7 Most Exotic Vineyards Of The World
Have your grape and your wine too! Yamini Vasudevan takes you on a journey through the world’s best wine resorts – so you can pick one (or more) for your next getaway.
Plato once said, “Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was every granted by the gods to man.” It is thus, not without reason, that the art of winemaking has been cherished and perfected over generations. Let us raise our glass to the best that history and tradition hath bequeathed us. And what better way to do so than with a fine red or white – in the vineyard where it was grown?
With more than 50 types of grapes, Napa Valley is every oenophile’s delight. To experience it all, go on the Napa Valley Wine Train, which offers three six-hour tour options. Chug through picturesque landscape, stop for tastings at prominent winemakers, and revel in old-world luxury on board the charming carriages.
You could also head to Sonoma Valley next door, which boasts over 400 wineries, and offers the best of Californian cuisine and wines, with a side of peace and quiet.
Stay-wise, check out the Meadowood Napa Valley, a 250-acre resort with luxurious guestrooms and a Michelin-starred restaurant. The Seven Stones Winery, located above the resort (by appointment only), is renowned for its exclusive 2005 Seven Stones Cabernet Sauvignon.
South Africa’s wine industry owes its origin to the Dutch East India Company – in particular, Jan van Riebeeck, a Dutch surgeon, who was tasked with managing the station and producing wines and grapes to ward off scurvy amongst sailors .
History buffs might want to check out Constantia Valley – the region’s wine is said to have captured the attention of celebrities, including one Napoleon Bonaparte.
Explore the famed vineyards of the country’s oldest wine region on the eponymous Stellenbosch Wine Route, and top it off with a stay at the Delaire Graff Estate, owned by Laurence Graff (of Graff Diamonds fame). With spectacular views, ultra-luxurious suites and art pieces from Laurence Graff’s personal collection, the estate is a destination in itself.
With 40 wineries around the area, and antique shops and restaurants, Franschhoek is the perfect pick for a relaxed weekend. A good place of stay would be the Le Quartier Français – a boutique hotel set amidst private gardens, which comes with a cinema, contemporary art gallery, and ‘Indigenous and Unusual Herb and Sculpture Garden’.
Winemaking began in Argentina in 1557, when Spanish colonizers brought vine cuttings to Santiago del Estero. Due to the combination of high altitude and low humidity in the main wine producing regions, issues such as insects, fungi, molds and other diseases are rare – which allows for grapes to be cultivated with little or no pesticides.
Visit Mendoza, where more than 60 per cent of Argentinian wine is made, and stay at The Vines Resort & Spa in Uco Valley. Located amidst 1,500 acres of vineyards, the resort offers a blend of classic and modern touches. Those who dream of becoming a vintner could look into buying parcels of professionally managed vineyards at The Vines of Mendoza.
You could also visit Calchaqui Valley, and stay at Grace Cafayate. Stunning views of the Andes (apart from the spa and golf club) aside, the resort’s proximity to Bodega Colome, one of Argentina’s oldest vineyards, is a big draw.
Did you know that Spanish winemakers are said to use the word ‘elaborar’ (to elaborate) rather than ‘fabricar’ (to make) when describing their winemaking philosophy? It implies that the winemaker is said to nurture the grapes and wine rather than merely produce the drink.
Check into the Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa in Duero Valley – which was converted from a 14th century-monastery, and is said to have hosted Christopher Columbus. Even if the gourmet farm-to-table restaurants and vinotherapy spa do not impress you, the wine tastings inside the historic wine cellar surely would.
Or head to Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Elciego. That Elciego is one of Spain’s top wine producing areas – and famed for its Rioja – is a good reason. That the Frank Gehry-designed hotel is, literally, a work of art is one more. The spa, with its Red Vine Bath and Crushed Cabernet Scrub, is a bonus. There is also the City of Wine, which houses the oldest cellars of Marqués de Riscal (from 1858) – should you need more convincing.
France is one of the largest wine producers in the world, with winemaking here traced back to 6th century BC. An interesting fact is that most French wines were developed to accompany food, and very rarely as ‘bar wines’.
With centuries’ old vineyards and medieval villages, there is plenty in Burgundy for the eye and nose – the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (the region’s specialties) top the list. The wine tours are said to be very popular, so book yours well in advance.
Another must-visit destination is Bordeaux – known for its reds. Try the Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, or a blend of both – a practice the region is famous for. Gastronomes have a choice of Michelin-starred restaurants, including Gordon Ramsay’s Le Pressoir d’Argent. While here, stay at the Le Sources de Caudalíe – rustic-chic rooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant, a 16,000-bottle wine cellar, and a spa (with Cabernet baths and Merlot wraps) await.
Home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, Italy produces about one-third of the world’s reds and whites.
Alto Adige in northern Italy is known for its whites but offers a selection of excellent reds as well. Its location next to Austria and Switzerland means a unique cultural experience and a great view of the Alps. You could tour along the South Tyrolean Wine Road, and stop at wineries such as St. Michael-Eppand and Franz Haas Winery.
Luxury abounds in every sense of the word in Tuscany.
Visit the Castello del Trebbio – a winery housed in a former palace, and stay at the Castello Banfi–Il Borgo, a medieval castle turned hotel. Guests staying in the Poggio all’Oro Suite can access a private wine cellar, which stores rare vintages. There is also Castiglion del Bosco, owned by the Ferragamo family. The 5,000-acre estate houses its own winery, a La Prairie spa, and the only golf course in Italy set within a UNESCO World Heritage site, apart from farmhouse-style villas and an infinity pool.
If in Sicily, stay at the Capofaro Malvasia & Resort, located amidst the vineyards of Tasca d’Almerita – one of Sicily’s key wine producers. Whitewashed bungalows with sea-facing terraces and cane-roofed patios overlooking the vineyard make for a decadent holiday – probably why the resort courts A-listers as its guests, including (reportedly) Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Adelaide, said to be Australia’s ‘wine capital’, was surely your first pick? The Barossa and McLaren Vale areas are both popular places to visit and offer the region’s famed Shiraz.
There is also Margaret River in the western coast, known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Stay-wise, check out Cape Lodge in Yallingup. Located on the Indian Ocean, it offers spectacular views paired with local produce and wines. You could also go horseback riding, attend sheep shearing demonstrations, or go whale watching.
Those who wish to indulge in verdant landscape should head to Moorilla Estate in Tasmania. The estate is home to the Museum of Old and New Art, which offers luxurious pavilions overlooking the River Derwent. If you take the Moorilla Sleepover package, you will get a private winery tour and tasting, tickets to the Museum, and a complimentary bottle of Pinot Noir.