Five wine regions to whet your palate
The heart of a place is usually found through its food and drink. Plan a trip to a wine region and you’ll not only have a holiday made in foodie heaven, you’ll get to experience the country through sipping and supping with locals.
Here’s five wine regions to whet your palate.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
South Africa naturally conjures up scenes wild animals roaming across endless plains, however, the wine region of Stellenbosch, less than an hour from beautiful Cape Town is like discovering an unexpected treasure. Nestled amongst soaring granite mountains against a backdrop of the bluest of skies, vineyards cover the rolling hills like a patchwork quilt. And with European settlement dating back to 1685, the Dutch architecture featuring white washed walls with gabled roofs adds a touch of romance and intrigue.
Renowned throughout the world for both reds (mainly cabernet sauvignon and shiraz) and whites (sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc), Stellenbosch is also the birthplace of pinotage a rustic red crossed between pinot noir and cinsaut.
There are many wine routes that wind through the Stellenbosch area region (and you’ll also want to explore nearby Franschloek), but don’t miss Spier Wine Farm the oldest (founded in 1692) where you can even take a Segway tour through the vineyards. Waterford Estate pairs tastings with speciality chocolates and the dramatic views from Tokara are absolutely jaw dropping.
The food is as good as the wine with most wineries offering everything from gourmet picnic baskets to the finest of dining. Indochine, the tiny restaurant at Delaire Graff Estate offers a creative Asian inspired chef’s choice degustaion menu and Terrior at Kleine Zalze Wine Estate has a lively atmosphere to match its food and wine.
Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Blessed with rich soil in an undulating landscape fringed with stunning beaches, the Mornington Peninsula, around 80 minutes by road from Melbourne, is home to more than 200 vineyards. With a focus on cool climate varietal the area is famed for its pinot noir, but also produces chardonnay, pinot gris and shiraz.
Many of the wineries throughout the region are boutique and family owned so be prepared to find some hidden gems like Seaforth Estate, Harlow Park and Paradigm Hill. And renowned must do vineyards with award winning restaurants include Montalto and Red Hill Estate both with ridiculously beautiful views, Ten Minutes by Tractor, with wine and cuisine as creative as its name and T’Gallant is like stepping into an Italian village. You’ll also want to check out the recently opened Point Leo Estate complete with a spectacular large scale sculpture park and restaurant creating foodie fusion using locally sourced ingredients.
The Peninsula is a total year round gourmand’s playground. From honesty boxes on roadside stalls, farmer’s markets (try to catch Red Hill market, first Saturday of the month), pick your own fruit farms and epicurean centres (look for The Epicurean in Red Hill), every season brings abundance. For a special treat, make it a winter retreat and you can hunt for local ‘black gold’ at Red Hill Truffles.
Medieval villages nestled into rolling green hills accented by vivid yellow mustard fields, the Burgundy region is wine tasting paradise. Granted UNESCO world heritage status in 2015 in recognition of its history of viticulture and unique terrior.
Sprawling across the central-east region of France, Burgundy has five distinctive growing areas each producing different types of wine. From the crispness of the whites of Chablis to Côte de Beaune where the whites are more chardonnay style, and the Côte de Nuits, near Dijon, home of some of the exclusive vineyard real estate on the planet. Around 24 Grand Cru wineries are in this area that produces bold, powerful (and expensive) pinot noirs.
Don’t miss the pretty wine village, Savigny-lés-Beaune a few kms from Beaune – straight out of a picture book with an appellation to match.
In addition to famed wine, food in Burgundy is exceptional with more than 30 Michelin starred restaurants (including several 2 and 3 starred). You’ll need to book well ahead for Le Relais Bernard Loiseau in Salieu and there’s nothing better than a relaxing lunch at Le Restaurant de Stéphane Derbord in the centre of Dijon.
Central Virginia – USA
‘Virginia is for lovers’ is the state slogan, so for wine lovers it’s double the fun. Less than an hour from Washington DC, yet a world away from city life, the verdant valleys of Virginia is the birthplace of American wine. Introduced by a young Thomas Jefferson at his magnificent Monticello estate in 1774, today, the Monticello Wine Trail is one of the most popular of the many trails that meander through more than 200 vineyards covering around 60 different varietals of wine. Virginia’s full bodied viognier thrives in the climate and the chardonnays are also top quality. On the red side, the cabernet franc is popular and the cooler climate merlot does well.
However, here’s the trick with Virginian wines – around 70 – 90% are sold within the state. So, if you want to taste Virginia’s liquid gold (just like its sunshine), you need to go to the source.
You’ll find most of the vineyards well set up with a range of food and entertainment experiences with everything from five star to picnic baskets. On the Monticello trail there’s 33 beautiful wineries, the Loudoun County trail has around 20 (don’t miss Stone County vineyard) and the Shenandoah Valley trail zigzags the dramatic backdrop of the rugged mountains. In addition to the vineyards, you can also drop into Luray Caverns, one of the most incredible set of cathedral like underground caves in the world. The Blue Ridge Wine Way features around ten wineries nestled in Virginia’s famed horse country. It’s also home of the award studded (including two Michelin stars) Inn at Little Washington that is an absolute bucket lister.
Nova Scotia, Canada
Nova Scotia (New Scotland) – nova vino. With cool summers and freezing winters, Nova Scotia is an unlikely wine region, however over the past decade, the area has attracted creative winemakers with vision and ambition. The Annapolis Valley, an hour from Halifax is where you’ll find more than 20 of the most welcoming cellar doors anywhere in the world. You’ll also taste unique artisan wines.
Tidal Bay is a white appellation that was officially launched in 2012. A nod to the nearby Bay of Fundy where the largest tides on the planet help moderate the temperatures to ripen the grapes. The ice wine is also outstanding.
Domaine de Grand Pre is not only the oldest winery in the region, it has a double UNESCO world heritage status and a top line, picture perfect restaurant - Le Caveau. Another must do is Luckett Vineyard. It’s not often you can make a phone call from a London telephone box in the middle of a vineyard. Originally a barrow boy from Nottingham, England, Peter Luckett is as lively as his wines.
And an extra bonus for seafood lovers – lobster is so plentiful in Nova Scotia you’ll be eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take a side trip to Hall’s Harbour to see the tides of the Bay of Fundy and choose your own lobster straight from the sea at Halls Harbour Lobster Pound.