Contributed by Ben Rhodes
Back in early 2015, FlavorfulWorld ran a post on 3 US cities which were popular travel destinations for wine enthusiasts. These cities are certainly worth checking out if you haven’t already and want to refine your taste. However, like many readers, you may feel that you’ve seen everything that the American wine country has to offer. This post is all about your next step; leaving the country in search of more varied and exotic flavours. Here, we’ll take a closer look of three of the best wine tasting destinations in the world. Any one of these will be an experience you won’t easily forget!
Bordeaux is the second most visited city in France, second only to Paris. When you see all the beautiful, old architecture and tantalizing restaurants, this won’t be all that surprising! The very name Bordeaux has an instant association with fine wine, and this will certainly be held up when you dive in and really get to experience the city. With its own wine festivals and exhibitions running throughout the year, you’ll be in good company if you come just for the wine!
You can go in three directions from the city to the most prominent vineyards and estates. In the north, you’ll be able to visit Médoc, known around the world for its grand, imposing chateaus. The chateaus here are exceedingly popular attractions, for wine lovers and general tourists alike, and you’ll need to book well in advance to get the best possible visits. However, Chateau Pichon Baron and Mouton Rothschild, which can both be found in Pauillac, are more hospitable and flexible with visiting .
To the south, you can find Graves, the vineyard which originally put Bordeaux on the map. Nearby, you can also visit Chateau Smith Haut Latiffe, and enjoy some exquisite dining in the family’s prestigious restaurant, Les Sources de Caudalie. If you’re something of a history buff, you may want to go east, to visit Saint Émilion, an area that’s bursting with rich medieval history and charm. The stately chateaus Villemaurine and Soutard allow access to its impressive underground caves, which are certainly worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Although Bordeaux has all kinds of fascinating sights and experiences for tourists, naturally you’ll be wondering what the most noteworthy wines are. I’m afraid the answer to that is simply too long to fit in here! There are over 9,000 different estates in the Bordeaux area, if you are planning to try them all I hope you brought a spit bucket or designated driver! You’ll find mostly reds here – notably blends of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. While these are certainly the highlights of the area, make sure you don’t miss out on some of the excellent dry whites they have as well. These are typically made from sauvignon blanc and Sémillon. Also, make sure you don’t miss out on Sauternes and Barsac to try some of their dessert wines. You’ll find a lot of affordable, yet delightful reds and whites labeled Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur. Planet Bordeaux, which lies just outside the city, is also a great place to taste and buy from various local producers.
Bordeaux is the original wine country, and the one sure place that every wine enthusiast should visit at least once in their lifetime. If you want to open your pallet to all kinds of new possibilities, and avoid spending a small fortune on it, this is the place to go!
Franschhoek, South Africa
Although wine country in the States, France and various other countries can offer some wonderful experiences, many would agree that they’ve become pretty warped over the years by the tourism trade in these areas. If this is one thing that you want to avoid, then Franschhoek is a destination that should definitely make your list. The name means “French corner”, which is taken from the French Huguenots who settled the area in the 1600s. If you love wine, but hate the bustle of urban areas, then this is one destination that you’ll take to easily. The mountains where Franschhoek is nestled are massively popular for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding, and if you’re able to find a guide they should be able to show you some fantastic spots for trout fishing too. If your idea of a perfect tasting trip doesn’t involve bouncing from one tourist attraction to another, then Franschhoek is the one sure place where you can experience great wine all the while taking a long breather.
There are incredible wineries scattered throughout the area surrounding Franschhoek, allowing you to do your tasting at a leisurely, unhurried pace. Rickety Bridge, Haut Espoir, Boekenhoutskloof, and GlenWood are all great for Sémillon, whereas Chamonix, the Maison Estate and Moreson are known for their chardonnays. The wines from this part of South Africa are known in circles all over the world for their elegant, citrusy twinge, and those last three estates are the best places to experience it. If you’re more into your Cabernet, then I’d go to La Motte and the Stony Brook Vineyards. For Shiraz, I recommend checking out Solms-Delta. Here, the wine comes in a delicious, Rhône-style blend, and unique, intriguing bottles which make wonderful souvenirs. After all that, there are also areas where you can relax with a glass of bubbly. Le Lude and Colmant are the resident champagne authorities, but you’ll be able to find great bottles up and down the valley, notably at Black Elephant Vintners.
With picturesque rural landscape, rich historical intrigue, and of course a lot of great wines, Franschhoek is an amazing place for any enthusiast to visit. As wonderful as this little pocket of land is, there’s one small catch: the price and exclusivity! Compared to more touristy wine stops like Bordeaux, Franschhoek can be very expensive to stay and buy in. Instead of making a trip of it, you may be better off marking it as one stop on a larger wine tour. Like France, it’s hard to take a trip to South Africa and not come across some exquisite wines. Many wine enthusiasts fork out for luxurious cruise packages for this exact reason, like the ones from Imagine Cruising South Africa.
Margaret River, Australia
The Margaret River region lies right on the western coast of Australia, and is roughly a three-hour drive south of Perth. Between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin, the Margaret River stretches 50 miles, and is dotted with sublime beaches and surf breaks that are famous around the nation. What’s really interesting about this wine-tasting area is that it was completely unknown 50 years ago. Despite lacking the long history of places like Bordeaux and Franschhoek, Margaret River has exploded in popularity over a relatively short time, and become one of the most widely-renowned regions on earth for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Countless travelers and journalists have stacked it up against more famous regions in the past, but when you boil it all down the place moves according to its own unique style, which you need to experience yourself to fully understand.
The Margaret River region is dotted with an excellent range of wineries, both large and small. While they all have their little charming nuances, the one thing they all have in common is fantastic wine, so make sure you hit as many as you can! A great place to start is the Wilyabrup sub region, where you can find one of Margaret River’s most long-running wineries, Vasse Felix, and taste its famous Heytesbury Chardonnay. You should also try to stop at Grace Farm, if only for its wonderful, rural surroundings. If you have a look at Woodlands, don’t let their small tasting room put you off – inside you’ll be able to sample some of the world’s most acclaimed Cabernets. West of the main town in Margaret River, you can find the prestigious McHenry Hohnen vineyard, which was cofounded by David Hohnen, the man behind Cape Mentelle and Cloudy Bay. Here, you can have a taste of some delicious biodynamic wines, including zinfandel and marsanne. After these stops, I recommend heading south to check out the Leeuwin estate. Here, you can try the vineyard’s famous Art Series range, and take one or two sips of older vintages. To round off your visit, head east to Si Vintners (make sure you book an appointment first!) Though a relatively small operation, the wines here are something you certainly don’t want to miss when you’re in the area. All the wines are organic, and mixed by just two people – Iwo Jakimowicz and Sarah Morris. The philosophy and history behind their wines are pretty simple, but I assure you you’ll be raving about them for a long time after your trip!
With great weather, great food, and spectacular wine, the Margaret River area is a wonderful stop for any wine enthusiast. If you’re looking for just the right balance of tourism and rural beauty, with an emphasis on organic growing and quality produce, then start planning your trip to Margaret River today!