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On the Wine Trail

Jul/30/2023 / by Rashmi Gopal Rao

A travel wish list for oenophiles

Red wine and grapes on outdoors terrace of a vineyard
Image via Shutterstock

Wine tourism, also known as enotourism or vinitourism, is all about appreciating the world of wines. You go wine tasting, visit grape farms, and help in making wine.  This includes harvesting, fermenting, distillation and even packaging. 

Since August to October is the season for the grape harvest in the northern hemisphere, it is an ideal time to visit some of the world’s best wine producing areas.  Here are our recommendations for wine regions to visit.

Santa Barbara County, U.S.A.

Arguably one of the most famous winemaking regions in the world, Santa Barbara in California is home to around 300 wineries and seven official American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Santa Ynez Valley AVA has the most wineries and over 76,000 acres of land under cultivation.  Often referred to as “America’s Riviera”, Santa Barbara offers visitors a plethora of experiences including specially curated trips to vineyards, tasting room visits, wine country lunches, and even a walk amidst the countryside where grapes are grown. 

Tourist companies offer customized itineraries to Santa Ynez, Santa Maria Valley, and Santa Rita Hills, depending on your interest and group size. When it comes to wines, you can indulge in pinot noir, cabernets, chardonnays, and more.

Texas Wine Country, U.S.A.

One of the most visited wine regions of the country, this one is in Fredericksburg, about an hour from Austin and San Antonio.  Texas Hill Country AVA, which has over nine million acres of vineyards, is the main attraction of Texas wine country.  With its old-world charm replete with boutique shops and restaurants, Fredericksburg has a distinct German heritage and is fast emerging as a popular wine destination. 

The region has over 50 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms, and produces a variety of dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines.  The most famous grape varietals of the region are the Bordeaux blends and other Mediterranean varietals.  Apart from wine trails and grape stomping, you can shop for antiques and explore museums here.

Bordeaux Valley, France

Situated in the southwest region of France and around the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne rivers, the Bordeaux wine region is known for its superlative wines that are produced mainly from the merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot grape varieties. The Bordeaux region is divided into the Left Bank, Right Bank, and Entre-Deux-Mers. 

Whether it is the fruity, less acidic wines of the Right Bank or the peppery wines of the Left Bank, Bordeaux wines are known for their distinctive taste that typically demonstrate the notes of the terroir (natural environment) in which they are grown.  You can take a group or private tour to explore the most famous châteaux in the region like Saint-Emillion, Saint-Julien, Margaux, and Médoc, and enjoy workshops, wine tasting events, picnics, and more.

Chianti Region, Italy

The Chianti region in Tuscany is synonymous with its world-class red wines.  With distinct notes of wild herbs, spices, red and black cherry, most of these wines are made with the sangiovese variety of grape.  Extending over the provinces of Florence and Siena, the Chianti landscape is filled with picturesque hills and vineyards and punctuated by vintage-looking parishes and countryside homes. 

While in Tuscany, you can enjoy wine at the numerous wine bars (or enoteca), or in the restaurants where you can savor local delicacies paired with wine.  There are guided tours as well, which are a great way to soak in the spirit and culture of winemaking in this region. 

Vaud Wine Region, Switzerland

While Switzerland is famous for chocolates and cheese, the country also produces one of the world’s finest wines.  Vaud is known for its fruity white wine made from the chasselas grape variety and is the second largest wine producing region of the country.   Known for its diversity with over 50 varieties of grapes, Vaud is also one of the oldest wine regions in the world with a history dating back to the Middle Ages. 

The red wines of this region are produced using mainly pinot noir and gamay grapes.   With a breathtakingly beautiful landscape to explore, this region is best explored on foot or by bike.  Paired with local delicacies like cheese, sausages and the like, wine tasting and vineyard tours in this paradise are sure to be a memorable experience.