The world’s most gorgeous vineyards deftly compete with national parks for the most scenic views. They offer cascading slopes of grape vines enclosed by mountains and peppered with historic villages. Generations up generations of winemakers have occupied these hills, and their descendants can be seen proudly carrying on the tradition. Whether you stop in for an afternoon wine tour and a picnic, or plan to spend days roaming the countryside, these vineyards are more than worth the visit.
The Tuscan region has been crafting wines since 800 BC whereupon the Etruscans would export it to Southern Italy. Sangiovese grapes are the primary grapes grown in the region, although Cabernet Sauvignon has also been grown there in the few last centuries. They require plenty of sunlight and just the right amount of heat which the rolling hills provide with their high altitude of 500-1500 feet. The city of Florence, sitting in Tuscany’s central region of Chianti, is perfectly positioned as a hub to explore the surrounding vineyards.
Follow the Rio Douro down from Porto, just where it spills into the sea, and you’ll see the embankments of the Douro Valley. The modern day vineyards here were settled as early as the 18th century by Portugal nobility, but small-scale operations have been making wines there for centuries. The summers bring intense dry heats, while bitterly cold winds come in the wintertime, creating prime conditions for growing Port grapes. Little villages with medieval aged chapels and wine farms are cast about the land which has in turn spurred on a prosperous tourism industry.
The Alentejo region covers 1/3 of Portugal but has a small population. This is because almost the entirety of its 22,000 hectares of land, spanning eight subregions, are dedicated to wine and cork production. There is no specialty wine as different grapes are grown in different regions. Several extravagant wine festivals are held here throughout the year, the most notable of which is Festa da Vinha e do Vinho. Held in Borbo, it’s jam packed with wine tasting and folk music from local musicians.
The Istrian Malvasia defines the region, but many other wines are produced there like Muscat, Merlot, and Teran. The soil quality there is much higher than in Tuscany, and its climate is mellow and pristine as opposed to Alentejo’s moody weather. In fact, the region is split between red soil, ideal for red wines, and flyish soil which is used to grow white wine grapes. Day and night also vary just enough in temperature to yield strong, full bodied wines.
Unsurprisingly, Champagne is the signature wine produced across the five subregions. Producers reap a million bottles of champagne daily from the 84,000 acres of vineyards. Most of the world’s champagne comes from here, and it’s divided into five different types. Cuvee de prestige is their most celebrated kind, with the title being awarded only to the very best champagnes produced by wine houses.