Europe is home to many of the world’s oldest and most celebrated wine-producing regions – cultivating a selection of mouth-watering reds, whites and sparkling wines. Vineyard tours and winemaking classes are enjoyed by thousands of people every year, savouring a tipple or two and learning about the grape.
There is absolutely no way we can run through the great wine regions of Europe without mentioning Bordeaux. The average vintage from the Bordeaux region produces over 700 million bottles of wine, from standard table wines to some of the most sought-after varieties in the world. Best known for their red wines; more than 8,500 producers specialise in turning grapes into delicious wine.
The region has been producing wine for close to 2,000 years – with the Romans to thank for unlocking the potential of Bordeaux’s grapes. Bordeaux wine has been in constant production since then, and really grew in popularity in England in the 12th century when the wine was heavily imported to our shores.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère are the only grapes permitted to be used in Bordeaux wines.
The region is jam-packed with beautiful spots for a vineyard visit, and none are more beautiful than Château de Pitray and its 37 hectare spread of vines located in the shadows of the stunning castle.
Rioja’s wines are supped all around the world, made from grapes grown in the autonomous community of La Rioja as well as parts of neighbouring regions. The continental climate of La Rioja makes it perfect for the production of wine, as well as holidays in the sun.
The earliest evidence of wine cultivated in these region dates back to 873, but the production probably predates this by a significant length of time. Monks were amongst the early cultivators of wine in the region – advocating the virtues of drinking the nectar of the grapes.
Best known for its red wines, Rioja is mainly made from Tempranillo grapes, alongside Garnacha Tinta, Graciano and Mazuelo.
If you’re cruising to the popular port of Bilbao, Wine Tourism Spain offer a one day tour to Rioja – guiding you around the hotspots and highlights of the mine-making region.
Not that you needed another excuse to visit Tuscany, but the region is amongst the world’s best spots for winemaking. Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are amongst the wines which the region is famed for.
Viticulture in Tuscany dates way back to 8th Century BC, with the Ancient Greeks noting their jealousy of the Italians’ ability to work the grape. The city of Florence became the centre of the region’s wine merchant trade with roughly 8 million gallons of the stuff sold every year by the 14th century. This is probably part of the reason why Florence attracted so many great minds and artists.
The Sangiovese grape is perhaps the most successful and commonly used in the region – benefitting from the hours of glorious sunshine received by the Tuscan hills.
The Azienda Agricola Montefioralle is a stunning winery, located in the heart of the Chianti region, providing the perfect setting for a relaxing visit.
Located right at the north west of Italy, the Piedmont region is famed for wine production – creating popular variations including Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera. The communes of Alba and Asti are the centres of the region’s winemaking endeavours.
Piedmont’s close proximity to France means that the French viticulture has heavily influence wine production in the area. Although wine production is significantly older, the earliest report of the creation of wine in the region came in the 14th century when local agricultural writer Pietro de Crescentius penned Liber Ruralium Commodorum.
The Cantina del Glicine gives a true insight into the ancient world of winemaking, providing an authentic step back in time. The 17th century subterranean cellars are especially worth a visit for wine enthusiasts.
Based around the Portuguese Douro River, Douro is a wine region which offers wine with significant French influence. Additionally, the region is famed for its production of fortified wines such as port. Although Portugal may not have the same winemaking reputation as Italy, France and Spain – it has earned a growing fan base, delighted by the spirit and flavours provided.
Winemaking in the region is thought to date back to the 3rd or 4th century, with archaeological evidence pointing to the Western Roman Empire producing wine around the Douro. In the 17th century, the region grew significant and the earliest known mention of Port Wine was in 1675.
Widely used grapes in the region include the brutally-named Bastardo, Mourisco tinto and Tinta Roriz.
The Quinta Do Vallado is a stunning wine hotel if you are spending a night in the region – set amongst acres of lush vineyards.
Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Phil Roeder, Anne B., Miguel Checa, Eric Huybrechts, Blue moon in her eyes, Turismo En Portugal