I've always been fond of drinking wine, but it wasn't until my trip around the world that I had the chance to visit two of the world's top wine regions, Stellenbosch and Bordeaux. Both experiences were enjoyable.
It's hard to go wrong with an activity that involves being shuttled from one beautiful winery to the next, tasting several varieties at each stop, learning about wine production, and hopefully getting to nibble on fresh local cheeses too.
The following five wine regions are on five different continents and showcase the spread of wine culture beyond Europe to the rest of the world.
I've had the pleasure to visit the first three, and the last two are ones I hope to experience in the future.
1. Stellenbosch, South Africa
The wine probably isn't the first thing that pops into your mind when I say “South Africa,” but the gorgeous region of Stellenbosch, located 30 miles (50 kilometers) outside Cape Town, is home to dozens of wineries.
The soil composition, hilly terrain, and Mediterranean climate make South Africa's second oldest European settlement a prime spot to grow grapes.
Upon arriving in South Africa, a wine tour of Stellenbosch was the first thing I did. Whether you're staying at a hostel or a hotel, they're easy to book and fun.
The first winery we visited, Fairview, featured a goat standing on a winding staircase encircling a stone tower. Random, but they know everyone loves goats!
After taking photos of the goat, we were treated to our first wine tasting, which included information about vintages, tips on how to hold the wine glasses properly, and evaluate and taste wine properly.
Afterward, they also offered a cheese tasting as well. It was heaven.
Our guide took us to another three or four wineries, one of which we ate lunch on an outdoor deck with lovely views of the surrounding vineyards.
2. Bordeaux, France
During my two months of overland travel through South Africa, I met a young French couple from Bordeaux.
We got along well, and they quickly invited me to visit them when I reached Europe. An invitation to stay with locals in one of the world's most famous wine cities?
I responded in the affirmative, and a few months later, they picked me up at the airport and whisked me away to my first big dinner in Bordeaux.
The next day, they introduced me to St. Emilion, a medieval town surrounded by vineyards.
Even though it was mid-December, there was snow on the ground and no grapes on the vine, we still had a wonderful time.
We stopped at a local winery for a brief tour and tasting, wandered the streets trying cheeses at the cute cheese shops, and had a delicious lunch with a roaring wood fire at a local restaurant.
3. Mendoza, Argentina
After spending several months in Patagonia and Buenos Aires, I traveled west overland by bus through Rosario and Cordoba to Mendoza.
It was autumn, and the leaves on the trees and grapevines were all changing colors. I did two wine tours during my four-day stay.
The first was similar to my experience in Stellenbosch. I was picked up at the hostel in a minivan full of travelers and taken to the vineyards.
The second was a bicycle wine tour, and we visited three different wineries from the first one I did.
Mendoza is flat, so riding the bikes didn't require much effort, which is essential given the copious amounts of wine you may be drinking.
Both tours stopped at Cava de Cano for lunch, serving typical Argentine cuisine in a tapas (small dish) format.
I can't recommend it highly enough, but the all-you-can-eat (and drink) lunch is best attended on tour, as it's otherwise quite expensive.
4. Barossa Valley, Australia
The Barossa Valley, 35 miles (56 kilometers) from Adelaide, was founded by German settlers and is one of Australia's oldest wine regions.
Primarily known for producing high-quality Shiraz, some of the vines planted there are 100 to 150 years old.
It's also home to Jacob's Creek, the first commercial vineyard (dating back to 1847) and one of my favorite brands before my round-the-world journey.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I only made it as far south as Melbourne. Otherwise, the Barossa Valley would've been the first significant wine region I visited.
5. Napa Valley, California
Napa Valley is the premier wine-growing region in the United States. While winemaking records date back to the 19th century, the area didn't rise to prominence until the 1960s.
In addition to tasting, drinking, and buying excellent wines, Napa Valley is home to some of the country's best restaurants, including the famous French Laundry.
Today, there are over 450 wineries growing grapes, and the region receives four and a half million visitors a year.
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