Famous Wine Regions of the World

Explore some of the great wine-producing regions around the world and their classic vintages.

Traveling to these classic wine regions around the world offers the chance to sample their wines and to explore the rich history and culture of each destination.  From classic vineyards in Old World Europe to boutique wineries in smaller regions, each wine region has a distinct flavor and character owing to the climate, topography and soil conditions of the area.

Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux region of France

Photo: iStock

Bordeaux, France

Things to do
Explore the port city of Bordeaux and the medieval hilltop town of Saint-Émilion on foot to truly understand why Bordeaux is a world benchmark wine. Wines have been exported from this port to the rest of the world since the Middle Ages. That has generated wealth reflected in the city’s 18th-century open design and impressive neoclassical buildings exemplified by the Place de la Bourse. Visit the quaint town of Saint-Émilion to appreciate a nearly unchanged landscape of vineyards dating from antiquity. For food and wine immersion Bordeaux-style, take a cooking class at Château de Villegeorge, or harvest like a local, then enjoy a meal, at Château Paloumey.

Grapes and appellations
Classic blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot on the banks of the Gironde River.

Character of wine
Reds are fresh and firm with black currant fruit, cedar and spice or silky and round, with cherry. The whites are aromatic, crisp and elegant.

Influences
The maritime climate and gravel soils on the Gironde’s Left Bank help to ripen thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon.

Perfect pairings
Savor with fish, oysters, river lamprey and duck confit or flavorful entrecote (rib steak).

Douro Valley

Photo: iStock

Porto and the Douro Valley, Portugal

Things to do
Discover Porto’s illustrious past as world explorer and trader by visiting the historical buildings and shops of the city center. Learn about Port history at the Port Wine Museum and Port wine-making at the Douro and Port Wines Institute. Then cross the Dom Luis I Bridge to sip the beverage in wine cellars before making a pilgrimage to the vineyards. You can reach the remote Douro Valley via the local train or by car on hairpin turns, but the best way to appreciate the spectacular Douro is on a serene boat ride. When you witness the unspoiled beauty of these steep granite and schist slopes (and the manual work required to tame them), you will truly understand why real Port can come from only one place.

Grapes and appellations
Blends of native Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cao.

Character of wine
Bottled relatively young, Vintage Port is deeply colored, intensely fruity and powerful, while Tawny Port is luscious, complex and savory.

Influences
Terraced vineyards on the steep slopes of the Douro Valley yield intense berries. Aspect to the sun and elevation matter during the hot summers.

Perfect pairings
Pair Vintage Ports with feijoada or cozido stews. Drink Tawny Port with roast chestnuts or Serra da Estrela, a creamy sheep’s milk cheese.

Vineyard covered hills of Tuscany

Photo: iStock

Tuscany, Italy

Things to do
For the ultimate “art of wine” experience, visit Florence, where revered Tuscan winemaking families, the Antinoris and the Frescobaldis, flourished during the Renaissance as merchants and as members of the artisan guilds that defined the age. Pose in front of Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia, gaze at Botticelli and da Vinci in the Uffizi and revel at the magnificent Duomo cathedral. While in this true mercantile city, make sure to visit the markets at San Lorenzo Plaza for leather goods and linens. Peruse gold jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio bridge, where you can stop for a breathtaking photo of the Arno River.

Grapes and appellations
Sangiovese of central Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino to the south and Morellino di Scansano southwest near the coast.

Character of wine
Core flavors of black cherry, forest floor and a hint of smoke. Brunello is bold and Morellino di Scansano is ripe and fruity.

Influences
Unique selections of grapes and precise soils and elevations in the Tuscan hills influence the many personalities of Sangiovese.

Perfect pairings
Feast on wild boar, steak Florentine, ribollita bread soup or simple pasta. This wine pairs well with both meats and vegetables.

Cheese basket from Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop

Photo: Alamy

Barossa, Australia

Things to do
The winegrowers of rural Barossa Valley are farmers first, with a strong German heritage of handcrafting and preserving foods, beer and wine. Taste Barossa by visiting Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop for sauces, jams and pickles, or Linke’s Central Meat Store for Mettwurst, bacon and hams, both in Nuriootpa. Follow your nose to Apex Bakery in Tanunda, then head to Angaston to explore the Saturday Farmers Market and Barossa Valley Cheese. For a sweet treat, try the unique, fortified “stickies” (dessert wines) of Seppetsfield or Grant Burge wineries. To work up an appetite between bites, discover the many biking and bushwalking trails in the beautiful rolling hills of the Barossa Range.

Grapes and appellations
Shiraz of Barossa Valley; also Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro, Grenache, Viognier and Semillon.

Character of wine
Generous, bold and velvety, Shiraz are packed with ripe blackberry and black cherry fruit with hints of licorice and chocolate.

Influences
Dry-farmed, century-old vines—some of the oldest Syrah/Shiraz vines in the world. Small berries produce concentrated reds with character.

Perfect pairings
Shiraz goes well with smoked mettwurst and bratwurst, cured bacon and hams, cheeses, and pickled goods from the area’s German heritage.

Plaza Independencia

Photo: iStock

Mendoza, Argentina

Things to do
With its dry, sunny climate, outdoor activities are plentiful in Mendoza. The Aconcagua soars to nearly 23,000 feet in the Andes, and the rivers that flow from it create a natural playground for hiking and rafting from December to March. In the city of Mendoza, stroll the Plaza Independencia to soak in local culture. Immerse in region-wide harvest celebrations in the days leading up to the city’s National Vintage Festival on the first Saturday of March. You’ll gain a true appreciation of the nation’s reverence for wine.

Grapes and appellations
Malbec of Central Mendoza and Uco Valley, a French grape transplanted to Argentina.

Character of wine
With plum, cherry and strawberry fruit, these wines are full-bodied and fresh. Malbec from the higher Uco Valley has floral aromas.

Influences
Cool, high altitude, luminous sun and ultra dry climate allow Malbec to ripen better here than anywhere else in the world.

Perfect pairings
Grilled, seasoned grass-fed beef or lamb topped with tangy chimichurri sauce. Or try a savory empanada.

Sunset at Table Mountain

Photo: iStock

Western Cape, South Africa

Things to do
Capetown is the gateway to Stellenbosch wine country, and Table Mountain is its beacon. The peak’s wind-carved flanks represent a crossroads of ocean currents, multiple cultures and the region’s past and future. Travel to the top of Table Mountain on foot or via cable car to enjoy the views. Take time to look at the beautiful native fynbos (shrubs) here and at nearby Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden, which have made the Cape Floral Kingdom a UNESCO World Heritage site. For portable, well-priced souvenirs, shop the markets on the V&A Waterfront for one-of-a-kind South African crafts like woven goods, carved figures and jewelry.

Grapes and appellations
Pinotage of Stellenbosch, a cross between two grapes: Pinot Noir—a Burgundy grape, and Cinsault—a Rhône grape.

Character of wine
Serious versions of Pinotage are full-bodied and savory with dark plum and berry fruit.

Influences
Ancient soils, the confluence of two oceans and rich biodiversity lead to distinctive grapes.

Perfect pairings
Braai (barbecue) in South Africa includes succulent boerewors sausage and local game, like springbok or antelope.

Ready to take your own world wine tour? Call 877-316-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor to start planning.

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David Kallas, AAA Travel Counselor, Murray, Utah

I'm all about once-in-a-lifetime trips to destinations such as the Cook Islands, Australia or an African safari. I love to plan trips that my clients return from not regretting anything.

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