Wine Regions of Europe: 10 Destinations and Wineries You Can’t Miss
Think of wine, and images of sipping champagne in France or enjoying a chianti under the Tuscan sun spring to mind. With Italy, France, and Spain alone producing almost 14 million metric tons of wine per year, Europe is home to many of the world’s most popular wine tourism destinations. In fact, Italy alone has enough vineyards that I featured Italian wine tasting spots in a post of their own. But it isn’t just the Mediterranean that’s a vinicultural dream come true. From Iberia to the Caucasus and plenty of spots in between, read on for twelve travel bloggers’ recommendations for the best places to go wine tasting in Europe.
There is no better place in the world to taste wine than France, especially in the traditional Bordeaux region. We started with a wine tasting class in the small city of Bordeaux. We learned more about the history of winemaking in the region and how to extract all the subtle flavors different wines have to offer.
After lunch, we headed out into the countryside to visit several chateaux and their luscious vineyards. Each small, locally owned property produces their own version of the delicious Bordeaux wine. After walking through the full winemaking process, we were able to enjoy a glass of wine straight from the source. It is so amazing to get to talk to the owners, as they are truly inviting you into their house. For a red wine lover, wine tasting in Bordeaux is a dream come true.
– Steven, Travel to Blank
Kareba Winery Tunnel, Georgia
Georgia is an up and coming destination for many reasons: beautiful countryside, amazing food, friendly locals, but most of all it’s becoming known for its wine. Georgia is rumored to be the birthplace of wine, with a production history dating back to around 8000 years ago, and many of the wines are still made in the same traditional styles as back then. There are amazing wineries throughout the country, but the most unique place to try Georgian wine is absolutely at the Kareba Winery Tunnel near Kvareli.
Imagine this: 26,000 wine bottles stored in fifteen tunnels that are 500-800 meters long. Walls lined with wine bottles that contain over four million liters of wine, and, in the heart of it all, you can enjoy a wine tasting experience like no other, trying local grapes like tsitska, krakhulna, mtsvane & khikhvi. We also opted for the package where you have the chance to make local shoti bread in a hot stone oven (this is above ground) and try their distilled spirit chacha — careful, it’s pretty lethal! We also recommend trying out the restaurant as well to experience some beautiful views and delicious local foods. You won’t be leaving hungry or sober, so make sure you have a designated driver!
– Megsy & Tommo, Food Fun Travel
Ahr Valley, Germany
The Ahr Valley is a wine region of Germany located approximately 60 kilometers south of Cologne. Stretching for 24 kilometers between the towns of Altenahr and Bad Neuenahr, it covers approximately 1,300 acres. This makes it one of the smallest wine regions in Germany. It’s also one of the most northerly wine regions in the world. Because of this, the vineyards lie mostly on the south-facing slopes of the valley. The location is also the reason the area mostly produces red wine — red wine grape varieties take up 86% of the vineyards.
The vines in this area have been producing wine since Roman times. The valley is believed to have been the main supplier of wine to the Roman settlement in Cologne. A list of properties in the Benedictine Prüm Abbey that was drawn up in the year 893 AD lists eight vineyards at that time. Today, there are mostly independent wine producers in the Ahr Valley that work together as part of five cooperatives. The Ahr Valley is especially famous for its spatburgunder, which is the German equivalent of pinot noir. The wine is so good the Germans don’t let much of it leave the country, so you’ll have to visit the Ahr Valley if you want the best.
– John, From Real People
Elbe Valley, Germany
Saxony has been producing wine for over 850 years, making it one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Europe. The Saxon wine route, in the east of Germany, follows the valley carved out by the Elbe river. The sheltered valley, catching the sun, provides a microclimate perfect for viticulture.
The most notable wine here is the gold riesling, grown almost exclusively in this area, sharing only a name with the lively aromatic rieslings produced in the western part of Germany. The gold riesling has more subtle fruity and mineral flavours, best served with delicate foods and drunk while still young in the bottle.
Schloss Wackerbarth is at the heart of the wine region. The pastel yellow baroque Wackerbarth Palace sits among vines curated as much as an artwork as a cultivar. Here, sekt is produced using the traditional bottle fermentation as done in Champagne. The full 55km Saxon Wine Route can be visited by car, or join the Saxon Wine Hiking Trail to explore this picturesque area on foot.
– Kaylie, Happiness Travels Here
Cricova Winery, Moldova
Cricova Winery, located in Moldova, is the second largest wine cellar in the world. It contains 75 miles (120 km) of underground wine storage. These storage tunnels are so large that you can drive through them! We spent the day touring the cellars in a golf cart.
It was interesting to cruise around the subterranean storage area learning about the history of the winery. Cricova is currently under consideration to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If approved, it will be the first winery to be recognized.
We learned that, during the Nazi occupation of the Soviet Union, the winery reportedly hid Jewish people in wine barrels! Many celebrities and world leaders, including Angela Merkel, house their personal collections in the cellars of Cricova. Vladamir Putin even spent his fiftieth birthday celebrating at the vineyard!
After spending the tour learning about the history, it was on to the best part of the day — the tasting. Cricova produces some really great wines! And the best part about enjoying a tasting at Cricova is that the bottles are really reasonably priced to take home: around $10 USD each.
– Nathan, Foodie Flashpacker
Purcari Winery, Moldova
The Republic of Moldova is still relatively undiscovered as a wine destination despite being home to the biggest wine collection in the world included in the Guinness Book. There are also several wineries in Moldova that have won international medals and awards.
Purcari is one of the local brands that has gained wide international recognition. The winery has one of the oldest wine cellars in Moldova dating back to the 19th century and one of the finest collections. In addition to its history, you can learn and observe different stages of wine-making there: from growing grapes to packaging the end product. And, of course, you can take part in the wine tasting.
Moldova hosts a national wine holiday on the first Saturday of October. Sometimes a few wineries lead free tours on that day. There are also numerous traditional activities organized around the country. If you visit Moldova, especially in autumn, you should not miss the experience of visiting at least one of the wineries.
– Natalia, mytriphack
Many people would struggle to pinpoint the tiny state of Monenegro on a map, let alone make their way there on a wine tasting trip. But this Balkan beauty with its sumptuous Adriatic coastline offers hidden boutique wineries and outstanding views to complement your vintages.
The dramatic mountainous landscape, as well as the sunny climate, causes vineyards to thrive in Montenegro. Local vranac grapes produce a Montenegrin specialty – a red wine so deep in colour it’s known as “black stallion.”
The highlight though is Savina Winery — uniquely perched above the Bay of Kotor, serving up fjord-like views along with fabulous flavours. Tastings include a refreshing rosé and a cabernet sauvignon which is smooth and rounded, accompanied by local olives and prosciutto.
And beyond the plentiful merlots and chardonnays there are other alcoholic tipples to try while in Montenegro; rakija is the country’s national drink, often made with leftover grapes after the wine harvest, creating a potent brew of 40% or higher, with legendary health giving properties.
Also make time to taste Gorki List or “bitter leaf,” a spirit made with twenty-seven different herbs and Amaro Montenegro – created across the sea in Italy after the king fell in love with a Montenegrin princess.
– Jai, Savoir There
One of the best wines I’ve ever had was in the Sandeman winery in Porto, Portugal. Sandeman has been making wine for 227 years, and as such, their wine tasted impeccable. I signed up for the wine tour at Sandeman House, situated next to the river, and got to learn about Sandeman’s long history and their wine making process.
We enjoyed a guided tour and we visited the cellars where the wines were stored. Aside from the educational aspect, at the end of the tour we also got to taste their different wines. I loved the variety of wines that we tasted: each wine was very different from the previous. Sandeman at Porto was a great place for wine tasting, and I would recommend the experience to any wine lover.
– Hadas, The Fashion Matters
Costa Brava, Spain
Costa Brava might be well-known for its beaches, but what if we tell you the wine tourism is one of the things you shouldn’t miss out there? Twenty-four wineries in the region are open to the public, all of them are accessible by car or bike, and each place offers a guided tour and wine tasting.
The wineries in Costa Brava are experiencing a massive revival as young generations are taking over the old vineyards and implementing new technologies with old ways of winemaking.
To visit some family run wineries in Costa Brava, travel to Alt or Baix Empordà counties. Our personal favourites: Mas Llunes, Mas Eugeni, Martín Faixó, or La Vinyeta.
– Ivana & Gianni, Nomad is Beautiful
Rias Baixas, Spain
Galicia is a region rich in premium vineyards and wine. It is the top quality producing region for Albariño in Spain as well as the world.
Don’t miss an opportunity to visit and taste wine at the local vineyards in Rias Baixas (the primary Denominacion de Origen or DO in Galicia for quality Albariño). Though many are so small it’s best to call in advance and make an appointment—it’s well worth the effort.
Two great bases for exploring the vineyards in Rias Baixas are Cambados and Pontevedra. Both are extremely well situated to visit most of the Val do Salnés (a sub-region of Rias Baixas and my personal favorite area) vineyards and both are must-visit cities in Galicia.
Check some cool Galician wineries you should visit here.
– Inma, A World to Travel