Guest contributor, Natalie Wilson guides us through the 4 best wine destinations in Europe.
A bottle of wine tells a story – where it came from, the climate which the grapes were grown in, the winemakers and even the season when the grapes were planted. A lot goes into a bottle of wine and it is produced in almost every country in the world. However, some of the most prestigious and oldest wineries can be found across Europe. Step away from the more popular vineyard and wine tasting locations and, instead, step into a whole new world of wine with these 4 destinations.
Even in the middle of summer, the sprawling vineyards of Piedmont are very rarely taken over by tourists and the beginning of September, which is the run-up to the grape harvesting season, is one of the best times to visit the beautiful region of Piedmont. Wines are made all across the region, but the main area is the Langhe and Roero, which is separated by the Tanaro river.
Two of the world’s greatest wines are made in Langhe – Barolo and Barbaresco – and is just an hours drive from the town of Turin. The landscape here is thick with vineyards, woodland and farms so, as well as being famed for its wine, it’s also very beautiful. Book on to a vineyard tour in this region and you’re likely to be welcomed with hearty plates of salami, cheese and pasta – what more could you want?
With a mixture of different climates, from breezy coastlines to warm inland stretches, Catalonia an ideal location to grow and produce a large variety of wine thanks to its geographical location. This corner of Spain is home to 12 different wine regions, each of which has their own distinct flavours that make their way from grapevine to glass.
There are many different experiences you can partake in amongst the vineyards of Catalonia. In Priorat, which is in the south-western region, you can pull your hiking boots on and make your way along the ancient byways which once used to connect the villages in the area. Not only will you walk in amongst the natural scenery and through countless vineyards, but you’ll also learn plenty of history on the way.
Head into Can Bonastre, which is one of Catalonia’s more luxurious vineyard locations, and sit and enjoy stunning views of the Montserrat mountains. With wine tourism booming so much in previous years, wine hotels have been popping up everywhere in Catalonia, so for a opulence-filled break, book yourself into one of Can Bonastre’s fine hotels for a wine break, where you can take part in wine tastings, spa treatments and even cooking classes.
Dubbed as being “one of the best wine regions you’ve never heard of”, Lavaux in Switzerland is worlds away from your typical vineyard destinations. Lavaux is one of Switzerland’s warmer regions and sits alongside the picturesque Lake Geneva. Wine is a huge part of the culture here, and vineyards in the region produce beautifully smooth white wines, but only in small and artisanal batches.
The Chasselas grape, which is crisp, light and has a slight hint of salt, is grown in the area and is used to create low-alcohol wines, which the makers call “easy drinking”. With a blend of both tradition and love used in the making of the wines, the process of winemaking is very much the same as it was when the Cistercian and Benedictine monks were doing it in the 11th century. The nine-mile stretch of the Lavaux region has been granted UNESCO World Heritage distinction as there is no irrigation and minimal chemicals used in the wine-making processes.
Take a trip across Lake Geneva and you’ll soon find yourself in the French region of Savoie. Many of France’s most popular vineyards tend to dominate the French wine scene, so it is worth venturing a little out of your comfort zone to visit the Savoie wine region, which only produces around 0.5% of all wine in France and just 8% of the overall product ends up being exported outside of the area.
Taking you far beyond the tourist hotspots of Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, wine tasting in Savoie gives you the opportunity to try rare and exciting grapes – there are 23 different varieties in total – which you are unable to find anywhere else. The winemakers in this region are extremely passionate and have spent a majority of their working life helping the future of Savoie wines.
Until around 10 years ago, the wines from the region were mostly enjoyed in nearby ski resorts and Jacquere, the most popular white wine from the region, was used for making fondue. Now, the Savoie wine region is becoming known for being a rare gem in the winemaking world.
With the impending Brexit decision, many holiday bookings to Europe may now require you to provide more travel information, especially if you are heading to smaller or lesser known regions or districts. If you need more information, don’t hesitate to ask your travel agent, contact a specialist immigration lawyers or get in contact with the country’s government visa team for advice.