Top 10 Trips for Wine Lovers
Wine and travel seem to go together like—well, like wine and cheese! There’s just something about the combination of globe-trotting and grape-tasting. Sampling a homegrown vintage or meeting a local vintner is a great insight into a destination, and traversing the globe in search of the tastiest varietals is sure to lead you into some incredible adventures. From storied French appellations to upstart Chilean vineyards, here are some of our favorite wine-making destinations around the world—and the Backroads trips that will take you there.
Does Napa Valley need an introduction? Since the historic Judgement of Paris in 1976 when California’s winemakers proved they could hold their own against the French heavyweights, this region has been known around the world for its delicious wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon. But California’s Wine Country is more than just the Napa AVA, and you’ll sample wines from Sonoma, Russian River and more as you cruise through the vineyards on our California Wine Country Bike Tour.
Just like Portugal itself, the Douro Valley (which has been called Europe’s most underrated wine region) has often been overlooked in favor of larger, splashier destinations with more international prestige. But once you visit this valley and sample its wines, you won’t make the mistake of underestimating it again. While the Douro is best known for its port wine, it’s also earning a reputation as a producer of excellent—and affordable—reds and whites. Wine has been produced in this fertile valley for more than 2,000 years—come see what it’s all about!
The Amalfi Coast’s vineyards are as pleasant to look at as the wine they produce is to drink! The distinctive terraced style of these tiny wineries perched high on the cliffside above the sea forms part of the iconic aesthetic that has made the Amalfi a beloved destination for so many years. And this unique terroir has influenced the viticulture just like it has the famous villages below: the steep cliffsides prevent development or excessive expansion, ensuring that the communities remain secluded and the wine is produced in small, delicious batches. Chin chin!
For a country in the “New World”, Chile has a long history of grape-growing and wine-making. Spanish conquistadors first brought vines to the country in the 16th century, when they colonized the region and realized that its dry Mediterranean climate was perfect for cultivating grapes. Chile is today the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wine, but luckily for us it’s not all about quantity—the country also produces excellent Sauvignon Blancs and has restored the Carménère grape to its former glory.
From the refreshing white wines of Pernedes to the hearty reds of La Rioja, Spain’s wines are as diverse as its culture. Sherry and Cava are two classics, but after a day of walking among pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago we prefer something light and refreshing. Luckily, the Camino crosses through Galicia’s Rías Baixas wine region. This Atlantic zone, in addition to being beautiful, is famed for its aromatic white wines—the perfect beverage to cool down after a long day of peregrinating.
Oregon has a long history as a destination for outdoor adventurers, but only a short one as a wine-growing region. The first grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted in the 1960s by a trio of UC Davis students who believed that the state’s climate was perfect for cool-climate varietals, despite their peers who told them it couldn’t be done. The Willamette Valley became an official AVA in 1983 and is known mostly for its Pinot Noir but also its Pinot gris, Chardonnay and Pinot blanc. Today, the Willamette Valley is recognized as one of the top wine-producing regions on the West Coast, vindicating those UC students’ 50-year project. If you’re still skeptical, come see for yourself!
New Zealand is an incredible place, molded by glaciers and volcanoes over thousands of years and home to one of the world’s most active supervolcanoes, Taupo. Part of the beauty of visiting this country is its relatively young geological features—the island is still being shaped daily by seismic activity. What does New Zealand’s wine industry have to do with its geological character? Youth (the earliest licensed winery was only established in the 19th century) and a history of explosive growth. The fertile volcanic soils of the island are also essential for the cultivation of the delicious grapes that have made New Zealand’s white wines famous around the world.
Croatian wine might not have the brand-name appeal of the French or Italian, but that’s not for a lack of quality—in fact, the wines of Croatia’s island-dotted region of Dalmatia are some of the best whites in the world. The modern-day heritage of Croatian wine begins with Miljenko Grgich, a Croatia-born vintner who produced the winning wine at the Judgement of Paris in 1976 and then, 20 years later, returned to his home country and dedicated himself to producing wine with the best Dalmatian grapes, Plavac Mali and Pošip. These crisp white wines pair well with the region’s fresh seafood, which you’ll have plenty of chances to sample on your incredible island-hopping adventure!
Austria’s Wachau Valley is small, measuring only 12 miles from end to end. But as a UNESCO World Heritage Site complete with anachronistic European scenery of steeply terraced vineyards and quaint stone-walled vineyards, there’s more than enough here to fascinate a discerning traveler—and that’s not even mentioning the wine! Rieslings and Grüner Veltliner make up the majority of the valley’s product, meaning that you’ll have plenty of chances to sample refreshing, mineral-driven whites—the perfect thing to cool down after a day of riding through this beautiful landscape.
The iconic wine-growing culture of France is on full display in Bordeaux, where grapes have been grown since the Romans first planted them here in 60 BC. The combination of the region’s rich soil and easy access to the Garonne River for shipping crates of bottles quickly made this one of the world’s premier wine-producing regions—a title that it’s kept to this day. On our Bordeaux & Dordogne Bike Tour we cycle through world-famous vineyards and sit down to Michelin-starred meals featuring wine pairings at historic châteaux. There’s no better place to enjoy the finer things in life than Bordeaux.
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