Europe is known for its wine-making regions. Some people spend their entire vacation visiting vineyards and wineries and tasting the best wines that a region has to offer. Though there are a number of attractive wine-growing regions around the world, the highest concentration of famous wine-making areas is found in Western and Southern Europe. The wines of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal are some of the most sought after bottles on earth, and even people who are not familiar with wine may know some of the names of Europe’s best wine destinations.

If you want a truly memorable wine-themed vacation, these European destinations should be on the top of your list.

Tuscany and Umbria

Vineyard, Tuscany

Photo: francesco sgroi / Flickr

Tuscany is arguably the most famous wine region in the world. Tourists can come here to visit wineries that have been in operation for centuries. For a classic winery experience with Old World wine cellars and amazing vineyard panoramas, Tuscany is second to none. Even if you do not visit the wineries themselves, you can still enjoy high-quality local wines at the region’s restaurants and cafes. Umbria, a neighboring province, also has its share of wineries. There are not quite as many vineyards here, compared to Tuscany, but the quality of wine is still high and the sights equally amazing. Why visit Umbria instead of (on in addition to) Tuscany? You can get the same type of awesome wine-country experiences without having to deal with the high number of tourists who come to Tuscany on wine-themed vacations.

Burgundy

Vineyard, Burgundy

Photo: Megan Mallen / Flickr

This area, famous for producing amazing red wines, has been wine growing region for more than 2,000 years (the first grapes were introduced by the Roman Empire). Burgundy has wonderful vineyards and great restaurants, so it is possible to have a wine and food themed tour and taste the best food and drink that France has to offer. Burgundy is also filled with history, so people can engage in some serious sightseeing by visiting castles, abbeys, and Medieval towns in between their wine tastings.

Porto

Wine barrels, Porto

Photo: Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts Events / Flickr

Port wines are very unique. Traditionally made by fortifying local Portuguese wines, Ports have an unusual taste and are very, very popular in many parts of the world, especially in the United Kingdom. One of the most unique experiences that a wine-tourist could have in Portugal involves visiting the local Port houses to try the many different varieties. Port is often used as a dessert wine, and many Porto tasting houses offer sampling sessions that include both port and chocolates, or other confectioneries and desserts. Of course, Porto, an aged but charming coastal city, is a great place to spend a few days experiencing the rustic charms of Portugal.

Provence

Château La Nerthe, Provence

Photo: Michal Osmenda / Flickr

Provence is one of the most beautiful regions of rural France. People come here seeking great scenery and an slower-paced alternative to the culture-rich but overwhelming cities of this popular country. Provence has some of the world’s finest rosé wines and is also known for its complex flavored red wines. The rustic but very refined French cooking that is found in this region of France is also quite accessible and undeniably delicious, with a focus on super-fresh ingredients and traditional cooking methods.

Rioja

Vineyard, Rioja

Photo: acrib / Flickr

Spain’s top wine-making region is a popular stop for wine-enthusiasts who want to get outside of France and Italy and see what the rest of Europe has to offer. There is certainly a lot to see in Rioja, with wineries and vineyards found all around the scenic countryside. The Spanish people’s stereotypical joie de vivre is easy to experience in this region, where locals have as much enthusiasm for the wine as tourists. This region is also one of the best places to get in touch with the classic cooking styles that have made Spain one of Europe’s greatest culinary countries.

Honorable mentions: Greece and Switzerland

Vineyard, Rivaz, Switzerland

Photo: deepakhere.mypixels / Flickr

Switzerland and Greece have many vineyards, and these two nations are now getting plenty of buzz for their wines. Both destinations are both ideal for people who want to step off of the well-worn wine-trail that runs through Western Europe and head to someplace unique. Swiss wineries are located in scenic locations in valleys or on alpine lake-shores. Greek wines had lost some of their popularity until a new trend of using native grapes led to some unique and high-quality wines that earned rave reviews from wine aficionados.

When it comes to wineries, everyone has their own personal favorites. What is on your own personal list of the best wine-making regions in Europe? Tell us your recommendations in the comments section below.

Josh Lew
Josh Lew
Josh Lew has traveled widely in Asia and the Americas. He has contributed to popular travel sites like Gadling and Brave New Traveler and currently writes a weekly travel column for MNN. His work has also appeared on the websites of CNN and Forbes Magazine.

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