There’s a reason certain wine regions are popular. And while these certainly deserve a visit, sometimes it’s nice to explore lesser-known regions for a less touristy trip. I recently shared my top unique South Australia wine experiences with Expedia, and now I’m taking it one step further to show you some of the world’s most popular wine regions, as well as their lesser-known alternatives. These include:
1. You Know The Barossa Valley…Go To Adelaide Hills (South Australia)
South Australia is the country’s largest wine region, with its most popular sub-region being the Barossa Valley, known for its Old Vine Shiraz and having some of the oldest vines in the world, never being hit by the phylloxera disease. When visiting the destination, we also recommend you head to Adelaide Hills to explore its 40+ cellar doors. A place where time truly stands still and lunch lasts 2+ hours, its cool climate leads to excellent white varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Semillon, as well as the light bodied Pinot Noir.
Unique wine experiences also abound. If you do one thing in Adelaide Hills make it Hahndorf Hill Winery’s ChocoVino, a selection of structured fine chocolate and wine pairings that teach you how to savor both together and separate with all your senses. Moreover, the aptly-named Longview hosts the annual CRUSH Festival and offers the most spectacular vineyard views, while Woodside Cheese Wright’s hand-made cheeses provides the perfect pairing and the chance to chat with local purveyors.
2. You Know Mosel…Go To Pfalz (Germany)
Mosel, Germany’s oldest wine region and one of the largest, has terraced hillsides, steep slopes and a cool climate. It’s renowned for its well-balanced, crisp Rieslings, with the best tasting rooms being in the village of Bernkastel. For something different head to Pfalz, a warm, dry wine region that produces both high quality whites like Riseling and Pinot Blanc and red wines, like Scheurebe and Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir). In fact, it’s Germany’s largest red wine region, comprising 40% of the production. Visit a few local cooperatives along the German Wine Road Cycle Trail before continuing your ride (or hike) through the chestnut tree-filled Palatinate Forest.
Plan your trip for September to attend Wurstmarkt in Bad Durkheim, Germany’s largest wine festival, and pair 150 local wines with regional foods, live music, amusement park rides and colorful fireworks.
3. You Know Bordeaux…Go To The Loire Valley
Popular wine regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy and The Rhone Valley are known for their reds; however, the whimsical Loire Valley, with its fairytale castles and chateaus, is known for its crisp whites, from acidic Sauvignon Blancs to dry Chenin Blancs (although you’ll also get some earthy Cabernet Francs, as well). Sip some cherry Chinon at Domaine de la Noblaie, or a biodynamic bubbly at Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau, Vouvray. Then, burn off those calories by cycling the 500-mile (800-kilometer) Loire a Velo Route along the river to St-Brevin-les-Pins to the village of Cuffy, stopping for a shady wine picnic along the way.
4. You Know Tuscany…Go To Emilia Romagna
Many travelers have heard of — and hopefully tasted — the Sangiovese-dominant wines of Tuscany. For the wine traveler, however, there’s much to explore beyond the vines and rolling hills of this region. Like Emilia Romagna. While you’ll also find the sour cherry-tasting Sangiovese grape, it’s known for Lambrusco, a fizzy red wine made both dry and sweet. Additionally, the ambiance of the region is reason to visit, filled with medieval and renaissance castles and artwork, Adriatic sea beaches, the Appenine mountains and a stunning mix of natural and historic beauty.
Taste your way along La Strada del Prosciutto e dei Vini dei Colli, pairing local wines with delicious parma ham, black truffle and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or learn how to match wine and food through a cooking class with Academia Barilla (yes, that Barilla).
Attractions like the Basilica San Vitale, Duomo di Modena and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita up the culture factor.
5. You Know Napa Valley…Go To Temecula Valley
Napa Valley isn’t just America’s most popular wine region, it’s one of the country’s most visited attractions in general, known for its fruit forward Cabernet Sauvignon. While the region has much to offer, Temecula Valley, less than an hour from San Diego, is another delightful option that hasn’t yet reached mainstream tourism.
Temecula vintners typically focus on Mediterranean varietals along with Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon blanc. Head to Cougar Vineyard & Winery for a taste of Italy in California — including varietals not typically grown in the US like Primitivo, Falangini and Prosecco — paired with aerial valley views. Another recommendation is Lorimar Vineyards & Winery, where art, music and wine fuse together through decor, programming and a menu of wines like “Allegro,” “Solo” and “Trio.” Finish your trip in Old Town Temecula, full of artisan experiences and samplings at local establishments like the Temecula Olive Oil Company, Temecula Valley Cheese Company and E.A.T. Marketplace & Eatery.
Still thirsty? Spend a weekend in Paso Robles, another lesser-known California wine region located about five hours north of Temecula. For a scenic trip, I recommend driving Big Sur and its stunning Highway 1, which are near to Paso Robles.
What’s your favorite popular and lesser-known wine regions? Please share in the comments below.
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