Top 10 Wine Destinations Around the World

February 15, 2012 by

Food, Drink & Travel, Top Travel Destinations, Wine Tasting

Wine tasting is a lovely way to spend a day or a weekend. So enjoyable, in fact, that wine tasting has become a vacation in itself. Wine tourism has grown in the last 10 years and many wineries around the world now provide exquisite tasting rooms with vineyard views, wine tasting dinners, and tours of the vineyards and cellars. An oeno-experience, one might say.

And wine is a beautiful thing. It’s a perfect complement to a meal, and pleasant way to unwind after a day of sightseeing. Imagine lingering over a glass while looking at the sun dip below rolling hills of vineyards. Now imagine doing it every day for a week or longer. Wine regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy in France and Napa and Sonoma counties in California are well-known tasting destinations. More recently, however, areas around the States, Canada, South Africa, and Australia have come into their own as wine tasting destinations. That being said, check out our list of the Top 10 Wine Destinations Around the World.

1. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Okanagan Valley

Lake Okanagan – photo courtesy of Kelly Nigro via Flickr

From the Canada/U.S. border, Highway 97 winds its way north from the summer vacation hotspot of Osoyoos, through the region’s viticulture center in Penticton, and past the mountain-framed shores of Okanagan Lake to Vernon. More than 60 grape varietals are grown here, including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, as well as a variety of fruit wines. Okanagan wines are truly exceptional, and Penticton is an excellent place to start a tasting tour of the more than 100 wineries in the region.

2. Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux wine

Find lots of wine in Bordeaux!

Bordeaux is one of the most respected wine producing regions in the world, producing everything from delicious table wines to some of the world’s most expensive and prestigious bottles. You’ll need to head out of this elegant town with its Gothic churches and 18th-century mansion for tastings, but you’ll be rewarded with wines from the verdant vineyards of such fine chateaus as St-Emilion, Graves, and Médoc. Tasting rooms are exquisite, as are the grand estates which hold them. You can indulge in some of the country’s finest cuisine here, as well. Try a Bordeaux wine tour to get a “taste” of the region.

3. Finger Lakes, New York

Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes – photo courtesy of Valerie Knoblauch via Flickr

New York’s largest producing wine region, the Finger Lakes has more than 100 wineries dotting the panoramic hills around the lakes. Tasting rooms and tours abound, and you’ll be able to sample such varietals as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Vidal Blank, and Riesling. Start your tour of the region with a stop at the New York Wine & Culinary Center, which offers wine tastings and information on the region. Two popular wine routes to check out are the Cayuga Wine Trail and the Seneca Wine Trail. Both showcase the region’s finest wineries. Explore this region’s wine scene with these New York wine tours.

4. Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza wine

Trying wine in Mendoza – photo courtesy of Alberto via Flickr

In recent years, Argentina has established itself as top wine-producing region, known for its exceptional Malbec, as well as decent Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Many wineries in Mendoza offer tastings, tasting dinners, and tours; however, you must book in advance, as nearly all the wineries require reservations. For the spontaneous wine taster, visit Vines of Mendoza off the main square for information, reservations, and tastings. For a great introduction, try our half-day wine tasting tour of Mendoza.

5. Willamette Valley, Oregon

Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley – photo courtesy of Travel Salem via Flickr

More than 200 large and small wineries populate this fertile region, which runs south from Portland along Highway 99. Much more down to earth than its California neighbor, the Willamette Valley grows mostly cooler-climate varietals, similar to those produced in Alsace and Burgundy. The region is best known for its outstanding Pinot Noir, but you’ll also taste some flavorful Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. Many of the wineries have picnic tables, so pack a picnic basket and pick up a bottle of wine and enjoy a picnic with Cascade Mountain views.

6. Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany wine

Wine + snacks in Tuscany = the perfect combination!

Ah Tuscany! Chianti is the first word that comes to mind, the ever-pleasing red wine that pairs so perfectly with meats and pastas. Amid the gently sloping hills of Tuscany, filled with medieval houses and castles, are acres of grape vines with wineries open for tours and tastings. This is Old World wine culture at its finest; wine-makers still crush the grapes with their feet here, and wine is stored in long, vaulted basement cellars carved right out of the rock.

7. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town vineyard

Bikers ride through a vineyard near Cape Town – photo courtesy of warrenski via Flickr

Just outside of Cape Town is South Africa’s world-renown Cape Winelands, where fertile soil and a moderate climate enables growers to produce fine Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Pinot Noir. South African wines have grown in popularity over the last decades, and the region is well-prepared for a wine-tasting holiday. Visit Groot Constantia, one of the most famous and oldest wine farms in the region; the wines here are stellar, and the views are breathtaking. Other wine routes to visit are Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek. Try a wine tour in a chauffered sidecar!

8. Napa & Sonoma, California

Napa tour

See the famous grapes of Napa!

Napa Valley has long been the most popular wine tasting region in the United States, drawing more than 4 million visitors each year. The region’s world-class wines garner international praise, and most of its more than 450 wineries are open for tastings. The region produces a variety of wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll also find charming towns, superb restaurants, hotels, spas, wine tours, and plenty of outdoor activities.

Next to Napa Valley is Sonoma, the second most popular region in the United States, producing a bounty of similar grapes that are grown in Napa. Like Napa, you’ll find hundreds of wineries open for tastings, and quaint little towns with wine bars, restaurants, and boutique hotels. Taste and tour as much as you like with Napa Valley 2-day Explorer Pass

9. Barcelona, Spain

Cava bottles

Cava bottles

Bordering the Mediterranean Sea, cosmopolitan Barcelona teems with gastronomic discoveries, among its blend of Gothic and modern architecture. The city is also the capital of Catalonia, a region not only famous for its Catalan cuisine but also for its dry white wines, meaty and ruby reds, and sparkling Cava. Garnacha and Tempranillo grapes dominate the reds, Macabeo and Parellada for whites. Nine different regions make up Catalonia, and you can arrange a wine or cava tour from Barcelona to discover some of the region’s finest wineries.

10. Yarra Valley, Australia

Scenic Vineyard on a clear day in the Yarra Valley

Scenic Vineyard on a clear day in the Yarra Valley

An hour outside of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is rolling landscape filled with cute villages, crafts shops, restaurants, and a lot of wineries. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah are the main varietals here, but the area is also known for its classic sparkling wines. Tasting rooms abound, and you can also partake in some the region’s finest restaurants and accommodations. The major towns in the region are Yarra Glen, Healesville, and Warburton. In between tasting stops, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic scenery.

Read more: Yarra Valley Wine and Winery Tour

– William Travis

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10 Responses to “Top 10 Wine Destinations Around the World”

  1. Duke Dillard Says:

    Great list. I’ve only been to California- went to northern part of Napa for our honeymoon. I know it is not up to par yet, but maybe one day Cappadocia, Turkey will make the list. The wine is decent (getting better) and the place is amazing- one of the unique landscapes in the world.

  2. Crystal Says:

    I may be biased because I am a 6 hour drive away, but I love the wineries of the Okanagan Valley!! Great list and I certainly hope to visit some of these other regions soon.

  3. Alyssa D Says:

    I live in the Okanagan, and it’s beautiful here!

  4. Lynne Says:

    When your in the Okanagan be sire to visit Oliver – The Wine Capital of Canada!!

  5. Armands Balodis Says:

    I am not a big wine fan, but lately I have enjoyed Australian Rose wine, so it is no surprise for me that you have included Australia as one of the wine countries.

  6. Julo, Travel via Italy Says:

    I love sweet wines, especially those from Sicily with higher percentage of alcohol, like Malvasia. So Sicily is also my favourite wine region 🙂 But I also like Tokaj region in Slovakia, or Morava region in the Czech Republic!

  7. Vesna Says:

    I admit I am biased – but I live in Paradise – Vernon BC at the north end of the most beautiful Okanagan Valley. We have world class downhill and Nordic skiing and the most gorgeous lakes in the summer. The wines of this valley cannot be beat! We also have award winning Okanagan Spirits as well. Come visit us!!!!!! You may not ever leave!

  8. Jeannie Says:

    I have lived in the Willamette Valley most of my 48 years.It has grown more beautiful with each passing year.Our tourism has gone crazy because of the wine industry. We have exceptional wineries and the food is amazing.The color in this valley is second to none.The summer with the fields of wheat against the green leaves of the grape vines is a wonderful picture op.It smells like heaven here with the fertile soil and everything grows like mad during our summer months. Please come visit our amazing corner of the world and see for yourself…

  9. Osvaldo Says:

    Piemonte Langhe, Gattinara home of Barolo, Barbaresco Grignolino, Dplcetto. E a gattinara home of Spanna

  10. Christina, Best Western Kelowna Hotel Says:

    Our Okanagan wines beat France, hey? What a wonderful honor 🙂 We can definitely vouche for the stunning valley views too!