For wine enthusiasts, aspiring sommeliers, and fans of Sideways, there’s no better adventure than one that revolves around sipping reds and whites in the vineyards of the world’s best wine regions. Follow these steps to ensure your next wine tasting vacation is delightfully full-bodied and runs smoothly to allow plenty of time to savour each sip.
Identify a goal for your trip
Generally speaking, wine trip itineraries fall into one of two camps: a handful of casual tastings paired with sight-seeing and relaxation, or a completely wine-focused agenda, featuring multiple winery tours. Do you want to visit a few wineries over the course of the week and spend the rest of your time by the pool at your Tuscan villa? Or are you seeking a more educational vacation that looks like visiting three wineries a day, touring vineyards and eclectic cellars while sampling unique vintages? Before you land on a destination or dates, decide what kind of vacation you want to have.
Pick your destination strategically
A few factors should inform your choice of country and region: your wine preferences, your travel style, and your budget. New Zealand produces incredible sauvignon blanc, but can you afford the flights and are you prepared for the jet lag? Do you want to stick to well-trodden wine regions like Napa Valley, Chianti, or Bordeaux, or explore emerging territories, such as those in Croatia or Georgia? It’s also important to consider what other activities your prospective travel destinations offer in case you need a break from drinking.
Consider your timing
When you decide to take your trip will affect what kind of trip you have, and more importantly—what your wine will taste like. If you visit Tuscany between early September and mid-October, for example, you’ll have a front-row seat for harvest season, though you won’t be able to enjoy an evening glass on the terrace without a sweater. The summer months in your chosen destination will be sunny and lush, but also busier, with less room availability and higher prices.
Research the wineries
Once you’ve determined your destination and departure date, it’s time to figure out which specific wineries you want to experience. Start by making a list of producers in the area, then narrow them down by comparing their various reputations, types of visitor experiences, and wines on offer. Pay close attention to whether they’re open to visitors at all—not every vineyard offers tours and tastings—and whether advance bookings are needed. Of course, there’s always the option to leave this stage of the planning up to an expert—established wine regions have a plethora of wine tour companies that can make your vacation a breeze. If that’s more your speed, skip to step six on this list.
Hire a driver
If you’re taking a DIY approach to your wine trip, there is one part that you should contract out: the driving. Those small pours add up quickly (especially if you’re hopping from vineyard to vineyard) and having to decline a glass in order to safely navigate twisting country roads later on will take away from your experience. Same goes for the biking enthusiasts.
Consider how much space you’ll want to leave in your luggage for all your wine gifts. Many large-scale producers and specialty wine shops offer a shipping service, so you don’t have to worry about wrapping bottles and paying weight overages at the airport. If you’re only planning on bringing a few bottles back with you, consider buying wine accessories like bottle protectors (the most popular options are inflatable or feature bubble wrap-like inserts) to safeguard your purchase.
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