Wine and travel go together like — well, frankly, the combination is iconic in and of itself, similes aside.
Wine is often deeply tied to a place's culture as nearly any other nationalistic point of pride, so it's naturally appealing to culturally curious travelers. Furthermore, wine-making blends the intricacies of both food and art — for as much as it's a science, it's also an art form.
This may be why wine tourism is a growing industry in many regions around the world. But while Napa, Mendoza, and Burgundy are usually the first places that jump to mind when you hear the phrase “wine country,” there are dozens of virtually undiscovered (to non-locals) places around the globe to dabble in all things vino.
Here are five destinations you should consider for a varietal vacation.
The Douro Valley of Portugal
Wine-making in this region of Portugal isn't the easiest task. The terroir is acidic, and the steep, mountainous nature of the land mean that tending to vines isn't exactly a walk in the park. Nevertheless, the Douro's history with wine dates back about 2,000 years.
In 2001, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its vinicultural tradition.
The region is particularly famous for port wine, though it also produces a number of other world-famous reds. Peak season is March through June to see the almond blossoms, or in September to catch the harvest.
Due to its temperate climate (which, in fact, mimics that of many of Europe's most famous wine regions), Tasmania produces world-class sparkling wines, as well as elegant whites and reds. It boasts four primary "wine trail" regions: the Tamar Valley, the southern wine trail, the east coast wine trail, and the northwest trail. It's also a particularly interesting region for boutique wineries; and due to the cool temperatures, it's a pleasant place to visit all year long.
The Republic of Georgia
Georgian wine-making has a rich history. Some studies suggest it dates back almost 8,000 years, making Georgia one of the oldest wine countries in the world. It's even been suggested that the word “wine” itself is rooted in Georgian influence.
Wine is such a part of the culture here that many families even have their own wine cellar, and locals are famous for indulgent celebrations when entertaining foreign guests.
According to some wine experts, Georgia's wine industry is poised to become an international player in the next few years. The bulk of wine-tasting tourism in this country can be found in the Tbilisi and Kakheti regions, and peak season to visit is in mid-May to early July, as well as early autumn for the harvest.
Tannat, a grape that originated in France and became popular in South America in the 1870s, has become Uruguay's signature varietal. The full-bodied red pairs nicely with almost any food, but particularly with meat dishes like lamb and beef. Touring Los Caminos del Vino (The Wine Roads) is not to be missed for wine aficionados curious about this obscure grape.
Uruguay has also been called the best-kept secret in South America; though in the wine world, it's typically played third fiddle to the likes of more famous South American wine regions such as Chile and Argentina. High season in Uruguay is in January and February (summer in this part of the world), but it's temperate enough to visit at any time of year.
Upstate New York
New York may be more well-known for its martinis and manhattans than for merlot, but while “wine” may be the last thing that comes to mind when you think about the Empire State, New York is on the up and up in the wine world.
Beyond the Finger Lakes region, known for its whites, the Hudson Valley has recently joined the conversation among wine lovers as a region to watch. In total, New York boasts nine AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) including Long Island, Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley, Lake Erie, and the Niagara Escarpment. The state also produces more than 200 million bottles of wine each year.
Though spring and fall are peak season, vintners suggest visiting in off-season for a more personalized tasting experience.