4 Amazing Wine Growing Regions To Tour The Fruits Of The Vines
There's nothing I enjoy more than a glass of wine with engaging company in a local restaurant. The scene is made perfect with the addition of quirky boutique accommodation while taking in vistas of grapevines sprawling over a picturesque plain or up a steep riverine terrace.
Everyone is discovering wines with the best places to appreciate a fine red or a fruity white, in the wine cellar together with the person responsible for producing the wine. People travel for many reasons with shopping, eating, appreciating another cultures and adventure on the top of most lists, but wine touring is becoming increasingly popular.
Choosing the season is important when visiting wineries with the most challenging time during the summer harvest when few staff are available to greet visitors. Winter is the least visually interesting, while autumn and the changing colours of the leaves is the most photogenic. Of the many favourite regions, the four below have really impressed my palate.
1/4 Amazing Austria
Most people correct me when I mention my love of Austrian wines; ‘Oh, you mean Australian’, they say. Correcting them, I also remind them that wines have been made in Austria well before Australians decided to call Syrah, Shiraz.
Wine has been produced in Austria since Roman times but there has been a huge resurgence in quality wine production over the past two decades and wine lists around the world are now made more complete with the listing of several Austrian wines.
There are now a dozen recognised wine regions in Austria with the sweet dessert wines produced around Neusiedler See in Burgenland considered among the world’s best.
Grapevines growing in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Wachau along the banks of the Danube River are considered some of the world’s most picturesque. Danube River cruises stop along this narrow and steep section of the river between Melk and Krems especially in the scenic towns of Spitz and Dürnstein.
Like the wines of German, those of Austria have to compete with more recognisable global wines. Sadly, some consumers baulk at grape varieties like Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt and styles ranging from Spätlese, Auslese to Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Eiswein, and Strohwein. My advice (the same can be said of the wines of the Mosel) is; do a little homework in order to enjoy the fruits of the vines. For example, Grüner Veltliner is one of the finest white wines to accompany most Asian cuisines, so don’t be afraid to order a bottle (is the pronunciation any more challenging than Cabernet Sauvignon?).
Wachau Grape Varieties
- Grüner Veltliner
- Gelber Muskateller
- Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc)
- Sauvignon Blanc
Red wine cheat sheet: The varietals you need to know
Respected Wachau Wineries
- Domaine Wachau
- Josef M. Högl
- F.X. Pichler
- Rudi Pichler
2/4 Mudgee Matters
I have several favourite Australian wine regions – Margaret River, Great Southern, McLaren Vale, Barossa, Tamar Valley, Yarra Valley, Rutherglen, and the Hunter Valley to name a few.
However, I love Mudgee as it is just a four-hour drive from Sydney, the person pouring the wine in the cellar has been involved in producing the wine, and while a rural township, Mudgee is sufficiently sophisticated to offer some great cafés, restaurants, and boutique accommodation.
With just 40 or so wineries, Mudgee is mid-sized in comparison with other Australian wine regions, but when combined with the Lower and Hunter Valley, hundreds of wineries can be included. One of my favourite wine tours is to fly into Sydney, drive north to Australia’s oldest wine region of the Lower Hunter Valley, continue onto the Upper Hunter Valley, then to Mudgee, and return in a loop to Sydney via the scenic Blue Mountains.
This trip of several hundred kilometres could take as little as three days or as long as ten, depending upon your interest in wine and great local produce. Mudgee is a service centre for surrounding farms and more recently mines, but its proximity to Sydney ensures that great coffee, discerning restaurants, and accommodation from the conventional to the quirky, are now available. Dine in Eltons, Mudgee Brewing Company, Red Heifer, The Wineglass, Roth’s Wine Bar, My Thai, and di Lusso.
There is a farmer’s market on the third Saturday of the month in scenic Lawson Park. Accommodation ranges from local pubs to motels and boutique accommodation as well as family cottages like that offered at Thistle Hill Winery.
Mudgee Grape Varieties
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Tinta Cão
- Touriga Nacional
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Petit Manseng
Respected Mudgee Wineries
- Bunnamagoo Estate
- Di Lusso
- Huntington Estate
- Pieter van Gent
- Robert Oatley
- Robert Stein
- Thistle Hill
3/4 Mosel Magic
Germany’s Mosel region is one of the world’s oldest wine regions with wines having been made here for some 1,800 years. The dramatic riverine slopes and terraces plus the slate soils of the Mosel are ideal for growing Riesling grapes, considered one of the world’s most temperamental grape varieties. Perhaps it is the challenge to grow grapes in the steep terrain and cooler climate that contribute to these fine, fruity, and elegant whites.
The river valley acts as a suntrap to enable vines to flourish aided by reflected heat from the slate rocks on the steep slopes that rise up from the river. Long summer days, gentle mists and, breezes are other components of the microclimate so essential for producing excellent wines. The tributaries of the Ruwer and Saar Rivers have unique qualities that offer regional wine variation.
Fly into Frankfurt, then catch a train along the Rhine to Koblenz, alight here, and then take another train along the Mosel to Wittlich and then a bus down to the joint riverside towns of Zeltingen-Rachtig.
Zeltinger Hof is a wonderful boutique hotel in the wine village of Zeltingen. This heritage property oozes charm and chef/owner Markus Reis is a genial host who also oversees the restaurant with over 1,000 wines on the wine list plus hundreds of older vintages in the cellar.
There are cycle paths along both sides of the Mosel for those who want to explore the wine villages of Bernkastel-Kues, Graach an der Mosel, and Lieser.
Visit in May during the Mythos Mosel celebration of Riesling grapes in the middle reaches of the Mosel. Some 100 wineries along a 20km stretch of the river open their cellars during the event for connoisseurs to sample the finest wines of the current vintage plus a few older years. Drink a bottle of aged Spätlese to appreciate how these low alcohol wines age gracefully.
Mosel Grape Varieties
- Muller Thürgau
- Weissburgunder (Chardonnay)
- Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
Respected Mosel Wineries
- Carl Loewen
- Dr. Loosen
- Fritz Haag
- Joh Jos Prüm
- Julian Haart
- K.J. Thul
- Max Ferd Richter
- Maximin Grünhaus
- Schloss Lieser
- Willi Schaefer
4/4 Bountiful Burgundy
While Bordeaux drinkers will disagree, Burgundy is arguably the world’s most respected wine region producing wines that other winemakers around the world try to emulate. The grape variety that captures the attention of wine connoisseurs is Pinot Noir – soft, elegant, and the most feminine of all varieties.
The wines of Burgundy are markedly different to those of Bordeaux styles with the lighter and fruitier Pinot Noir grapes offering finesse and elegance. Burgundian wine classifications are a little difficult for novices to navigate, but persevere; it’s worth the effort.
Catch a TGV train from Paris to Dijon in Burgundy and hire a car to travel along the Routes des Grand Crus to visit famous wine towns of Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey Saint-Denis, Nuits-Saint-Georges, and Beaune. Drive a little further south and you will be in the Beaujolais.
Before heading off from Dijon, stock up at Les Halles (Central Market) on market days of Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The covered market is a total assault on the senses with its vast array of cheeses, meats, fresh fruit, vegetables, colourful flowers, spices, herbs, and fresh meats.
In Beaune, visit the markets staged in front of the famous Hospices de Beaune with its distinctive and colourful Burgundian roof tiles. Dine in the town at Le Clos du Cedre or Loiseau des Vignes and stay in the delightful Hôtel Le Cap.
The valley along the Routes des Grand Crus is mostly flat and side roads through the vines make for ideal cycling conditions. Canal cruising is another possibility and navigating the rivers, canals, and locks is much easier than it looks.
White Burgundies are completely different with the most famous being Chablis made from Chardonnay grapes. The region’s most famous whites are made around the town of Auxerre. A popular apéritif in Burgundy is kir made from white Aligoté and locally made crème de cassis (blackcurrant juice). Kir Royale is made from adding a little crème de cassis to sparkling white wine.
Burgundy Grape Varieties
- Pinot Noir
Respected Burgundy Wineries
- Château Clos-Vougeot
- Château de Meursault
- Domaine de la Conti-Romanée
- Domaine Faveley
- Domaine Leroy
- Domaine Taupenot-Merme
Before you go: This affordable downtown happy hour epitomises light & refreshing