The Easiest Wine Regions to Visit this Summer
It’s that time of year when Dubai empties as people head away on holiday to escape the summer heat. For some it’s the beach that offers the best chance to depress those of us left behind with their Instagram feeds, for others it's old city streets or ruckus night life. But what about lovers of wine? There are plenty of wine regions you just might happen to be near this summer while enjoying your holidays. Here is our list of eight glorious wine areas that are only a short distance from a major airport or city.
Penedès, home to Spain’s signature and seductive sparkling wine, Cava is just a forty-minute drive from Barcelona airport, with tour groups and trains leaving from Plaça Catalunya in the city. Bookings are recommended for smaller wineries, but you can pretty much just turn up to the larger wineries like Freixenet, Torres and Codorníu. Be sure to check their opening hours, particularly around fiesta time and closing, as they may well catch you out.
The Champagne region, birthplace of the world’s official drink of celebration, is just ninety minutes from Paris, with trains departing regularly from both Charles de Gaulle airport and Gare de l’Est. The towns of Reims and Epernay in particular host a number of recognizable Champagne houses, including Moët & Chandon, Tattinger and Veuve Clicquot, as well as lesser-known brands like Vranken and Canard-Duchêne. Most places require bookings to visit, though Tattinger and Moët welcome walk-ins. Also, many of the independent houses will also offer impromptu tastings if you buy a bottle or two.
Cape Town, South Africa
Stellenbosch, home of South Africa’s most revered Cabernet Sauvignon’s, is just a thirty-minute drive by car from Cape Town and many of the big wineries offer impressive visitor centers that welcome walk-ins. However it’s still best to book in advance, especially if you’re planning to visit the smaller wineries. Also, avoid public transport which is infrequent at best and occasionally plain unsafe. Another advantage to renting a car is that the wine regions of Constantia, Durbanville, Paarl, Franschhoek and Walker Bay are all within an hour’s drive as well.
Handily the biggest and oldest wineries in Chile, including Concha y Toro, Santa Rita and Cousiño Macul are just a stones throw from Chile’s capitol, Santiago, meaning you can have a glass of Cabernet, Merlot or silky sooth Carménère in front of you within thirty minutes of exiting the airport. You can also visit the cellar of the devil, which is either spooky, or just plain hilarious depending on your perspective.
The gem of the New South Wales wine industry, The Hunter Valley, lies just two hours north of Sydney, with plenty of options to get you there and back, including regular buses, private shuttles, rental cars and the train. It is home to award winning, age-worthy crisp whites and stickies. The area is well set to receive visitors with many cellar doors also offering tours of the vineyards themselves.
Located in the Bekaa Valley around an hour from Beirut, the town of Zahlé offers plenty of wineries where you can experience the full range of Lebanon’s emerging red blends and big perfumed whites, including the famous Châteaux Musar. Local producers here are always eager to show what this ancient wine world can offer, where blending their lesser-known native varieties with internationally renown grapes like Syrah and Cabernet has become a specialty.
The super pretty town of Niagara on the Lake is just an hour and a half from Toronto by train, home to unique climatic conditions that make it one of the rare places where Ice Wine can be produced each year. Once there you can explore its picturesque vineyards by bike, with most offering tastings on arrival. However if you’re planning to do an organised winery tour it’s still best to book in advance as they fill up quick.
Auckland, New Zealand
With the closest cellar door a mere five minutes from Auckland airport at Villa Maria Estate, convenience is guaranteed. However if you want to enjoy glorious views of the Hauraki Gulf as you sip, then catch the ferry to beautiful Waiheke Island. There you can explore some splendidly positioned vineyards by bicycle, electric bicycle, car, hop-on-hop-off bus, or organised tour and taste its famous Bordeaux blends, as well as plenty of high quality Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Syrah, Rosé and even some craft brews.