Know your clarets from your chiantis, or just want to learn in gorgeous surroundings? We’ve chosen her favourite beautiful locations for your next wine adventure. All are home to idyllic unspoilt scenery and tasteful places to stay that it will please even the most hardened travel snobs out there…
Sachsen Region, Germany
Some people like to work off their wine and cheese tasting by taking a brisk walk in the countryside. If this sounds like you, consider hiking the beautiful Saxon Wine Trail (“Sächsischer Weinwanderweg”) in eastern Germany. Created in 2004, this is an easy trail of some 48 km that you can walk in 4 days. August and September are the best months to take advantage of their open days and weekend festivals involving more than 25 wineries. Start in the historic city of Pirna and work your way North-East towards the picturesque town of Meissen (just follow the markers with the trail’s logo). You can plan overnights at one of the many lovely hotels or guest houses in Heinenau and Radebeul. Take your pick of winery estates along the way – many are also dotted with stately castles, elegant gardens and a good handful of excellent wine bars and restaurants.
In the Chianti Classico section of Tuscany, only 10 minutes away from the small pretty town of Greve, you’ll find an idyllically located guest house called Casa Montrogoli. It sits on a hilltop overlooking vineyards, an olive grove, and a vegetable garden. This beautifully renovated property has eight guest bedrooms and five bathrooms. Your hosts are Arianna – a hospitality specialist – and Alessio – a sommelier. Together, they offer rustic Italian cooking lessons and wine tastings and everything here is organically-grown. If you arrive during the early fall, you can observe the grape harvest followed weeks later by the olive harvest. Once here help with the harvest, lounge around the comfortable villa, take lazy bike rides, or spend a day touring nearby cities – pure bliss!
Stellenbosch, South Africa
This lovely destination is located about 50 km from Cape Town and is easily one of the most beautiful wine locations in the world. A local tour operator offers three different route options and each route can take you to up to six wine estates which is endearingly named the Vine Hopper tour. You can hop on and off the guest van throughout the day and you choose which estates to visit and for how long. At least two of these farms offer on-site restaurants, although be aware wine tasting fees are not included in the Vine Hopper ticket price and vary from one estate to another.
There are many vineyards located in the Galilee and Golan Heights regions of Israel and some are run by kibbutzim (collective farming communities). One such place is Lotem Winery located within Kibbutz Lotem about 33 km North East from Haifa in the northern Galilee. Here the winemakers process nearly 15,000 bottles annually and they specialise in organic dry red wines and rosés. You can meet the founders and take a tour of wine cellars where they play music recordings as an integral part of the fermenting process! If you want to eat food with your wine tasting, just call ahead and they will arrange this for you. Alternatively, simply schedule your visit for late March or early April when the annual “Wine and Plenty” festival is held in the town of Zichron Ya’akov about 21 km south of Haifa.
Northern California, USA
Northern California and especially Napa Valley is a favourite global destination for wine tours and tastings. On my visit, I went with Country Walkers who offer a reasonably priced self-guided walking tour of the Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California. It takes around 2 hours from San Francisco to reach either of these counties. Your 6 day/5 night itinerary includes overnights in charming boutique hotels and walks through beautiful local and state parks. You will visit a number of well-known wineries equipped with visitor reception areas and tasting rooms. At some wineries you will be able to walk through the vineyards with a guide depending on the time of year. Enjoy all types from merlots to cabernet sauvignons to chardonnays and much more – a must location for all wine-loving travellers.
There are so many good reasons to visit the South American country of Chile and this is just one more – Chilean wines are considered by experts to be among the best in the world. With the help of Santiago-based tour operator Cascada Expediciones, you can spend three days bicycling around the famous Maipo Valley, located just 45 minutes to the south of Santiago. Here you will discover different vineyard estates – from historic to contemporary to organic. In addition to familiar Cabernet Sauvignons there are local Carmenere wines which are currently experiencing a renaissance – go now before everyone catches on!
Hunter Valley, Australia
Here there are almost too many wineries to choose from – around 150 of them! Visiting five wineries is just enough to fill one whole day, so don’t try for more, you also may wish to save time at the end for either cheese or chocolate sampling at local shops. The divine wine, food and beautiful unspoilt country scenery with backdrop views of the Barrington mountains make this area one of the most beautiful wine tasting locations in the world.