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Five Wine Regions on the Cusp of Greatness

The idea of touring wine country was in its infancy three decades ago, as Americans began to discover the joys of the Napa Valley, with its handful of B&B's and restaurants. Today wine tourism has exploded—not only in California, but around the world. Care to charter a private jet to go taste the vintages at Château Mouton Rothschild and view Baron Philippe's collection of wine-related objets d'art?Pas de problème: Specialized tour companies custom-tailor luxury wine tours to France, as well as to Italy, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and California.

Given those striking vineyard landscapes and the colorful personalities who populate the wine business, it's not hard to see why wine trips are capturing the imagination of more and more travelers. Oenophiles love the added bonus of sampling or purchasing wines that normally don't leave the area. And "new world" regions, which have developed largely since the advent of transcontinental travel, are particularly hospitable to visitors. Here's the rundown on five of the world's newest wine-growing destinations.

NEW ZEALAND
When we think New Zealand, we think white—specifically Sauvignon Blanc, which, mainly due to Cloudy Bay Vineyards, has brought the country international recognition. Now Kiwi reds are worth looking into as well. Pinot Noir, first planted in New Zealand in 1883, is only now coming into its own.

The Marlborough region, on the northern tip of the South Island and a short hop from Wellington, is known as the Napa of New Zealand. It's the perfect place to discover the new fruit-forward Pinots. Auckland-based MoaTrek offers six-day wine-lovers' tours through Marlborough, Hawkes Bay, and Martinborough—the country's top three wine regions (64-9/524-8567; www.moatrek.com; $1,900 per person).

Marlborough is also in the vanguard of New Zealand's culinary revolution, and many of its wineries have their own restaurants. In the sparkling light of a Marlborough morning, the dining room at Cellier Le Brun (Terrace Rd., Renwick, Marlborough; 64-3/572-8859) fills up for sparkling wine breakfasts, while Twelve Trees, at Allan Scott Winery (Jacksons Rd., Blenheim; 64-3/572-9054), is top-notch. The town of Blenheim is a good base for exploring, with its plentiful restaurants, wine bars, and boutique hotels—such as the stylish nine-room Hotel d'Urville (52 Queen St.; 64-3/577-9945) in the historic Public Trust Building, or the elegant four-room Old St. Mary's Convent (Rapaura Rd.; 64-3/570-5700), just outside town and surrounded by vineyards. Wherever you stay, stop by the d'Urville's Wine Bar & Brasserie to raise a glass with some of the local wine makers.

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