Wine is more than a drink, it tells the story of a region, its land, its climate, the lives of winemakers, their taste and their traditions. Each wine is unique and tells a different story.
For centuries Europe, “Old World” for the wine industry, made the best wines appealing to different pallets with its different wine regions. From France to Italy, from Spain to Germany, each region has its own character, own style.
No surprise as the selection starts with Bordeaux but don’t worry we have a good and unexpected range of wine regions from all around Europe.
With wine region trips on the rise, let’s have a look at the best wine destinations in Europe:
Bordeaux – France
Much has been written about Bordeaux, perhaps the most famous red wine region in the world. The subject of Bordeaux fills countless books – for decades, almost centuries.
The French wine region of Bordeaux is the most productive wine region in Europe! Almost 6 million hectoliters of wine are produced annually. Mainly red wine, but it wasn’t always like this: white Bordeaux was once just as important.
Perhaps the area between Garonne and Dordogne in the west of France and the Girond would not have achieved its current position on the world market if it had not been for the business-minded English, Irish and Scots who lived here more than 400 years ago – not as winegrowers, but as a wine dealer. Only later did they incorporate regional wine-growing establishments into their trading houses established in France; many châteaux in these wine regions have names of British origin, which go back to foundations in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Santorini – Greece
No, there isn’t any mistake in the list. You may not be aware but Santorini is not only special because of its azure Aegean sea, lovely village or the delicious seafood cuisine. Thanks to its volcanic soil and indigenous grape Assyrtiko, Santorini produces one of the most remarkable white wines in Europe. Island’s sweet wine, Vinsanto is another local gem that shouldn’t be missed. Santorini with its crispy Assyrtiko is definately one of the most unexpected wine regions in Europe.
But if you’re still not convinced and looking for romantic gateaways, check here for the most romantic destinations in Europe.
Piedmont – Italy
With a good 48,000 hectares of vineyards, Piedmont is not the largest region in terms of quantity, but the strongest region in terms of quality. Banal everyday wines can hardly be found here and the prices are also above the average of the other areas.
Piedmont, characterized by medieval castles, is a classic red wine country with around 90 percent red vines. At the top of the Piedmont red wines are the remarkable Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Once you’re there for your wine trip, try to make it in Autumn to taste the savory truffles on season!
Rioja – Spain
The Spanish Rioja region is one of the most important wine regions in Europe and extends over the areas of La Rioja, the Basque Country and Navarre. Today the wine from this area is marketed under the same name. The Rioja vineyards cover more than 60,000 hectares along the upper reaches of the Ebros in northern Spain. A distinction is made between the areas of Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Mainly red grape varieties are grown on the limestone and clayey soils. Tempranillo , Garnacha and Graciano are at the heart of Riojan wine art. Each winemaker has his own secret recipe for great red wine blends .
Mosel – Germany
The area on the Mosel is one of the oldest European wine-growing regions as Germany’s oldest wine region. The excellent wines are appreciated from all sides. Vines are planted on steep slopes and river valleys to produce unique wines. The Celts and Romans used the fertile soil for wine growing over 2,000 years ago. Today there are around 8,800 hectares of vineyards that stretch along the Mosel from Perl to Koblenz.
The many steep slopes require extensive manual care of the vines. But the Devonian slate enriches the soil and, with its heat-storing properties, is the ideal prerequisite for Riesling, which has a special mineral note here. At the same time, volcanic ryolite provides a pleasant but distinctive flavor in the wines. The layers with calcareous sandstone, shell limestone or marl are ideal for growing Elbling and Burgundy. 90% white varieties such as Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Weißer Burgunder are grown on the Moselle. Exceptional winegrowers produce 795,000 hectoliters of wine annually, two thirds of which are already sold in Germany. The rest are exported to countries that appreciate the good Moselle wines: USA, Canada, Norway, Great Britain.
Beaujolais – France
Those wine enthusiasts who can already fall back on wine-tasting experiences in the 1990s first come up with the keyword of the Beaujolais Primeur or Beaujolais Nouveau. This is a young wine, the delivery of which was celebrated on the third Thursday in November. The arrival of the Primeurs in the shops was a fixed date in the wine calendar.
Put simply, the Beaujolais continues the narrow band of Burgundian appellations on the right bank of the Saône – some of the two wine-growing regions even overlap – and ends at the gates of Lyons: just 50 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide are sufficient for this.
Granite dominates the ground in the north, which is good for the wines. The south is more of limestone. With a total area of around 22,000 hectares, the Beaujolais is rather modest compared to the neighboring large appellation Côtes du Rhône with almost 50,000 hectares. The independence is particularly evident in the characteristic grape variety of the Beaujolais. If Pinot Noir plays the first violin in Burgundy, the Syrah on the northern Rhône, the Gamay grape variety is “the one and only”. With almost 99 percent of the acreage, it is virtually the sole ruler of the region.
Puglia – Italy
In Puglia wine is grown on almost 90,000 hectares and it is the Italian wine region with the largest production volume ever. But what initially triggered the reservation “quantity instead of quality” among many wine lovers has developed extremely positively in the past two decades.
Over 60 percent of red wines are produced in Puglia. The Primitivo variety plays a key role here. It gives rise to strong, fruity wines in Puglia, which are mainly characterized by ripe, black berry aromas, some of which are almost “jam-like”. But red wines from the indigenous grape variety Negroamaro – often in combination with Primitivo – also deserve special attention. This grape variety is particularly important in an area.
Douro Valley – Portugal
The oldest wine-growing region in the world with a protected designation of origin, the Douro Valley, lies in the north of Portugal and extends on both sides of the Douro River. The Romans introduced wine-growing here and the region is still highly regarded to this day. The name stands for excellent wines and is therefore a protected designation of origin. Since 2001, the area has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlands offer space for 45,000 hectares of vineyards and excellent wineries. The area is not only the perfect fit for a wine trip but also for a holiday in nature as well.
Rheingau – Germany
The center of the German Riesling region lies on Germany’s longest river. The Rheingau wine region in the state of Hesse stretches along the Rhine from Wicker / Flörsheim am Main to Lorchhausen. The narrow strip is bordered north by the Taunus, in the south the Rhine flows along. The white Riesling variety is mainly grown on the vineyard area of approx. 3,100 hectares. 80% of the acreage is planted with Riesling and almost all of them are in prime locations. Only the wine town Assmannshausen in the Rheingau has specialized in the cultivation of Pinot Noir. The red grape variety is grown here on 75 hectares and is the largest area for Pinot Noir in Germany. If you are after a picturesque German vacation and a wine trip, this wine region is just for you.
Priorat – Spain
Within Catalonia, Priorat is the oldest wine region in northeastern Spain and deserves definitely a gastronomic wine trip. A widespread legend says that a shepherd saw an angel descend from heaven here and the region was therefore chosen for wine-growing. In the 12th century, Carthusian monks founded a monastery here and started cultivating vines. The region name Priorat reflects the close connection with the monasteries, “prior” in Latin means monastery chief. After a phylloxera plague in the 19th century, all of the vineyards in Priorat were destroyed and the region fell into a deep sleep. Viticulture slowly came to life again around 1950 and was revolutionized in late 1970 and early 1980 by Rene Barbier and Alvaro Palacios.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape – France
The name Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be translated literally as “the new chateau of the Pope”. And this name can be taken literally: in 1308 Pope Clement V, former archbishop of Bordeaux, moved his residence to Avignon – not far from the vineyards of today’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This established a 70-year papal residence in Avignon. Clemens V was a great lover of wines from Burgundy – as were the six “Avignon Popes” who followed him.
At that time the wines around Avignon were rather simple and designed for the daily consumption of the rural population. For the Pope this was something to be challenged. And even though Pope Clement V marked the beginning of this quality offensive, it was above all his successor Pope John XXII who brought about fundamental changes and made this place on of the most prominent wine regions. Soon the local wines were called “Vin du Pape” – later the name Châteauneuf-du-Pape was derived from it.
Mallorca – Spain
“Class instead of mass” is the credo for wine growing on the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca. In the wine-growing regions of Binissalem, Pla i Llevant and Serra de Tramuntana, around 45,000 hectoliters of wine are produced each year on a total area of 2,300 hectares. The wineries (bodegas) create excellent and internationally sought-after quality wines. The dry soil and the mild Mediterranean climate favor the growth of the Mallorcan vines. Mallorcan viticulture flourished in the 19th century when phylloxera destroyed the famous French wine-growing regions.
In 1891, the phylloxera plague also destroyed wine growing in Mallorca, which only came back in the 1960s due to the increase in tourism. However, success did not come until the early 1990s, when some farmers started experimenting with the local grape varieties and pressing unconventional blends to date. Outstanding wines of the best quality were the result and won numerous awards for the winemakers. Today, 80 percent red wines with a strong aroma and dark red color are produced in Mallorca, some of which are stored in oak barrels. Well-known Mallorcan grape varieties are the Malvasier grape and the Mantonegro, which the winemakers often mix with top international varieties. In this way, the bodegas increase the quality of their wines and secure demand even beyond national borders.
Tuscany – Italy
The wine region extends picturesquely along the Ligurian coast in Italy and is one of the most renowned wine-growing regions worldwide. The region is therefore a member of the Great Wine Capitals network, which only includes one winegrowing region per country. The wineries of Tuscany, produce high-quality wines with a unique note thanks to optimal geological and climatic conditions. On the barren limestone soils of Tuscany, the vines are spoiled with plenty of sun and enough rain. The internationally sought-after wines like Brunello, Chianti or the Vino Nobile from Montepulciano thrive. Sangiovese is the main grape variety in the wine-growing region of Tuscany and the most important for the Chianti.
BONUS – Vienna – Austria
Vineyards in a big city? It’s hard to believe, but in fact viticulture has become an integral part of the city of Vienna and has now become an important economic factor. We’re sure Vienna is not at the top of your wine trip list but it’s worth a visit once you’re there next time.
Most of Vienna’s vineyards are north of the Danube and south of the city. In both areas, mainly white grape varieties are grown. Due to the thicker, clay-shaped soil, the wines from the south of Vienna always appear a little more opulent, so that in this area one successfully ventures into the production of red wines. In the north of the city, on the other side of the Danube, the soil is very rich in lime and therefore offers ideal conditions for white wines that have a lot of clarity and “nerve”.
And despite these stylistic differences, the Viennese winegrowers agree on one thing: the mixed sentence. This wine comes from vineyards in which the vines are not planted according to type, but mixed. These are exclusively white grape varieties – usually Grüner Veltliner , Riesling and Weißburgunder .