11 BEST EUROPEAN WINE REGIONS THAT LIVE UP TO THE HYPE

European wine regions are magical places with stunning scenery, charming villages, and warm sunshine, the stuff of fairy tales.  Here is a collection of European wine regions, curated by wine lovers, that lives up to the hype.

Alto Douro in Portugal

Few wine regions are special enough to earn UNESCO World Heritage status and the Alto Douro in northern Portugal is one of them and one of the best European wine regions. The world’s first demarcated wine region covers a vast, mountainous area of schist soil and has a microclimate that makes for full-bodied DOC Douro table wines and the famous fortified port wine as well as sparkling wines and muscatel. The hilly terrain means grapes grow on terraced plots that create a man-made landscape of patchwork vineyards. Thanks to this unique, unforgiving and utterly picturesque terrain, most of the work involved in the grape production is still done by hand after 2,000 years.

You can see the highlights of the Douro Valley on a day trip from Porto by train or road or a multi-day river cruise. If you have time, it’s worth staying overnight on a working wine estate to get a deeper appreciation of this unique landscape and wine-producing culture. Beyond the scenery and wines, you can explore traditional villages, 12th-century monasteries and historical towns like Lamego.

Douro River Valley, one of the best European wine regions

Julie Fox at Julie Dawn Fox

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. Benjamin Franklin Click To Tweet

 

Jerez de la Frontera in Spain

The city of Jerez de la Frontera in Southern Spain is known for their horses, flamenco dancing and most importantly: the creation and export of sherry. Located in the Andalusia region, this industrial city that smells of citrus is an interesting combination of both Iberian and Moorish culture. Enjoy local culinary delights such as gazpacho and finish your meal with a nice dry fino. Be sure to tour one of the sherry houses in the city, where you can experience the unique process of “fractional blending,” (better known as the solera) and taste more than just fortified wine. There are some direct flights into Jerez’s airport, but the most common way is to fly into Seville and take the train or bus.

Jerez de la Frontera, one of the best European wine regions

Vy Tran at 7 Crossroads

Provence in France

Provence is a stunning region in the south of France best known for its long stretches of coastline, local produce, and quaint towns and villages. It is also famous for its Provençal wine, which has been produced in the area for well over two and a half thousand years. The area has long since developed a reputation as one of the best European wine regions.

While there, you can wander the mountain slopes where the grapes are grown and taste wine just meters from where it was produced. The real specialty of the region is Rosé, but lesser known is that plenty of red wines that are also produced here. Late summer/ early autumn is the best time to visit; though as this is Southern France any trip at any time of the year is guaranteed to be special!

Provence is one of the best European wine regions

Sophie at Solo Sophie

Wine is bottled poetry. Robert Louis Stevenson Click To Tweet

South Tyrol in Italy

With 5,400 hectares of vineyards, South Tyrol in Northern Italy is a small but diverse wine region where wine cultivation dates back over 3,000 years. Here, in the middle of the mountainous landscapes of the Dolomites, wines grow at altitudes between 200 m and 1,000 m above sea level – thanks to these conditions, the area produces over 20 grape varieties. In addition to international varieties, South Tyrol also produces internationally known indigenous wines like the Gewurztraminer or the Vernatsch. A staggering 98% of the wines produced in this region are quality wines.

The picturesque vineyards that are nested on the lower hills of the Dolomites along the South Tyrolean Wine Route aren’t just a sight for wine lovers. Travelers seeking an escape from the hassles of their daily lives are sure to find some peace and quiet in the midst of the majestic Alps. And there is nothing more relaxing than a good glass of South Tyrolean wine on a warm summer afternoon.

South Tyrol is one of the best European wine regions

Mike at 197 Travel Stamps

Kakheti in Georgia

The country of Georgia has one of, if not the oldest, histories of producing wine in the world. There have been findings that wine has been produced in the area for at least 8,000 years! Suffice to say in that time, they’ve figured out how to make amazing wine and grown into what will surely become one of the best European wine regions.

Within Georgia, the most famous wine producing region is Kakheti. The soil and climate in this region are ideal for winemaking and many varieties are produced. When I visited I was particularly fond of the red wine Saperavi that is being produced in Kakheti.

If you’re interested in wine there’s no better place to try them than where winemaking was born!

Kakheti is one of the best European wine regions

Nathan Aguilera at Foodie Flashpacker

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou. Omar Khayyam Click To Tweet

Chianti Region in Tuscany

We visited Italy in June 2017 and by far it was the best trip we had last year. One of the most awesome experiences we had was visiting the Chianti region in Tuscany. We had opted for a full day tour from Florence of Siena, San Gimignano, and Chianti. Our tour guide Rebecca was a knowledgeable lady and kept us engaged throughout.

The most exciting part of our Tuscany visit was tasting 4 different types of Chianti wine; each one with its own flavor and taste followed by a scrumptious full course meal in the Chianti region. The 4 major types of Chianti wine are Chianti, Chianti Superiore, Chianti Classico, and Chianti Classico Riserva. Wandering in the bylanes of Siena and having gelatos to our heart’s content at the world famous Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano was another unforgettable experience to cherish forever!

Chianti is by far the most beautiful wine region in Tuscany. Breathtaking landscapes and good wine make Chianti a must visit while in Tuscany. It is greatly visited and appreciated by tourists worldwide. Chianti Wine is one of the most famous wine in the whole world due to its age-old tradition of production and quality of wines. It is recommended to do a vineyard tour when visiting Chianti. The vast expanse of greenery mingled with loads of wine information will leave you with lovely memories to last a lifetime!

Chianti is one of the best European wine regions

Aditi Kapoor at Travelogue Connect

Lombardia in Italy

Try and tell an Italian that any other country produces better wine than Italy and you’ll most likely be met with a tirade of angry protest and hand gestures. Lombardia (Lombardy) is a region in the north of Italy that’s home to a variety of incredibly picturesque landscapes, postcard-perfect towns and some of the most mouthwatering food and wine in the world.

Lombardia has a long history of winemaking which dates back to the Greeks who settled along the Po River. Lombardia produces various kinds of wine and is most well known for the sparkling wines from the Franciacorta zone along the shores of tranquil Lake Iseo. The region around Lake Garda is well known for the Chiaretto style rosé wine it produces, as well as acclaimed reds and whites.

Although incredible wines are produced all over Italy, there’s something special about the atmosphere in Lombardia. Whether it be the soaring mountain peaks of the Alps or the peaceful lakesides of Garda and Iseo, there’s always a beautiful place to sit and sip on a glass of delicious and locally produced wine.

Lombardia is one of the best European wine regions

Sara Monty at Just a Pack

I always love being in the company of women. It's all about good conversation and great wine. Naomi Watts Click To Tweet

Melnik in Bulgaria

Not a lot of people know this but Bulgaria used to be one of the world’s largest wine producer. It is now going through a revival with more and more wineries springing up all over the country. One of the best ways to experience this is to visit Melnik, one of Bulgaria’s wine producing regions. It’s a convenient day trip destination from Sofia. Going wine tasting in Melnik is a very laid back affair. It seems people were surprised to see us. The wine itself? It was delicious, very cheap, and very unique. Make sure to try a wine made from “Broad Leave Melnik” grapes, this grape only grows in this part of Bulgaria. They also make “orange” wine, which is wine made with white grapes that are crushed with its skin on.

How to visit: Best with a rental car from Sofia.

Melnik is one of the best European wine regions

Jill at Jack and Jill Travel The World

Wachau in Austria

In recognition of its architectural and agricultural history, the Wachau region of Austria was added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 2000.

The valley is dotted with picturesque villages, medieval towns, fairytale castles and a magnificent abbey. It’s also famous for the production of apricots and grapes, both of which are used to produce specialty wines and liqueurs. The Wachau is the source of Austria’s most prized dry Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners, from grapes grown on the steep stony slopes beside the Danube.

By the 15th century, there were 50 wine producing abbeys in the Wachau. The monks built special paths along the riverbank to transport the wine – paths that today are part of the Donauradweg – the Danube Bike Path. I might be biased, but this 30-km section of the Danube between Krems and Melk is best savored from the saddle of a bicycle.

Wachau is one of the best European wine regions

Anne Betts at Packing Light Travel

For more information on touring the Wachau, and other sections of the Danube by bicycle, see Cycling the Danube.

Rioja Region in Spain

Spanish Wine has become popular globally, but the most famous wines are from the Rioja Region in the northeast part of the country. That area is now firmly established as one of the best European wine regions. Rioja is composed of three areas: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alavesa. The wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties and while their reds (tinto) are most popular, you can also find white (blanco) or rosé (rosado) wines from Rioja. Among the reds, the best-known and most widely used grape is Tempranillo. Other grapes from Rioja include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo.

The easiest way to visit Rioja is a tour from Bilbao. We choose this route so that we didn’t have to worry about any details or driving. You could also base yourself in Haro, the largest city in Rioja, and visit wineries there on your own. Many of the wineries are within walking distance of each other. While you will have to make appointments in advance, it’s not too hard to do over email. If you want to explore more of the area, I would recommend hiring a driver or tour guide. We found the wineries to be very generous with their pours even for tastings.

Rioja is one of the best European wine regions

Anisa at Two Traveling Texans

Age is just a number. It's totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine. Joan Collins Click To Tweet

Piedmont in Italy

Anyone visiting Italy must visit the Piedmont wine region, one of the top European wine regions. Just a little outside of Turin, Italy, you’ll find the Piedmont wine region, which is famous for Barolo and Barbaresco. The Piedmont wine region produces the most DOCG wines out of ANY region in Italy, so you’re sure to find local specialties that aren’t exported too. The most commonly grown grape in the region is the Barbera grape although the Nebbiolo grape is commonly grown as well. The most famous towns for wine tourism in Piedmont are Asti and Alba, which are easy day trips from Turin with public transit. In the towns, you can sample the wine at wine bars although it’s also possible to take a tour of the surrounding vineyards with a car. Barolo is one of the most expensive Italian wines, so wine lovers should consider stocking up while in the region as it’s possible to buy Barolo for a steal!

Piedmont is one of the best European wine regions

Karen at Wanderlusting K

What about wine regions in other parts of the world?  Here is a collection of great wine regions of the Americas.

In which of these European wine regions would you like to spend two weeks?  We’d like to know.

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