By: Claire Allen, Freelance Writer
Many wine aficionados take up the challenge of building their own home wine cellar and deciding which types of grape to buy and lay down to be enjoyed in the future. In most cases, this will be a case of buying carefully from a wine store or supermarket, or perhaps even making trips to a neighborhood vineyard if you are lucky enough to have one.
However, the most exciting way of building up a collection is to travel to top wine-producing regions on holiday, and bring back souvenirs which you can drink in the future – instantly bringing back memories of the sunshine and beautiful landscapes which went to create the unique mix of flavors.
Wine tourism is growing in importance internationally, and, as a result, an increasing number of vineyards and wineries around the world are now opening their doors to the public. Here are suggestions about what to see in a few of the most popular regions.
Napa Valley, California
California is not only the top wine region in the US, but one of the world’s leading producers. Wine has been made here since the 19th century, but its international reputation has soared in the last 50 years, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay being the most widely-planted grapes. Wine tourism is a way of life here, with up to five million people arriving annually, and special events such as grape stomps being staged during the harvest season. The Napa Valley alone has an estimated 450 wineries, so you can only hope to take in a few of them during a visit. Among the most popular destinations is the Beringer Winery, the oldest-established wine-maker in the valley. It dates back to the 1870s and has been named as a State Historical Landmark. Visitors can take part in public tours and tastings.
Barossa Valley, Australia
Australian wines’ fame has grown steadily over recent decades, with South Australia, and especially the Barossa Valley, winning worldwide recognition. The full-bodied red Barossa Shiraz is the most celebrated wine from this region, although plenty of whites are made here too, and the Sémillon in particular has won acclaim. Around 750 grape-growers are based in the valley, and attractions to visit include the Château Tanunda, a magnificent castle dating from the 1890s. Here you can explore the vineyards and gardens, as well as sampling the award-winning wines.
France has many famous wine regions, including Champagne, Burgundy and the Loire Valley, all packed with attractions for sightseers. However, the largest wine-growing area of them all is Bordeaux, which has vineyards covering more than 450 square miles, including 60 different wine appellations. Almost 90% of the wine produced here is red, and the region is most famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. There are many different wineries and vineyards which are open for visits. Areas not to be missed include St Emilion and Bordeaux itself. One of the most famous wineries is Château Pichon-Longueville at Paulliac, which is open every day by appointment.
Wine Tourism Trends
With the growth of culinary appreciation and tourism, one study suggests that more than 27 million people from the US alone take part in activities related to food and wine during their holidays, including trips both at home and abroad. This large number of tourists varies from people who book a whole holiday on a wine theme, such as a trip to wineries in California or France’s Bordeaux region, to those who decide on a quick vineyard visit when they spot a signboard near their hotel. Another increasingly popular choice for holiday-makers keen to learn more about the world’s great wines in style is to go on a sea voyage of discovery. Taking part in a gourmet-themed cruise gives travelers the chance to combine a visit to a leading wine-producing region with expert tasting sessions, as well as cookery lessons from Cordon Bleu chefs. Walking or cycling tours of vineyard regions are also in demand, as a way of seeing as area at a more leisurely pace.
It seems likely that wine-themed tourism will continue to grow in popularity as travelers look for something different, and more wineries and vineyards around the world continue to open their doors to the public for tours and tastings.