Part of the joy of travel is being able to sample local food and drink – and if you’re a wine lover, there’s nothing better than visiting new places and sipping delicious wine in the very place where it’s produced.
The best wine regions usually boast beautiful countryside, charming towns, historic attractions and compelling culture, so there’s plenty to do when you’re not swirling your glass too.
Whether you have a passion for full-bodied reds or crisp and refreshing whites, a wine-focused holiday allows you to immerse yourself in the local gastronomy while also having plenty of time to explore at your leisure.
So, to get you inspired, here are 11 of the best wine regions in the world.
1. Western Cape, South Africa
South African wine is enjoyed all around the world, but tasting different varieties where it was grown and produced is a whole other experience. The Western Cape is home to most of the country’s wine regions, including two of the most famous, Stellenbosch and Paarl. The Cape Winelands stretch 185 miles north and 220 miles east of Cape Town, passing through some truly stunning scenery.
The warm climate here has allowed these vineyards to produce some of the world’s finest and most versatile wines. Wines from the Shiraz and Pinotage grapes are alternatively fresh and juicy, or robust and full-bodied, while the Cabernet Sauvignon wines and Bordeaux Blends are also excellent. When you’re not wine tasting, you can go hiking, explore captivating Cape Town, or even go on a safari.
Sip your way around the wonderful Western Cape
2. Tuscany, Italy
Tuscany is as famous for its picturesque pastoral scenery as it is for its food and wine. The rolling hills, swaying cypress trees, and miles of grape vines and olive groves will take your breath away – and that’s without mentioning the atmospheric towns that are dotted across the region. From Siena to Florence, this is a region that’s jam-packed with culture, history, and natural beauty.
If you’re into red wine, you may be pleased to hear that Tuscany is home to many world-class regions, including Chianti, Montalcino, and Montepulciano. The most popular grape here is sangiovese, although pinot grigio and trebbiano are beloved too. Wine tastings here have a unique rustic charm, and, happily, are usually accompanied by tastings of the exceptional local food!
Taste your way around Tuscany’s wines
3. California, USA
Halfway up California’s craggy coastline is the country’s premier wine-making region. The diverse geography here means there are plenty of different territories to grow on – so if you’re looking to try a wide variety of wine, this might be the destination for you. While Napa Valley is the most famous region, it only produces 4% of California’s wine, and there’s plenty more going on outside Napa itself.
Sonoma County is known for pinot noir and zinfandel, as well as its sparkling wine, while Monterey County is home to one of the country’s most historic wine industries. The first grapes were planted in 1771, and today there are all kinds of tasting rooms to visit, from urban wineries to vineyard-covered hillsides. The renowned food scene and beautiful coastal scenery here are just two extra perks.
Explore California’s captivating wine country
4. Loire Valley, France
If you’re a fan of French wine, you might want to think about taking a trip to the lovely Loire Valley. Stretching for 600 miles along the Loire River, this region encompasses a staggering 63 types of wine, and the picture-perfect land here is home to more than 7,000 different wine growers. If you want to enjoy plenty of culture and history with your wine, and decadent food, you’ll be in the right place!
Each wine district has its chateau, and you can spend whole days exploring spectacular homes like Chenonceau, Chambord, Chinon, Brissac, and Saumur. In terms of the wine itself, there’s a very wide variety, from hearty reds like Chinon and Bourgueil to sparkling Vouvray. The most celebrated wines are whites, however, and the local sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc are two of the very best.
Lose yourself in the landscape of the Loire Valley
5. Douro Valley, Portugal
The dramatic landscape of Portugal’s Douro Valley is very different to that of neighbouring Spain or nearby France, and the rugged gorges and green hills here house countless terraced vineyards. The city of Porto is the gateway to the Douro Valley, and many visitors choose to take wine tours along the river, stopping off at the pretty wineries (known as quintas) and enjoying delicious local dishes.
The Douro Valley is most famous for producing port, a fortified sweet wine. White port, pink port, Tinto Douro, and Douro Branco are some of the other popular varieties that thrive in this temperate climate. The region is also known for having some of the most unique wine experiences around; try your hand at grape stomping, enjoy buffet lunches on the river, and even sleep in the giant barrels!
Discover the dreamy Douro Valley
6. Burgundy, France
Located in east-central France, Burgundy is home to some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. This rural region is known for medieval hilltop villages, stately chateaux, rolling green hills and mustard fields, and characterful cities like Dijon that go way back to the Renaissance. It also boasts some of the world’s best vineyards, and the whole region is synonymous with gastronomy and good living.
The two main types of grape produced here are pinot Noir and chardonnay, which make up 98% of the region’s production. The beautiful vineyards here are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are walking and cycling trails that take you along the wine route. The winemaking town of Beaune is also a must-visit, and you can enjoy touring the centuries-old wine cellars tucked beneath its streets.
7. Marlborough, New Zealand
New Zealand might be one of the newest wine-producing countries, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also one of the best. Perched at the top of the South Island, the Marlborough wine region is the country’s largest, producing three-quarters of all New Zealand’s wine. This part of the world is truly breathtaking, so when you’re not visiting wineries, you’ll definitely want to soak up the scenery.
The rolling golden vineyards here produce world-class sauvignon blanc, though chardonnay and pinot noir grapes are also popular. There are only around 150 wineries here, but Brancott Estate and Cloudy Bay are some of the best, and oldest, in the country. The sunken valleys of the Marlborough Sounds offer unrivalled hiking, while you can spot dolphins, sail, and kayak along the glorious coast.
8. Mendoza, Argentina
Argentina is the largest wine producer in South America, and the Mendoza Province is the country’s premier wine-producing region. Set against the soaring snow-capped peaks of the Andes, just south of Mendoza city, this region produces around 80% of the nation’s grapes. There are more than 1,500 wineries spread across the ruggedly remote landscape, and opportunities for adventure abound.
Malbec is the most common grape, although Tempranillo is also popular, and you can find merlot, chardonnay, cabernet franc, and criolla grapes too – so there are plenty of choices. Wine tours here are also unusually cheap – which means you can visit more! – though there are plenty of fancy food and wine tours too, where you can enjoy a formal dining experience as you sip different local wines.
Indulge in fine wine and vibrant culture in Mendoza
9. Ribera del Duero, Spain
Spain boasts several excellent wine regions, with the most famous being Rioja. While it’s only 90 miles long, there are three distinct sections to Rioja – Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja – and each has different geographical features and soils, which creates different wines. However, while Rioja wines are elegant and smooth, if you prefer punchier wines, head to Ribera del Duero instead.
Ribera del Duero was only awarded DO status in 1982, but over the past four decades, it’s become one of Spain’s greatest wineries. Two hours north of Madrid, the warm climate here has created intense and concentrated wines, with complex flavours of dark fruit and firm tannin profiles. Some of the most famous wines include Vega Sicilia and Pesquera, as well as many tempranillo grape reds.
10. Bordeaux, France
As one of the world’s leading wine-producing countries, it’s no surprise that France makes not two, but three appearances on this list. Located in Southern France, and consisting of 290,000 vineyard acres, Bordeaux is the country’s premier wine region and is a must-visit destination for wine lovers. There are over 8,500 estates where you can tour chateaux, sip wine, and sample gorgeous local food.
The red wines here use a blend of grapes – usually cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and malbec and carménère – while whites use sémillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle. And though the Bordeaux region is named after the city, beautiful Saint-Emilion and historic Médoc are the better-known areas, with around 1,300 wineries between them.
Explore one of the world’s top wine regions
11. Yarra Valley, Australia
Australia possesses several celebrated wine regions, including Barossa Valley (the largest), the Margaret River, and Hunter Valley. However, while these regions are generally associated with hot and dry shiraz-growing vineyards, the Yarra Valley offers something completely different. This is Australia’s premier, cool-climate region, and the wide variety of wines here are far more accessible.
Bordered by mountains, and with the Yarra River cutting across, the unique landscape of this valley has made it one of the world’s best wine regions. Just an hour from Melbourne, there are over 80 vineyards to explore here, and all kinds of wine to try. Chardonnay, pinot noir, shiraz, and cab sauv are the favourites, but nebbiolo, gamay, arneis, sangiovese, and savagnin have become popular too.
The best wine regions in the world offer so much more than just delicious wine tastings. From the wineries of the wild Andes to the famous vineyards of France, world-renowned wine destinations are also home to awe-inspiring scenery, mouthwatering cuisine, and vibrant cities, towns, and villages.
Whether you’re dreaming of sipping a chilled glass of crisp white or savouring a robust red, there are so many different destinations to choose from that you’re sure to find your perfect escape. With the added perk of temperate climates, a wine holiday is the ideal opportunity to combine culture, history and outdoor adventure with the beauty of feasting on fresh food and perfectly paired wine.
If you’re feeling inspired and are looking to book your next holiday, you might want to check out our top travel deals page.
Have you been to any of these wine regions before? Or do you have your own suggestions for the best wine regions in the world? We’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!