotels and high-end spas — not to mention scenic vistas with pretty hills at the base of the Alps — are increasingly luring visitors to Le Langhe in northwest Italy. Worthy wine-tasting stops (advance reservations are usually necessary) in Barbaresco includeTenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di GresyandProduttori del Barbaresco. In Barolo, make a trip to the familialFratelli Barale,in operation since 1870.
Insider Tip: Combine your passions for fine food and wine by visiting in the fall,when white truffles make their coveted (and expensive) appearance in local markets and restaurants.
For the rest of the world's 10 best trips for wine lovers, including Germany's storybook castles and rolling hills that lead to Mosel Valley, visitFodor's.