Staying home, with no plans to travel in the foreseeable future, like everybody else I have been looking at ways to bring a bit of the outside world into my home.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of my favourite ways to keep dreaming of all the places I am keen to return to or to finally tick-off my bucket list once it is safe to do so again is to enjoy some excellent wines that come from these destinations.
If you want to join me in my armchair travel around the world, most of the wines below are available internationally. Just check out the leading online wine sellers in your country.
Chile: Montes Cuvee Especial
Chile is one of the countries high up on my list of wine destinations I am eager to explore. I can only imagine how amazing it must be finally touring this amazing country, from its capital city Santiago to Torres de Paine National Park, Maipo Canyon, Chiloé Island and the plains of the Atacama Desert.
In between, off course there would be a lot of touring vineyards and tasting the Chilean wines whilst admiring the majestic, snow-capped Andes in the back.
Winemaking in Chile goes back to the mid-16th century when the first vines were planted by the Spanish conquistadors and Jesuit missionaries. It took until the 1980s however, before the country started to join the world map of quality wines.
Today, many of Chile’s wines are ranked among the best in the world and there are many award-winning wineries which not only sell excellent wines but where interested wine lovers can enjoy a great time of dining and wining.
As for the wines themselves, most are red, with the main grape varieties grown being Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah; and not to forget the signature Carmenere. Meanwhile, white grape varieties include Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Montes Alpha, located in the stunning Colchagua Valley around 160 kilometres south of Santiage, is perhaps one of the internationally best-known wineries in Chile, and one of the first to sell their wines internationally.
Founded in the late 1980s by Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray, it definitely is one of the early pioneers of quality Chilean wine. They were the first to plant vineyards on the steep hillside slopes of Apalta and later also started to plant vines close to the cool Chilean coast at the western end of the Aconcagua Valley. Finally, in 2017 they also started to plant vines in the Chiloé archipelago, located around 1,200 kilometres south of Santiago, which is one of the southernmost locations for a vineyard in Chile.
I am definitely looking forward to visiting their visitor centre in Apalta, which is inspired by Feng Shui design and in addition to wine tasting offers an award-winning restaurant. In the meantime, I have been enjoying their excellent Montes Cuvee Especial Cabernet Sauvignon. It is made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Camenere and a small amount of Tempranillo.
Napa Valley, California: Beringer Founders Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
No virtual wine tour around the world is complete without hitting Napa Valley in California.
After all, it was here that the success story of new world wines started back in 1976, when a panel composed of wine tasting experts from France in a blind tasting ranked Chateau Montelena as number one out of four French and six California white wines.
Over the next few decades, Napa Valley along with nearby Sonoma County evolved in one of the leading wine tourist spots in the world. You will have to look hard to find a winery without tasting facilities offering excellent wine experiences and the valley is full of stunning accommodation and some of the best restaurants in the world.
I visited the Beringer estate in Napa Valley in 2012 and it is one of the wineries there I definitely want to return sooner than later. From the stunning historic Rhine House to the sensory garden and surrounding vineyards, and off course the on-site wine tasting experiences you can easily spend an entire day here without tiring.
The winery was founded back in 1876 by brothers Jacob and Frederick Beringer hailing originally from Germany. The Beringer winery was one of the first established in Napa Valley and remains one of the leading innovators in the region, and to this day it remains in the hands of the founding family.
The stunning Rhine house – the Beringer brothers are originally from Mainz, the historic Germany city located at the confluence of rivers Rhine and Main, thus the name – was built in 1884. Once the home of Frederick Beringer it is now the centrepiece of the Beringer estate and hosts many wine tasting events throughout the year.
When I recently stumbled upon the Beringer Founders Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from 2016 in my local wine shop, I had to bring home a bottle. It boasts flavours of black cherry, raspberry, vanilla and cinnamon with only a hint of subtle tannins. It’s a great wine to be paired with grilled meat, so it is perfect for the upcoming BBQ season.
Pfalz, Germany: Bassermann-Jordan La Vie rosé
Located in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz just south of Worms, the Pfalz is Germany’s second largest wine growing region. Here you will find more than one hundred historic small wine towns stretched along the famous German Weinstrasse. It is the oldest wine route in the world, created in 1935 and stretches for about 85 kilometres from Bockenheim to Schweigen-Rechtenbach close to the French border with Alsace.
The area is not only attractive to visitors because of its wine, however. It is one of the warmest and sunniest regions in Germany, and it is one of the first destinations in the country where Spring blossoms start to appear, and from mid-March for about six weeks thousands of almond trees are in bloom.
In normal times, the Pfalz hosts the world’s largest wine festival in Bad Dürkheim. However, locally it is only one of many throughout the year. The festival season starts in mid-March with the famous almond blossom festival in Gimmeldingen and ends with the Martinus wine festival, taking place in St. Marin in November.
The main grape variety grown in the area is Riesling whilst many of the other international white varieties are cultivated here as well. That said, you will also find some bold, fruity red wines here as well.
There are many award-winning wineries in the Pfalz area – actually, there are more than 300 overall – and many are looking back to a long history.
Geheimer Rat Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan winery in Deidesheim is one of the oldest, looking back at around 300 years and a reputation of making excellent wines. They are in fact one of the VDP certified wineries.
If you follow my blog, you might have read about the VDP classification before, but just as a short reminder, here is the explanation for this organization again.
The VDP label is a trademark of German wine that stands for excellent quality. There is indeed a firm selection process for wineries being awarded with the different VDP classifications.
The VDP classification is not specified in German wine low but the label is widely recognized as proof of quality, with associated wineries required to adhere to the strict private regulations.
There are four distinct classifications of VDP wines ranging from VDP Grosse Lage (the highest accolade) to VDP Erste Lage, VDP Ortswines and VDP Gutsweine.
For more information, please check the VDP website.
If you get the feeling the look of the Bassermann-Jordan bottles seems quite traditional, then you are right. The winery still uses the same label created in 1811 – one of the oldest in Germany.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit their tasting room in Deidesheim and mostly tried wines from their ‘Rebsorten’ wine range which as an equivalent would likely be classified as table wines. Varieties include different types of Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir.
The Le Vie dry rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a perfect wine for the summer and pairs well to grilled meat.
Tuscany, Italy: Pèppoli Chianti Classico DOCG
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Tuscany is the area’s stunning scenic landscape of verdant rolling hills sprinkled with small historic towns and the typical stand-alone Tuscan villas, endless rows of cypress trees, sunflower fields and off course the vineyards.
Tuscan wines are among the best in the world and names like Tignanello, Sassicaia, Ornellaia or Brunello di Montalcino are certainly familiar to most wine lovers.
Antinori wines have always been among my favourite wines from Tuscany. They include flagship names such as the outstanding Tignanello but the winery also produces a more accessible wine range of excellent quality.
Looking back of a wine-making history of more then 600 years, the Antinori family has played an important role in the more recent history of Super Tuscan wines. Today, they operate several wine estates across Tuscany along with a couple of other Italian estates and operations in Napa Valley and Chile.
The closest I have so far come to visit Antinori is the fantastic Cantinetta Antinori, located on the ground floor of Palazzo Antinori in Florence. Initially a humble wine bar offering the family’s wine range along with some traditional snacks, today Cantinetta Antinori is undoubtedly one of the best places for lunch or dinner in Florence. On the menu are still the traditional Tuscan dishes, and many of the ingredients used are coming straight from the Antinori estates in Tuscany and Umbria. On top of the excellent food, you can choose from the entire Antinori wine range by glass (though off course you can also order a bottle).
Still on top of my to-do-list is the Antinori cellars in Bargino San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Built less then ten years ago, it’s a stunning piece of architecture – a large part of which is hidden underground – and includes a winery, auditorium, museum, restaurant and wine shop.
The Bargino site is one of several Antinori wine estates in Tuscany you can visit, with the others offering cellar tours and on-site wine tasting as well. In addition, Marchesi Antinori operates several restaurants associated to their wine estates and there is even a small country resort offering lovely accommodation.
While impatiently waiting to finally return to Tuscany, I have opted for a Pèppoli Chianti Classico which is a blend from Sangiovese grapes with a small addition of Shiraz and Merlot. It shows intensely fruity aromas and a slightly smoky sensation due to the oak aging.
Alentejo, Portugal: Herdade da Malhadina Nova Monte da Peceguina
Lisbon in recent years has become a household name for tourists across the world whilst Porto, Portugal’s second largest city in the north of the country is catching up fast, in part thanks to its port wine houses and its proximity to the beautiful Douro Valley.
Meanwhile, the Alentejo is a Portuguese wine region which is still largely overlooked internationally. That said, I would not be surprised to see the area becoming the next big secret among wine lovers thanks to its excellent wines along with a beautiful, largely untouched landscape, small gorgeous historic hilltop towns and a growing number of small luxury boutique resorts.
If you are curious why you should visit the Alentejo region, read my post 6 fantastic reasons to visit Alentejo in Portugal.
There are a couple of award-winning small wineries and one that I can definitely recommend is the stunning Herdade da Malhadinha Nova. They not only make fantastic, easy to drink wines but also have an excellent restaurant on-site and, nestled in the midst of their vineyards there is also a small boutique hotel that is pure bliss.
Buying Malhadina da Nova wines outside of Portugal might still be difficult (though the winery sells directly from their own website so check if they also deliver to your country) but thankfully I still had one of their Monte da Peceguina wines at home.
It is a great wine to drink on a warm day and boasts of aromas of fresh vegetables and fruit with a light tropical taste.
Bordeaux, France: Château du Périer Médoc Cru Bourgeois
If there is one wine region any wine lover needs to visit at least once, then it is Bordeaux, one of the oldest and most acclaimed wine growing regions in the world.
The area boasts some 120,000 ha of vines and a total of 57 different appellations in the main areas of St. Emilion, Haut-Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac, St. Estephe, St. Julien, Pomerol and Sauternes.
Even though only few of the more than 7,000 chateau (as local wineries are called) are open to the public on a regular schedule – whilst a growing number can be visited by prior appointment however – touring the famous Bordeaux vineyards is something truly special.
The whole area is absolutely breath-taking, with endless rows of green vines as far as you can see. Nestled in between, are several small villages along with a growing number of small luxury boutique hotels and many excellent restaurants.
Located in the Medoc area of Bordeaux, the prestigious Château du Périerwas built between 1889 and 1908 for Comte Henri du Perier de Larsan. Today it is one of the many small, family-led wineries in the area and its wines are constantly winning awards for their wines.
I recently picked their Medoc Cru Bourgeois to pair with grilled lamb chops. It’s an excellent red blend made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot with aromas of blackberry, plum, spices and oak and for a wine from Bordeaux it offers a great value for money.
Ribera del Duero, Spain: Pago del Cielo Celeste Crianza 2016
Ribera del Duero is one of Spain’s eleven established DOP (Denominación de Origen Protegida) quality wine regions, located in the north-western part of the country in the region of Castilla y Leon.
The area is one of the lesser travel parts of Spain, and coupled with several exciting wine experience opportunities, it is one of the destinations high up on my bucket list.
The most notable city in the region is beautiful Burgos, whilst other places of interest are Avila, Salamanca and Valladolid, all of which are on my list and I can’t wait to tick them off.
Most of the grape varieties grown in the Ribera del Duero are red with a focus on Tempranillo. Other varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and the Garnacha Tinta (Grenache).
Part of the famous Torrres family, now in its fifth generation of wine making. Founded in 1870 by brothers Jaime Torres Vendrell and Miguel Torres Vendrell, today the family runs various wine estates in Spain, California and Chile.
Visiting their estate in located in the Penedes where alongside various wine tasting experiences they have also opened an excellent restaurant.
I picked the Celeste de Crianza recently to pair with a delicate lamb roast but it would also work well with game. It is a bold, intense wine brimming with aromas of ripe black fruits and notes of coffee and dried plums.
Niagara Peninsular, Canada: Peller Estates Ice Cuvee rose
Canada is one of my favourite destinations, with so much to see and do I would not know where to start telling you here.
When it comes to wine, Canada is slowly starting to put its mark on the global wine growing map; even though it is still difficult to buy Canadian wines outside of the country.
If you want to know more about Canadian wine regions, I have written about a few of them on the blog.
Most wineries in Canada are open to visitors, offering wine tastings, often combined with excellent food options and I am determined to return sooner rather than later.
With the weather getting warmer, I was happy to discover I still had a bottle of the lovely Ice Cuvee rosé bubbly from Peller Estates in my cellar.
Located only a couple of minutes drive time from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake at the shores of Lake Ontario, Peller Estates is one of the oldest and largest wine estates in the region. Founded by Andrew Peller who origins from Hungary, the winery is now run in the third generation by the Peller family.
The winery has won various awards for their excellent wines and was named Ontario winery of the year 2018; and it’s a true gem to discover. On-site, you can enjoy various wine-tasting options, cellar tours, and excellent food in three different restaurants of which the elegant Winery Restaurant offers a fantastic fine-dining menu in the very laidback way of Canadian restaurants.
This enjoyable sparkling wine is made using the ‘classic methode’, meaning the production process for champagne. However, since only wines that come from the demarcation of Champagne can bear this name, those produced elsewhere can only pass as sparkling wines even when using the same method.
The Ice Cuvee rose is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir, 26.5% Chardonnay and 3.5% Gamay Noir. At a later stage in the production process, a 100 ml dosage of Vidal Icewine will be added which creates the unique style of this sparkling wine.
Sadly, Peller Estates ships wines only across Ontario. On the positive side, as this means the only way to enjoy their excellent Ice Cuvee again, I need to plan another trip to Niagara. And it is definitely on my list!
Australia: Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet
Here we go with another destination of great diversity and so many stunning places and things to do. My only visit to Australia (Sydney and surroundings to be precise) was far to long ago, right after finishing my studies. Thus, it is definitely high up on my bucket list even though I don’t know when it will realistically happen. Once it does, I definitely want to see places like the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, the Great Ocean Road, Kakadu National Park, Kangaroo Island along with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
And off course, visiting Australia’s wine regions is a major goal whether that be the Barossa Valley, Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley or Coonawarra, or maybe all of them.
Though you can buy Australian wines are fairly easily across the world, most are still the lower quality wines produced for international sales. Thankfully, some household quality names are now also becoming more accessible at least here in Europe and one that never disappoints is the renowned Penfolds.
Founded in 1844 by Christopher and Mary Penfold, Penfolds today remains one of the leading wineries in Australia and now produces a wide range of wines, including the Penfolds Collection, Penfolds Special Bottlings, Cellar Reserve and the Penfolds Koonunga Hill Range.
Sourced from premium vineyards across South Australia, the full-flavoured Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet is a blend of Cabernet and Shiraz grapes that pairs well to grilled meat.
Franschhoek, Cape Winelands, South Africa: Boschendal Black Angus
Any virtual trip around the wine-world must include the amazing Cape Winelands in South Africa.
There are now various different wine regions across the Cape but the main area around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek is still one of my main picks when it comes to visiting.
There is hardly a winery that is not open to visitors and all offer fantastic wine experiences. This includes a large and growing number of quite unique wine pairing options. I mean, how does ice cream and wine sound to you? And that is just the start.
One of the places I continue to return to almost every year is the stunning Boschendal winery.
Set against a stunning mountain backdrop in the beautiful Drakenstein Valley between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, surrounded by dramatic mountain landscapes, the winery was founded as one of the first wine and working farms in the area in 1685, when it was granted to Huguenot refugee Jean Le Long.
If you want to learn more about Boschendal and its fantastic wine tasting and accommodation options, read my post Boschendal Wine Farm: Great wines and luxury accommodation in the Cape Winelands.
A wine that calls for a special occasion, I truly love the outstanding Black Angus. It is a full-bodied Shiraz-led blend that is named in honour of the Black Angus cattle bred on the farm.
It is indeed a great wine to be paired with any type of steak or other red meat.
Do you have a favourite wine region where you want to return or one you have long wanted to visit? Let me know.