France is what pops to mind when someone mentions a vineyard, but as the French word goes, it’s passé. World over, countries have been aging delicious wine, and it’s time we put the stopper on the European region and explore the lesser-known vineyards. Red, white, sparkling or rosé – add a dash of indigenous geography to it. Sniff, swirl and sip your way through vineyard tours, wine-tasting sessions and gourmet meals at wineries. Here are four places that offer not just a superlative portfolio of wines, but a wonderful opportunity to spend time and lunch amid the vines.
Western Cape, South Africa
We’ll agree, South Africa isn’t a likely name to cross the mind when we think of good wines. But progressively, the country has been enjoying a rather special place in the vino world. Especially, Western Cape, its south-western province blessed with diverse topography and climate, distinctly colouring the character of the wines produced here. The valleys of the Cape Fold range of parallel mountains house several wine routes dotted with charming historic towns bearing vestiges of old harbours. For the love of valleys, embark on the Franschhoek wine route famous for its celebrity chef culture; if it’s only the reds that you love, Paarl wine route is the one you mustn’t miss; and for sweet dessert wines on a mountain slope, drive to the Constantia wine route.
Hot Tip: To enjoy a glass from the southernmost point of the African continent, drive to Cape Agulhas.
The wine culture in New Zealand is on the rise, making it a favourable time to enjoy their hospitality. The Wairau river, its valley and the Kaikoura ranges make up the topography of Marlborough, the country’s chief wine destination. The classic Kiwi wine route is a five-day long drive, with your first sip at Hawkes Bay in the North Island, and the last drop at Marlborough in the south. If you’re an energetic wine-lover, cycle through the vineyards; for the love of luxury, there are also chauffeur-driven cars to take you till the doorstep. And if you’re a The Hobbit fan, you’re in luck – several boutique wineries, including Jackson Estate, are weaving in scenery to resemble the original film set. Sampling cheese platters with tastings at the cellars are a good idea, thanks to the country’s active dairy industry.
Hot Tip: For a chance to rub shoulders with the Jurassic Park actor, Sam Neill, head to his Central Otago winery, Two Paddocks. (By appointment only)
Ontario rules the roost when it comes to ice wines, as 75% of the world’s sweet dessert wine is made here. Ice wines are those where Vidal grapes are left on the wines till they freeze. They are then put overnight in the icy cold winter and fermented. A drive through Onatario’s wine trails will take you to the Niagara region (Inniskillin, the oldest ice winery is here), along the shores of Lake Ontario and to Prince Edward county. In Ontarian summers, vineyards are synonymous with gourmet meals, outdoor barbeques and friends. Several wineries host parties and seafood extravaganzas. Also, select wineries offer activities to keep children occupied, and most welcome pets.
Hot Tip: For the uniqueness and fun of arriving at a vineyard through a ferry-ride, take the boat headed to the Pelee Island.
- Most vineyards are closed for guests during some part of the year, depending on the seasons. It’s advisable to visit their website and confirm opening times in advance
- If you’ve recently begun exploring the world of wines, do not hesitate to ask questions to your winery guide. Remember, each person may feel the flavours differently
- Also, it’s perfectly acceptable to use the spittoon during a wine-tasting session. You are not expected to finish each of your tasting glasses, so go easy on them.
Chile and Argentina, South America
If you’re ever on this beautiful continent, promise yourself to set off on a winding wine route to experience a vacation like none other. Not only are the surrounding cities fun, but the locals are warm-hearted and the wines, fruity and full-bodied in flavour. Most loved are the Chilean Carménère, and Argentinian Malbec and Mendoza. On the Argentina wine route, 2000kms play home to about 2,000 wineries, the Cuyo, Patagonia and Pampas being the most popular sub-routes. Melting snowcaps from the Andes mountain range provide water to Chilean wineries, making it sound romantic, and for the bottled version of this romance, drive through the routes of Casablanca, San Antonio or Limari. Several wine farms in both countries have stay facilities ranging from B&Bs to deluxe options with swimming pools.
Hot Tip: To visit a winery with a pyramid-like design based on Mayan architecture, head to the old and famous Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza, and for a well-preserved museum within a winery, Bodegas López in Maipú.