This is my first entry! I'm a travel bug and especially passionate about experiencing different cultures, cuisine and good wine! I have gone on a few trips that are based around wine-tasting and visiting vineyeards.
I hail from southern Ontario, and although many people do not realize, the Niagara region is a fantastic area for vineyards and produces excellent white wine and ice wine. I have gone biking through the Niagara region several times during the summer and it really is a pleasant experience.
Butttttt I do prefer going to new places with foreign cultures. I started my search for the best wine country last year in California. I flew to San Francisco for a holiday to visit a friend of mine. We rented a fantastic while corvette convertible, bought a map of the region, and decided to go for an adventure in Sonoma Valley. Although neighbouring Napa valley is more well-known to tourists, my friend (who is from the area) insisted that they are equally beautiful - the difference being that the price of admission into vineyards in Napa is twice as much as Sonoma. **On a side note, has anyone been to both Napa and Sonoma and have other ideas on how they compare??**
Sonoma is fantastic. You can drop into any winery and ask for a map and they will happily circle the best vineyards in the region to visit. It is almost essential to have a car, unless you are a crazy biker (you can rent bikes) and don't mind giving up the entire day for the cause... and also if you can drink and bike. (PS - don't forget you need a designated driver!! My friend only had a few sips here and there.)
The scenery is gorgeous and the weather (we went in August) is generally fantastic. Make sure to bring your camera because most wineries have luxurious flower gardens, ponds, fountains and statues, not to mention the acres of grapevines in the background on slightly rolling hills. It is extremely picturesque - almost feels Mediterranean. I recommend it thoroughly.
However, after coming home from this trip, I wanted more. I wanted to visit another wine region that was even better.... somewhere with the same scenery as Sonoma but with enchanting culture, language and cuisine. So I went on a short trip to France and visited the region around Bordeaux. The red wine there is spectacular. We were able to go on tours that showed us how the different varieties of wine were created - I learned a lot. I *almost* feel like a snobby connoisseur now lol.... keep in mind I am a backpacking student. We also got to try the wine with some nice stinky French cheese. A bit of a step up from California. The only downside was that the weather was not fantastic and (believe it or not) it was not as scenic as Sonoma. It's on the Atlantic coast so it doesn't have that 'Mediterranean feel' that I am obsessed with.
Sooooo.... I was wondering if I could get any input from some other backpackers here. Has anyone been to any wine regions in the Mediterranean that they could recommend? For my next trip I was thinking about going to Spain or Italy. This time I might also try out a cooking class and enjoy the local cuisine with the fine wine... another step up. Nothing better than some nice paella with sherry or cava or some fresh eggplant parmesean with a chianti.
An suggestions for my next travel destination would be greatly appreciated! I would like to check out a new wine region around June 2010. Helppppp!
Hi - I like your post very much.
I have a small travel agency and me and my colleagues occasionally get invited to seminars and open evenings abroad with expenses thrown in. It doesn't happen very often and we have to fight for who goes, in the nicest possible way you understand.
Of all the places along the shores of the Mediterranean we've been to - and we've done many. nowhere comes close when it comes to opening the finest bottles around the Med. as Portugal. Spain and Italy do some great wines and liqueurs and mighty fine many of them are, but Portugal still has a commanding lead over them.
You are obviously aware that sherry can only come from Xerez and port can only come from Portugal, of course you are. But do you know about Ok, good, excellent and supreme ports? It's almost an art to tell one from the other until you've learnt the basics. All good fun.
So to be totally impartial, but at the same time showing a personal preference for my own pleasure, Finest Med. wines from Portugal (no contest), a Canasta Cream (sherry) before your meal, but make sure you're eating in Italy if you want the finest Med. food. Am I biased? Oh go on then just possibly, but no offence intended.
Oh and yes I know that Portugal is also on the Atlantic, but don't let's get picky.
The Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washiongton and British Columbia) produces excellent wine, but it's a relatively new industry here. Pinot Noir is our Oregon specialty and very good - you should tour in the Dundee area of the Willamette Valley (just SW of Portland). Washington State also has great reds and sparkling wines, and BC has ice wine (BC wines were featured yesterday on NBC's Today Show.)
I was in the Central Highlands of Vietnam last fall, and their Red Dalat wine was surprisingly good. The Dalat area is quite high and has a climate not unlike Oregon. The restaurant I frequented even made their own sweet, Strawberry Wine. Naturally the biggie in Asia is rice wine - they can keep it - powerful stuff too!
[ Edit: Edited on 26-Feb-2010, at 12:57 by Daawgon ]
Although I am not really a 'connaisseur', I do like local cuisine and wine a lot as well.
Apart from the one already mentioned I would certainly try the next countries/regions:
- South Africa, especially just east of Cape Town
- Australia, like Barossa Valley and Hunter Valley
- Argentina, especially Mendoza and Cafayate areas
And now some lesser known places:
- Veranopolis in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost province. I know of this one, because my cousin went there and will marry a Brazilian woman here at Christmas. I will go there as well, and he told me the wine is extremely tasteful!
- Lebanon: was there in 2005 and the wine was perfect. Combined with some Lebanese food, it sure was a great experience!
- Georgia (the Caucasus country that is). The wine is fantastic and what I found a great cuisine experience was the fact that in a certain restaurant in Tbilisi, there was a group which had this massive wine-tank on their table, I think it was like 50 litres or something. During the evening, the wine level decreased extremely fast...they really drink it as water!
Well, I do not drink wine for religious reasons. But as a foodie I have an unhealthy obsession with the stuff, I read a lot of articles on wine and the different regions.
Aside from Spain and Italy (which you are already set on) I would suggest you take a second look at Germany and some countries in Eastern Europe.
Italy: After your description of Sonoma Valley I think you'll fall in love with Tuscany, the area around Florence, Italy. Unfortunately that area is quite pricey and overrun with tourists. Not without reason, it is that good, but it makes it difficult for poor backpacking students. To make it halfway affordable you could stay in Florence at the hostel and then rent a car to see the area and get to the wineyards. Another region in Italy that has great wine is Sicily, this would be the budget option. Cost of living is generally cheaper in Sicily than in Tuscany and if you travel in the low-season you pay a lot less for a place to sleep in Sicily than in Tuscany. (Tip: Having a tent saves you a lot of money.) What I liked about Sicily (especially Palermo) was the mix of North African Arabic and European, in some parts of the old city in Palermo I felt like I was in Tunisia. Fruits like oranges and tomatoes grow to gigantic sizes in Sicily and taste absolutely great, if the wine is similar I think you'll be in heaven.
Germany: While most people scoff at German wine and call it "sour horse piss" this label is thouroughly undeserved. German winemakers make some great fruity whites and have even started to gain a reputation with some variants of red wine. Wine is the bevearage of choice in most of Southwest Germany, especially the in the states Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate as well as the south of Hesse and the north of Bavaria.
Frankfurt especially is smack-dab in between some of Germany's best wineyards. Particularly known for its dishes that incorporate wine into the recipe is the Baden area, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baden. One of the best times to visit this area is late September/early October during the European version of Indian Summer. Flights to Frankfurt can be cheap during this time and if you have the time and money you could easily combine a visit to Germany with a visit to Italy. Fly into Frankfurt and out of Rome or vice versa, plan on having around 3 weeks.
Eastern Europe: Southeast of Germany and Austria the climate gets more continental. Hot and dry summers help to make some of the best wines in Europe. While years of mismanagement under socialist rule have ruined some of the great famous winegrowing regions in the area the quality has greatly improved in the last 20 years. Wineyards in Hungary especially have made great advances, their Tokay was good even in socialist times but now it is supposedly getting even better every year. Another country that is famous for its wines in the area is Moldova, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moldovan_wine. Winemaking is the primary industry in the country. During Soviet times it was mass before class, but thanks to some dedicated enthusiasts the quality is improving. Moldova can be a little bit difficult to get into (some unresolved issues with Transnistria), but price levels in the country are very budget friendly. See http://wikitravel.org/en/Moldova.
I like the comment that Post 5 makes about wine from Eastern Europe.
Chardonnay Targovishte from Bulgaria is a superb single grape (so less chance of a headache the following day, than from a blended grape like champagne etc.) and its only around €5 a bottle. Yum.
I have heard from quite a few people now that Eger in Hungary is a great place to visit for "wine tourists" and it's on my list. Has anyone been there?
WOW, thanks for all the input everyone! You guys suggested some places that I wouldn't have even considered as wine regions - Germany, Georgia, Bulgaria, Vietnam.... all very interesting! I have a lot of decision-making to do before this summer! I did have my heart set on Europe... but we'll see!
Since you guys are so good at giving advice, I was wondering if you could also let me know what you think about guided tours. Have you ever been on one? Did you enjoy it? Have you ever taken a cooking class?
I was thinking about either going on a guided tour with a group around Spain this summer or taking a cooking course somewhere in Tuscany. I heard about these Canadian women who are wine connaisseurs - the Wine Ladies - they're on tv and radio and all sorts of stuff.-snip-. They're organizing a trip all over Spain and visiting wine regions such as La Rioja and La Guardia. Usually I wouldn't be so inclined to take an organized trip, but these ladies really seem like a hoot and know what they're talking about. My uncle suggested that I go. I bet he saw a pic of the two hot blonde babes and thought it looked like a fun trip. haha.... Any thoughts???
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I hope that was a genuine post, Katy and not a really good try to advert here on TP
No, I just want to know if people have gone on guided tours (especially of wine regions/culinary tours)