If you love wine and visiting wineries you have no doubt been to, or thought about going to, the popular wine destinations. Many wine lovers head to France, Argentina, New Zealand, Italy or Napa Valley when they want a wine tasting trip and for good reasons. The wines from these places taste incredible and are distributed all over the world.
While there is nothing wrong with visiting these popular wine spots, there are many countries producing top quality wines that you’re probably unaware of. These underrated wine countries may not be as well known but the wines they produce are just as good as the well known countries!
With the help of my fellow wine loving travel bloggers I’ve created this list of 16 underrated wine countries you need to visit if you love wine.
Recommended by Curious Claire
Even though I have lived in the UK my whole life I never realised wine was made here until a few years ago. While the UK are big consumers of wine, only about 1% of wine is produced in England and Wales. The United Kingdom has been perceived as having less than ideal conditions for producing wine due to its cold climate. However, with the recent warmer summers there has been more investment in the production and sale of wine in the UK. Most of the wine produced in the UK is of the white and sparkling variety.
The majority of the vineyards in the UK can be found in Southern England and Wales as these are the warmest parts of the country. At the last official count, there was over 450 vineyards producing wine in England with another 20 plus vineyards in Wales. The majority of vineyards in the UK can be found in Kent, Essex and Sussex. Chapel Down in Kent is the UK’s largest producer of wine.
If you’re visiting London it’s easy to add a quick 1 or 2 day trip to the vineyards in Essex, Sussex or Kent to your itinerary.
Recommended by Curious Claire
Another country I never realised produced wine was Canada, although wine production is a growing business in Canada. The two largest wine producing provinces in Canada are Ontario and British Columbia. With around 60% of Canadian wine is produced in Ontario and a further 30% is produced in British Columbia, these are the best places to visit in Canada if you love wine.
Canada is also the world’s leading producer of icewine with more being produced in Canada than all other countries combined. Icewine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The water in the grape freezes but the sugars which results in a more concentrated grape juice to develop.
While staying in Vancouver and Mission I had plenty of chances to visit a few of the wineries in British Columbia. Mission is a great place to be based as there are plenty of family run wineries to visit, however, it is not usually a place tourists visit. While Vancouver is further away from the wineries, there are plenty of day tours available that will take you to some of the wineries. These are especially useful to sign up for if no-one in your group wants to be the designated driver.
Recommended by Jade from The Migrant Yogi
When most people think of Hungary, stellar wine likely isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. However, maybe it should be! Hungary is in the middle of the Carpathian basin, surrounded by mountains, and its unique terroir is apparent in its up-and-coming wine scene. If you’re an oenophile who needs a break from Budapest, two of Hungary’s best wine regions are an easy day-trip away.
Visit the charming town of Eger, and find your way to the Valley of Beautiful Women (Szepasszony-volgy). Here, you’ll find the famous Egri Bikavér, a red blend charmingly known as ‘Bull’s Blood’. In the 16th century, Ottoman forces, far exceeding Hungarians in numbers, came to take the city. Anticipating certain death, the Hungarian soldiers decided to get hammered on the stuff. Rumored to have been fortified with bull’s blood, the outnumbered Hungarians actually defeated the Turks, temporarily saving the city.
If you’re into sweet dessert wines, then you’ve got to try Tokaji Aszú. Hailing from the Tokaj region, this wine is characterized by its aging process in underground caves lined with black mold. Be sure to visit the World Heritage Wine Museum and learn about the cute little hobbit caves from which the wine derives its charm!
Other popular wine regions in Hungary include Villány (known for its masculine reds and rosés) and Nagy Somló (acclaimed for its ashy, smoky whites). Wherever you wind up in Hungary, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes.
Recommended by Maya and Sari from Chasing Lenscapes
Croatia is an amazing country that is known for its medieval cities and beautiful beaches. However, did you know that Croatia is also one of the best destinations for wine lovers? Croatia has many wine regions all over the country which is not surprising considering the fact the Greeks started cultivating grapes in the area more than 2,500 years ago! There are more than 300 geographically-defined wine-producing areas in Croatia and it’s up to you which area you would like to explore.
We chose to explore the Istrian peninsula which is part of Croatia’s coastal wine region. Wine Enthusiast magazine included Istria in its top 10 wine travel destinations in the world for 2015, so we knew we’ll have plenty of wineries to visit. The vineyards around Istria cultivate many well-known international grape varieties such as Merlot or Chardonnay but they also have their own regional varieties such as Teran, Momjan Muscat and our favorite, Malvasia Istriana. It doesn’t hurt that Istria is also known for its organic olive oil and local cheese farms which guarantee a nice spread of local delicacies to accompany your wine tasting. We visited a few wineries all over the peninsula and some of our favorites were Benvenuti Winery, Kabola and Kozlović but there are many more.
Other wine areas in Croatia that are worth checking out are Dalmatia and Slavonia. All of these areas have great local wine producers and you can enjoy your wine tasting while overlooking some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Another bonus is the fact that Croatia is quite a budget-friendly country (with the exception of Dubrovnik) and so are the wines. What are you waiting for? Start planning your Croatian vacation.
Recommended by Brittany from The Sweet Wanderlust
My first introduction to wine in Israel came from a story in the Bible. In it, Jesus turns water into wine, saving the day for the wedding couple who had run out. In the Jewish faith, wine is an important part of many religious ceremonies, including the weekly Shabbat dinner.
From Roman times until present day, the wine industry has experienced several ups and downs— experiencing revival during the Crusader period and limited under Islamic rule. The most recent era of wine production includes Kosher wines shipped to Jewish communities around the world and boutique wineries.
Israel, about the size of New Jersey in the US, is home to five different wine regions: Galilee, Shomron, Samson, Judean Hills and the Negev. I recently visited a winery in the Golan Heights, where wine is produced in an old factory that used to make Jelly sandals.
Wine tourism is growing, and there are wine routes to follow, tours to join and events to experience Israel’s rich wine culture for yourself.
Recommended by Kendal from Getaway Girl
Look at a wine list in any restaurant and you will likely find Moldovan wine. This small Eastern European country’s largest export is wine, but I bet you’ve never heard of it. If you’re keen on a wine adventure like no other, make Moldova your next wine destination.
While looking over the countryside in this small Eastern European country, with rolling hillsides and sun-kissed vineyards, you’ll think you’re in Napa. Your wallet will thank you for not being in California, though, when you buy another bottle of wine for only $3.
The two main wineries–Milestii Mici and Cricova–host events throughout the year. These events attract tourists to the least-visited country in Europe and give travelers an excuse to run, party, and drink through vineyards. Here are a few other wineries I’d recommend: Purcari, Chateau Vartely and Castel Mimi
If you’re looking for a more “local” Moldovan wine experience, visit a local wine shop with a reusable bottle. Why? Because Moldovan wineries serve wine on tap.
Let that sink in: wine. on. tap.
Friends and I filled up two 1.5-liter plastic water bottles for less than $3. And, yes, the wine was delicious!
Keep in mind that, since Moldova is the least-visited country in Europe, as well as the poorest, tourist infrastructure is not widely-developed. If you haven’t visited an Eastern European country before, be patient and willing to adapt your plans!
Moldova offers tourists a cheap and local wine experience that doesn’t compensate with taste.
Recommended by Emily from Wander-Lush
The Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus may be an emerging wine tourism destination, but along with neighbouring Armenia, it actually has one of the longest viniculture traditions in the world. The earliest evidence of grape fermentation in Georgia has been traced back to the 6th millennium B.C, pre-dating wine-making in France by more than 5,000 years. Many wineries still use the very same techniques, including fermenting wine in a qvevri, a huge clay vessel that can hold up to 300 litres and is buried in the earth.
Skin-contact wines and amber whites that use the whole grape (skins, seeds, stems and all) are extremely popular. Saperavi, mtsvane and rkatsiteli are three varieties to look out for. Nowadays, many winemakers use a mix of traditional qvevri and European techniques.
Every family with a plot of land (or indeed, a trellis in their backyard) makes their own table wine. Kakheti in Eastern Georgia is the country’s main wine region and the place to go for wine trails, while Imereti in Western Georgia is a nice alternative if you’re looking for something less touristy. Established wineries to visit in the Alazani Valley near Sighnaghi and Telavi include Kindzmarauli, Shumi and Tsinandali. But it can be even more rewarding to visit small family owned estates, where visitors are welcomed with open arms for informal tastings, tours, and maybe even a supra (a huge feast accompanied by wine and toasting).
Recommended by Joanna from The World in my Pocket
Even if it’s the second largest wine producers in the Sub-Saharian Africa, Tanzania is not really known as a wine destination. Tanzania is quite new on the wine market, with its local industry taking off in the late 1960s. The local wine is a popular drink in Tanzania, both among the locals and the curious tourists who didn’t think that Tanzania had any vineyards.
Most of the wine in Tanzania comes from Dodoma Valley, the central part of the country, surrounding the capital. There are three different types of wine produced here: red, white, and natural sweet which can be red, white or rose. The local grape of Tanzania is the Makutupora, a red variety which grows in dry sandy soil and low humidity, which doesn’t require a lot of water. Because Tanzania is a tropical country, there are two harvests a year for the Makutupora grapes: in March and in late August. Other grapes that grow in Dodoma Valley and which have been introduced to the country are the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chenin Blanc – from which the natural sweet wines are produced.
Most of the local wines that you will find in the supermarket and on menus in restaurants are sweet, great for desserts. If you are a red lover, I recommend the Sharye, an intense full-bodied blend with spicy notes and an after taste of dark chocolate and berries.
Recommended by Stephanie from Sofia Adventures
Serbia is a delightfully surprising wine country to visit. There are multiple micro-regions, with the most famous being the area in Fruska Gora to Belgrade’s north, though the area around Lake Palic outside of Subotica is also popular with wine tourism.
Serbian wines are delightful and light, but there’s one dessert wine that everyone needs to try when they’re here: bermet. This spiced wine was so popular with the Austro-Hungarian elite that it was even served aboard the Titanic! Today it’s not well known outside of the country, but it’s one of the most unique Serbian souvenirs you will find since this wine is not produced outside of the country. In fact, the recipe is a closely guarded secret, known only to members of a few local families.
Serbian grape varieties include tamjanika, vranac, and smederevka. Some of Serbia’s grapes are indigenous to the country, while others are Serbian versions of famous grapes grown elsewhere. However, Serbia is proud of its wine traditions that date back to the era when the ancient Greeks first brought winemaking to the country in the 5th century BCE.
You can tour wineries from Belgrade or Novi Sad. Just make sure to go on a guided tour because Serbia’s legal drinking laws leave room for just a sip or two before you’re over the limit.
Recommended by Laura from The Travelling Stomach
The tiny, business centric state of Luxembourg is hardly the go to name in European wine. However, with its eastern border running along the Mosel river, it sits alongside one of Germany’s most famous Riesling producing destinations. You can start your explorations from the small town of Schengen, where the EU’s agreement on the free movement of people was officially put into writing, heading north as you join the river. With the steep slopes either slide of the River making a fabulous spot to grow vines, there are several great places to stop off along the way. One of these is the Caves de St Martin, who have one of the largest natural cave wine cellars in Europe, storing up to one million bottles at a time! Here, you can take a tour of the vast labyrinths, seeing the production process for their sparkling wines (made in the traditional method), and finish with a tasting flight at the end. And what’s even better is the bottle prices – with many priced at only a few Euros, you can easily pick some up for your trip home! The stretch north between the town of Remich (where Caves St Martin are) and the town of Grevenmach is one of the prettiest in the area, with some great viewpoints up on the hillside with sweeping views across the river valley. In Grevenmach, you can take a river cruise back along the water and take in the surroundings from another aspect. It is also where Bernard-Massard, Luxembourg’s most famous cremant producer, is based, making this another great spot to pause and enjoy one of Northern Europe’s alternative wine regions.
Recommended by Sarah from A Social Nomad
Wine has been produced in Peru since the country was colonised by the Spanish in 1533. You may know Peru more for the liquor, Pisco, but the wine region that you find close to the desert oasis of Huacachina is an interesting place to visit. It’s close to the city of Ica that you’ll find numerous vineyards and wineries – known as Bodegas – and it’s here you’ll want to come to taste Peruvian wine. You will struggle to find Peruvian wine in the export market – much of it is produced for a local palate and it tends to be sweet…
However, there are a few exceptions. Tacama would give many Napa wineries a run for their money – you’ll find excellent tours and tastings in English and Spanish and a glorious restaurant here. Try the dry white wines and the lighter reds. Go also to Bodegas Vista Alegre – a glorious winery with a super tour guide – go early in the day – it gets hotter in the afternoon and you’ll want to taste all that’s on offer. For a fun tasting, head to Bodegas Lazo – it’s a family-run place and much more of a local experience.
All the wineries produce their own Pisco as well as the wine and you’ll be expected to taste that as well. We advise taking a tour, and very definitely not driving when visiting this wine region!
Recommended by Maggie from The World Was Here First
Though those in the know are sure to be aware of it’s fantastic vintages, Bulgaria isn’t the first country that jumps to mind when it comes to wine destinations. However, the country has a vast history of winemaking that makes it an ideal, off the beaten path place to visit for wine lovers. With a number of endemic grape varieties and a claim as one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, adding Bulgaria onto a route through the Balkans is a fantastic choice for wine lovers of all shapes and sizes.
Bulgaria has two major wine-producing regions: the Thracian Valley just outside the city of Plovdiv and Melnik, located in and around a small village in the south of the country. Both regions produce different kinds of wines and have fantastic wine cultures and history.
Though you can still find typical grape varieties in Bulgaria like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, there are also a number of native grape species out there and winemakers are increasingly starting to embrace their local varieties. Some of the best ones to look out for include the red Mavrud and Shiroka Melnishka grapes or the white Sandanski Misket and Kerazuda grapes.
Wine tasting is an easy activity to do in both Plovdiv and Melnik. Consider going for a degustation at Villa Vinifera in the Thracian Valley just outside of Plovdiv to taste some endemic grape varieties.
All in all, Bulgaria is an excellent place to visit if you want to experience a unique and offbeat wine region.
Recommended by Ania from The Travelling Twins
We spent recently one month travelling through Montenegro. Besides seeing the beautiful places like Kotor and Budva, we learnt lots of exciting things about Montenegro. The yummiest discovery was Montenegrin wines. Before visiting we didn’t even know that Crna Gora produced wine and we left in love with Vranac wine produced there.
Grapes in Montenegro are growing in two regions – either by the Adriatic coast or on the plains around Lake Skadar. Wines in Montenegro are made from a variety of grapes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Vranac.
Vranac is black skin grape type which produces a deep red wine with a strong tannin taste called Vranac. The name Varnac can be translated as strong black. Besides being the most important grape in Montenegro, Vranac is also registered as intellectual property and can only be produced in Montenegro.
Even though Montenegro is very small, it’s home to the largest single vineyard in Europe with a size of over 2,300 ha and with 11.5 million grapevines. Plantaze Vineyard is located close to the capital city. Taking one of the wine tasting or wine and food pairing tours is one of the best things to do in Podgorica.
Plantaze produces 22 million kilos of grapes annually and sells more than 16 million bottled litres of delicious wine and exports it to over 40 countries.
Recommended by Katja from Globetotting
Mexico may be well known for its Tequila and Mezcal production but did you know that it also produces wine? And not just any old wine, either. Mexico’s viticulture is booming. There are a number of wine-growing regions in Mexico but the biggest – and the best – is just 90 minutes from the California border. Located near the seaside port of Ensenada, the dry and sunny valley of Guadalupe (Valle de Guadalupe) is Mexico’s answer to California’s Napa Valley – but without the hefty price tag. The parched, reddish-gold terrain is home to around 100 wine producers and grows some of the country’s best wine, including both big name brands such as L.A. Cetto and smaller, more boutique names that can be found on the menus of some of the country’s best restaurants. This is a place where you bump along pocket dirt tracks to reach each vineyard, where tasting rooms are simple but characterful and where, like much of Mexico, people have a real passion for what they do. In addition to the wines already mentioned, make sure to look out for wines from the following vineyards: Viñas de Garza, Monte Xanic, Finca La Carodilla and Vena Cava.
Recommended by Corina from Another Milestone
One of the most important wine regions in Romania, Dealu Mare, is located just 100 kilometers outside Bucharest, in Prahova county. The name Dealu Mare means “the big hill” in Romanian. The region took its name from the beautiful, green hills there and it is one of the sunniest regions in Romania. The whole environment in that area has great conditions for vine growth. Starting from Buzau and ending in Ploiesti, the capital city of Prahova county, the hills are covered in vine. That is why several wineries produce quality wine here. This is the birthplace of some of the most flavored red wine varieties in Romania: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Feteasca Neagra or Pinot Noir. Feteasca neagra is a traditional grape variety, first planted thousand years ago by Romanians ancestors, the Dacians. Feteasca neagra is a type of red wine with scent of dark berry fruits and ripe plums, but it can also be rose. Some wineries in Dealu Mare offer guided visits in the vine, wine tasting sessions and lunch for their guests. One of the most popular things to do is a bike tour on the waving roads to enjoy the amazing landscape of Dealu Mare!
Recommended by Kamile from toYoupiter
Japan is mostly known for its special beverage Sake which is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting rice that has been cleaned to remove the bran. However, did you know that Japan also produces delicious wine? The main characteristic of Japanese wine is its diversity. Also, the main varieties include the original Japanese white grape “Koshu,” and the red “Muscat Bailey A”. When choosing a Japanese wine you should consider which region it comes from.
The climate varies in each region, from the Hokkaido in the North, where more than one meter of snow falls in the winter, to Kyushu, where the temperature is 30 degrees celsius. Wine is produced mainly in the Hokkaido, Nagano, Yamanashi and Yamagata areas.
As with traditional Japanese cuisine, the Japanese wine taste is delicate. That’s why perfect pairing with food is sushi, tempura, and dishes with raw fish.
If you are visiting Japan and you want to buy a bottle of wine in a shop, definitely ask for help. First of all, the wine bottles sometimes look different from European or American wine bottles and it’s easy to confuse it with Sake. Secondly, you will be lucky if you see a label written in English.
There you have it, 16 underrated wine destinations to visit for your next wine tasting trip. Which underrated wine country will you choose? Any countries you feel should be added? Let me know in the comments below
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