Having the opportunity to visit wineries all over the world is a rather charming way to spend your time and money. It is so enjoyable in fact, that wine tasting has become a vacation in itself. And wine is a beautiful thing. It is a perfect complement to a meal, and a great way to unwind after a day of sightseeing. Imagine lingering over a glass of vino while watching the sun dip below rolling hills of a vineyard. Now imagine doing it every day for a week or longer. Wine regions like Napa and Sonoma Valley in California, Bordeaux and Burgundy in France are well-known tasting destinations. More recently, however, regions all over the world are beginning to pop up and come into their own as wine tasting destinations. As difficult as this was after chopping and changing about 10 times over the past week here are a few of my favorites.
1. Cricova (Chisinau, Moldova)
Cricova mainly produces sparkling wine (in accordance with the classical French method) but is more well renowned for its unique sparkling red wine, kodrinskoie-sparkling, made from cabernet sauvignon stocks and marketed as having a ‘rich velvet texture and a blackcurrant and cherry taste’. Hosting the second largest underground cellar in the world (only to its neighbour ‘Mileștii Mici’) Cricova is a site to be seen with over 120 kilometres of underground tunnels it truly is a labyrinth. Half of the roadways are used for wine storage and the roads are named by the wines they store. This “wine city” has its warehouses, tasting rooms and other facilities underground. It goes down to 100 metres below ground and holds 1.25 million bottles of rare wine. The oldest wine dates back to 1902. The temperature is maintained at about 12 °C all year round (which is perfect for wine). This place is especially famous for hiding Jews in wine barrels during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
2. Lavaux (Switzerland)
Here I have only stated the region mainly because I honestly do not have any idea what vineyards I visited and it is also somewhat irrelevant. Maybe it’s the fact that each winery is an intimate family-owned affair and that 95% of the production is consumed locally. Easily the most picturesque region I have ever encountered and also producing some very interesting wine (Chasselas, Pinot Noir, Gamay). A UNESCO World Heritage Site with 20 miles of walking paths threaded through the vineyards and set along a crystal clear alpine lake (Lake Geneva) with sweeping views of the Alps. If you choose to wander the vineyards keep an eye out for the occasional vineyard hut or as the Swiss refer to them: “capite.” These are tidy little spaces originally used by winemakers as a respite from the sun and vineyard work. Today many winemakers have transformed them, providing seating, tables and wines to taste—with payment on the honor system.
3. Antinori Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy)
Located in the heart of Tuscany just a 30 minute drive south of Florence, Antinori Chianti Classico boasts some of Italy’s best wine. Even though the Antinori family has been in the wine business since the 1300’s the new winery, designed by Marco Casamonti (one of Italy’s leading architects) has more than 600 years of winemaking on display in its wine museum, book shop, art collection and, of course, wine bar and tasting rooms. All of this is housed within a structure using local terracotta, conceived to generate the perfect climatic conditions needed for the barrels. An incredible iron spine to the building gives the sensation that the floor is actually suspended above the foundation.
4. Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte (Bordeaux, France)
A Grand vin Chateau, Smith Haut Lafitte’s atmospheric ivy-covered winery built around a 16th century tower offers a terrific range of winery visits including tours of the cellars and cooperage and tasting of its first and second wines, visits to a hidden James Bond-style cellar housing antique vintages, wine tasting with dried fruits and chocolates, an art tour of the contemporary sculpture collection, and even spending a day in the shoes of the vineyard manager or cellar chief.
5. Blankiet Estate (Napa Valley, USA)
Hiding in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains in the Napa Valley, the estate produces a portfolio of premium wines from their Paradise Hills Vineyard. During your visit you will discover the vineyards, visit the winery and it’s deep underground caves before heading up the hill to the beautiful tasting room nestled under a stone castello reminiscent of Renaissance times. Yes, like most Napa Valley tastings it is on the pricey side but still worth every penny!