Best Wine Routes in the World
Traverse the World’s Most Popular Wine Regions
For those who love wine and love to travel, what better way to spend your next trip than discovering trails of vineyards and wineries across the globe? It’s a singular experience to drink a glass of red or white while looking out on the land that cultivates it.
From the wine regions in Mendoza, Argentina, to vineyards in Switzerland and Portugal that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, GAYOT’s Best Wine Routes in the World should be on any oenophile’s bucket list. Prepare for your road trip by taking a look at our complete guide to wine and get more travel ideas with this list of must-see destinations.
1. Barossa Valley Wine Route
One of Australia’s oldest wine regions, the Barossa boasts some of the country’s most famous vineyards, including Penfolds, Peter Lehmann and Orlando.
Originally settled by German immigrants, the picturesque region in South Australia is dotted with Old World villages and welcoming residents. Best known for Cabernet and big-bodied Shiraz, Barossa also produces fine Rieslings, a leftover from its German origins.
Since the Barossa is a region rather than a route, create your own touring itinerary with the must-stops mentioned above. This is easy to do since most wineries are close to each other. Lovers of white wines should be sure to spend some time in Eden Valley located on the east side in the Barossa, where cooler climates make for complex and sophisticated Rieslings.
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2. Cape Town Route 62
Meandering from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn, this South African road is one of the longest and most varied wine routes in the world.
Although visitors could easily spend up to a week exploring Route 62, the heart of the wine country truly lies at the end closest to Cape Town. Here you will find lush vineyards climbing up peaks of sheer rock face. This is easily some of the most dramatic vineyard scenery in the world.
As the route continues away from Cape Town, the landscape grows more barren, quite harsh at times, with patches of vineyard seeming to pop up out of nowhere. Although there are a few twists and turns to the road in the mountains outside of Cape Town, the greatest challenge to exploring Route 62 are baboons running out into the road!
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3. Classic New Zealand Wine Trail
Spanning the distance from Hawke’s Bay to Marlborough, the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail may be the world’s only wine road to travel over a major body of water.
Encompassing both the North Island and South Island, this route takes visitors through 80 percent of New Zealand’s Wine Country. There’s a section of the route to appeal to every taste. Hawke’s Bay is for Cabernet and Merlot lovers. Wairarapa is gaining attention for its Pinot Noir and, of course, there’s Marlborough for some of the world’s greatest Sauvignon Blanc. And this trail’s offerings are not limited to wine. Hiking, biking and kayaking are just a few of the New Zealand-style adventures awaiting visitors.
See it on a map: New Zealand Wine Trail 6011 Wellington New Zealand
For more information: click here
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4. The Pfatz Wine Route
The oldest wine route in Germany, the Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Road) through the Pfalz (Palatinate) is considered by some historians to be the world’s first route created for wine tourism.
After a record harvest in 1934, the Pfatz Wine Route was designed to connect vintner villages and boost regional wine sales. They even changed the names of existing roads along the route to incorporate this tourism distinction.
Beginning at the French border, it stretches through the middle of the Palatinate and runs northward to the house of the German Wine Route in Bockenheim. Located in the heart of Germany’s warmest region, the route is popular in spring for its famous almond blossoms and in the fall for the bounty of produce sold at farm stands along the road.
See it on a map: German Wine Rt. 76889 Schweigen-Rechtenbach Germany
For more information: click here
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5. Lavaux Wine Route
Sitting above the northern shores of Lake Geneva in the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland, Lavaux decorates the coastline with its stone wall terraces and vines.
In the 13th century, monks constructed these dividers as a way to effectively plant vines despite the steep gradient of the land. The unique and beautiful structure of the man-made terraces is why Lavaux became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
The vineyards are positioned between Lausanne and Chillon Castle and stretch for about 18 miles. Visitors are welcome to walk the many marked pathways through the villages to sample the region’s wines. You can also tour the vineyards by train.
Besides Chasselas, which is the most widespread white wine variety throughout Switzerland, Plant Robert and Pinot Noir are other grape varieties produced in Lavaux. Your visit is not complete without a stop at Lavaux Vinorama in Rivaz on Lake Geneva, a modern building at the center of the vineyards where you can sample more than 250 different local wines and watch a behind-the-scenes documentary about Lavaux in the screening room.
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6. Mendoza Wine Route
Stretching across the foot of the Andes Mountains among a picturesque landscape is the heart of Argentina’s wine country – Mendoza.
The Mendoza Wine Route is made up of three wine regions — Luján de Cuyo, Uco Valley and Maipu — and has more than 350,000 acres of planted vineyards. On top of that, there are also more than 1,500 wineries throughout these areas, making it difficult to decide where to begin your wine journey.
Since Mendoza wine country is quite spread out, it’s best to plan your itinerary by region. Luján de Cuyo is known for its production of Malbec, but also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Torrontes. Uco Valley is the newest of the three wine regions and, besides making wine, offers gorgeous scenery for plenty of picture-perfect moments. Maipu contains the smallest number of wineries (about 20), but also offers olive oil tastings and recreational fun, such as biking.
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7. Napa Valley Highway 29
Highway 29 is California’s answer to France’s highway D2 (Route des Châteaux).
Along this road you will find many of America’s greatest wines and many of the pioneers who sparked the nation’s modern wine boom.
This short and fairly straight stretch from Calistoga to the town of Napa carves straight down the center of the Napa Valley, past some of America’s most iconic wineries including Beringer, Schramsberg, Grgich Hills Estate and Robert Mondavi Winery. It is often called the Disneyland of wine country — and as you drive past the tram ride carrying visitors up the hill to Sterling Vineyards or catch a glimpse of the Medieval reproduction castle that is Castello di Amorosa (complete with a torture chamber), you might agree.
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8. Port Wine Route
A lush valley road deeply carved into a carefully terraced vineyard landscape, this route is among the most breathtaking wine roads on the planet.
Not surprisingly, the Port Wine Route is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It begins in the historic city of Porto and follows the banks of the Douro River. In addition to photo-worthy views at every turn, the route offers visitors the chance to taste from each of the famed Port houses as well as experience Portuguese still wines.
Although the road is easily navigable by car, the scenery might best be appreciated by a riverboat tour. Visitors may want to consider visiting the Port Houses in Gaia (the city across the river from Porto where port wines are aged and stored) for a tasting experience. Then, continue to the Douro by boat for some of the best views of this history-steeped land.
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10. La Route des Vins
The region’s emphasis on agritourism allows bon vivants to experience great wine, plus regional cuisine and crafts.
Although Ontario’s Wine Country boasts a more dense population of famous wineries, we prefer Québec’s historic and picturesque La Route des Vins, a world-class destination for lovers of culinary delights.
In addition to the 18 vineyards that dot this route through eastern Québec, visitors encounter dozens of gastronomic-related marvels including a museum of chocolate and many local farms. Québec’s first official tourism trail, La Route des Vins, is also considered an excellent destination for cyclists.
See it on a map: La Route des Vins Brome-Missisquoi QC J0E 1K0 Canada
For more information: click here
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11. Route des Châteaux
The taste bud-dazzling wines make Route des Châteaux possibly the most desired strip of wine country to visit in the world.
No other wine route will wind you past more famous wineries and vineyards than the drive through Bordeaux’s Médoc region.
Boasting eight legendary appellations, the Médoc is the king of wine regions. Although the countryside itself is flat and fairly unremarkable as far as wine country goes, the magnificent châteaux that give this route its name leave travelers in awe. Built in a variety of styles, the properties along this route include ones even a newcomer to wine drinking is sure to recognize: Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, Pichon-Longueville and Cos d’Estournel.