Know your cabernets from your chardonnays? Whether you fancy yourself as a wine connoisseur or just want to find out more about this delicious drink, these famous European wine regions are ripe for exploring...
The region uncorked: When it comes to wine making, Bordeaux’s been one of the big boys since Roman times. France’s most famous wine region is known for its full-bodied red blends. Making use of the fertile soil around the Gironde Estuary, you’ve got the left bank, where you’ll find the aged, character wines of the Médoc. And then there’s the right bank, which is home to stunning Saint Émilion and its silky smooth, quaff-me-now styles.
Vineyards to visit: For fairytale turrets and French finery on the left bank, take the 5 Senses tour at Château Pape Clement. On the right bank, swing by Château Guadet for family-run vibes and leafy landscapes. If you’re in the city of Bordeaux itself, don’t miss Cité du Vin, an incredible wine museum and experience centre near the historic merchant’s district.
Best bottles to take home: Feeling fancy? Splash out on a vintage Mouton, Margaux or Lafite. If you’re a dessert wine fan, try super sweet Sauternes.
Fly to: Bergerac
The region uncorked: Possibly the most iconic region on the list, Tuscany’s storybook hills are steeped in wine-making tradition. Chianti, Montepulciano, Montalcino – Italy’s superstar vinos from around these parts have cult status. Sangiovese is the signature red grape and the main variety used in most of Tuscany’s top tipples.
Vineyards to visit: Pitch up for the day at Castello di Ama, tucked away in the sun-baked hills around Siena. Tour the cellars, art gallery and local village, then finish with a guided wine tasting. After, tuck into a Tuscan feast from the estate’s kitchen garden at Il Ristoro. At old monastery Badia a Coltibuono, expect a vineyard and winery, farm, gardens, trattoria and big oak casks of ageing Chianti Classico all rolled into one.
Best bottles to take home: For something a little different to Italy’s old-world reds, try the newer breed of Bolgheri’s “Super Tuscans” – Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia is a good place to start. Sparkling wine more your thing? Try a slightly fizzy frizzante.
Fly to: Pisa
The region uncorked: The lush, sub-tropical island of Madeira is prime territory for making delicious Portuguese plonk. It’s renowned for its fortified wine, which is stamped in colonial history and has been exported the world over for more than 500 years, putting Portugal on the map when it comes to wine making. Different grapes create a spectrum of flavours, from sweet through to dry, honeyed through to spicy. Age-wise, you can try anything from 5 to 50 plus years old.
Vineyards to visit: Câmara de Lobos in the south has two super scenic vineyards of note: Vinhos Barbeito
and Henriques & Henriques. In the north, check out the sky-high vineyards around San Vicente. Meanwhile, Funchal is all about the wine lodges. Swing by Pereira D'Oliveira to see how fifth generation wine makers do things.
Best bottles to take home: Blandy’s Alvada 5-year-old is one for old fashioned pudding lovers, while Barbeito 10-Year-Old Verdelho is the perfect partner for cheese and crackers.
Fly to: Funchal
The region uncorked: Spain’s characterful Catalonia region clocks up plenty of long sun-kissed Mediterranean days, which is a big plus in the wine making world. And it’s also the birthplace of the popular sparkling wine, cava. But you can also get your hands on some knockout dry whites and pack-a-punch “black” reds. The region’s mix of warm coast and cooler mountains make it primed for Spain’s tastiest grape growing. .
Vineyards to visit: For a glass of the best bubbly, Penedès is the place for cava tasting. Find out how grape goes to glass at Caves Nedal, a 16th-century winery. You’ll tour the estate (by bike if you like), see the cellars and enjoy a tasting with artisan cheese and Iberian ham. Nom. Further north above Girona, the famous DO Empordà Wine Route nudges neighbouring France. Here you can discover a variety of wineries from mountain hideaways to coastal vineyards.
Best bottles to take home: The finest fizz comes in the shape of big-name producer Freixenet, while white wine fans will love the well-rounded Montsant varieties and team red will be all over Priorat’s fruity numbers.
If that little lot’s whet your whistle, isn’t it time you went on a wine tasting adventure? Cheers!
Posted: 4th Jul 2019.