Every wine typically embodies the place where it is produced and is wonderfully integrated to the beautiful settings of its vineyards, the expansive sites with the varied landscape, the local culture, the amazing weather and the gastronomy of the place. This is a great opportunity to explore the several stunning regions where wine is produced and imbibe the local flavours, sights and enjoy everything associated with this incredible product.
When to visit
Vineyards look beautiful at all times of the year, especially because they are situated in the countryside close to hills, valleys or rivers. An ideal time to visit would be from early summer until autumn but other seasons are equally good to just visit or sip on a few wines or buy some bottles to bring back with you. Though wineries are busy with harvest activities during fall or autumn, the changing leaf colours in the vineyard is just amazing in this season. The mild glow of the sloping light during this season is something not to be missed. Vineyards in the tropics can be visited any time of the year as the vines never go dormant. Look out also for music, gourmet or wine festivals in the region, which would be a great time to enjoy the local culture and cuisine along with the local wines.
Most vineyards are planted on rolling hillsides and slopes so as to allow water to drain easily. Beautiful hillsides in Tuscany or Napa are some of the most charming examples. Lakes or rivers nearby are a regular feature of some wine regions like the US Finger Lakes or Italian Veneto. The terrain also varies dramatically with some vineyards located in cold deserts like Central Otago in New Zealand or Coquimbo close to the Atacama Desert in Chile.
Vineyard sites in the Douro region of Portugal are terraced from rocky mountains, while some vineyards in Mosel Germany slope at incredible angles of 50 to 60 degrees planted over slate soils. Vineyards in Chateauneuf du Pape in France are covered with puddle stones while white limestone-rich soils reflect light onto the vines in many parts of Bordeaux. Vineyards planted against the backdrop of Andean hills is an astounding and recurring feature in Chile and Argentina, while the fog rolling in is a common site in summer in Sonoma in the USA.
Wine pairs beautifully with the local cuisine and there is an endless list of regions to choose in Europe and the Mediterranean between France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Switzerland and Germany. Many of the local dishes and cheese available here or a combination of both are just divine with or without wine. Other modern wine regions also have wonderful gourmet restaurants and cafes dotting the pretty town centres. Most of these towns will also have cellar doors or tasting rooms in the town for people who may not have the time to visit the wineries. Big plazas or squares with live music, food and wine are typical in these quaint wine towns. Wine art, art galleries and wine merchandise can also be easily found here.
Wine roads, tours and stays
There are beautiful wine routes where you can drive in your rented car and go hopping from one winery to another. The Alsace Wine route, the beautiful roads in the Rhone or in Tuscany or a river cruise on the Rhine will give you some sweet memories to cherish for the rest of your life. Many wine tours run from the town centres and your hotels to nearby wine regions. These are quite affordable and do not require much advance planning. Big cities like Sydney, Cape Town, San Francisco and others also have getaway tours to close by wine regions. Most wine places have numerous beautiful villas, resorts, chateaux and castles available for stays and events.
Prices could generally be higher than regular hotels but planning ahead can make the stay a memorable yet affordable one. Getting in touch directly with the wineries can also give you wonderful deals. There is so much more than just visiting wine regions for tasting and buying wine. Each place has its own beautiful surroundings, gastronomy and culture which will stay in your heart forever. So, go ahead and add a wine trip to your bucket list to enjoy some more joys associated with wine!
Ajoy Shaw -The writer is an Independent Consultant Winemaker and Wine Professional. He is also the consultant for Hyderabad-based