If seeing the world through a wine glass sounds like a rather attractive proposition, we’ve selected some of the finest vineyards and cellar doors on the planet for you to visit. From cutting-edge architecture to innovative grape growers, here’s our Listopedia bucket list for the best places to enjoy a jolly good drop.
Vintage vines: Chateau de Goulaine, Loire Valley, France
There has been a working winery on the site of this stunning castle since around 1000AD and – except for a stint between 1788 and 1858 during the French Revolution – it’s been run by the Goulaine clan. It’s probably safe to say the family knows a thing or two about making a decent drop. They produce predominantly white wines – the muscadet, sancerre and vouvray have recently seen some standout vintages – and are opened every day in summer for tastings. Check out the estate’s stunning butterfly house and the castle’s historical heritage – this place has played such an important part in the evolution of French food and drink it’s rumoured that one of the castle’s early chefs – Mrs Clémence Lefeuvre – invented the beurre blanc sauce.
Gravity-assisted wines: O. Fournier, Mendoza, Argentina
As if the stunning Andean backdrop wasn’t enough reason to visit, this striking winery – designed by renowned Argentine architecture duo Bormida & Yanzon – houses state-of-the-art gravity-driven winemaking equipment. Thought to minimise damage to the grapes, the process resembles a crazy science experiment. The freshly picked crop is poured though the winery’s huge metallic roof where it’s crushed and the juice left to run into fermentation tanks before finally trickling into the cellar. The pump-free approach obviously has its benefits – the winery’s blend of malbec, merlot and tempranillo (called Alfa Crux) is much sought after internationally. Perhaps the liquid refreshments are best enjoyed while perusing the modern art exhibitions that the O. Fournier regular hosts.
Architecturally designed: Bodegas Portia, Ribera del Duero, Spain
For more design wow-factor, check out this futuristic winemaking facility designed by celebrated British architect Norman Foster. Situated about 100km east of the city of Valladolid, this million bottle-producing facility is shaped like a three-blade propellor with a different part dedicated to a different stage of the winemaking process (from fermentation and aging to storage). There is large public gallery that offers a glimpse into the production areas or book a spot on one of the daily tours, which includes a wine tasting. To linger a little longer, enjoy lunch in the modern glass-and-steel on-site restaurant, also designed by Foster, which serves excellent Castilian dishes.
Inner-city sipping: Seattle Urban Wineries, Oregon, USA
Think you have to drive out into the American countryside to find quality wineries? Think again. A world away from the sun-drenched, tourist-filled vineyards of the well-trodden Napa Valley (well, a 12-hour drive away) is the hip city of Seattle, where you’ll find 20 independent wineries producing a decent drop in their inner city digs with grapes grown in Washington state. Within the Seattle Urban Wineries group you’ll find artisan establishments, from Wilridge Winery (celebrating its 25th birthday this year and renowned for their award-winning Italian style nebbiolo and barbera) and BYOB Vintners (where you can custom-create your own bottle), all within a few blocks of downtown Seattle.
High altitude: Vina San Esteban, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Not only are the grapes here grown on some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world – clinging to the vertiginous slopes of Mount Paidahuén – they’re also organic. In fact, this part of the breathtaking Andes range has been left so untouched it’s still possible to see centuries-old cave paintings and rock drawings nestled beneath the native plant life and grapevines. Trek to the summit or take a horseback tour of this fascinating pre-Columbian archeological site before returning to the winery for a tasting. The cool mountains breeze and unique terroir of the Aconcagua’s riverbanks has allowed three generations to make small-batch In Situ label wines here. Try the Laguna del Inca – a homage to the legend of a beautiful Inca princess who died on her wedding day – or Chile’s signature grape carmenère, the estate reserve has received international accolades. The winery also makes olive oil and if you’re there in April, you can help out with the harvest.
Fine dining: Craggy Range, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
The wineries in this part of the world are pretty spectacular to begin with – from Church Road’s atmospheric cellars to the stunning white modernity of Elephant Hill – but add to the mix a world-class restaurant and you’ve arrived at Craggy Range. With views of Te Mata peak from the terrace, Terroirs Restaurant is a French-style bistro that makes good use of their organic vegetable patch and outstanding local produce. Tender Merino lamb and fresh white asparagus all make an appearance in head chef Leyton Ashley’s seasonally led menu. As for the wine, from the exclusive vintages of the Prestige Collection, made with grapes from their estate vineyards (Gimblett Gravels in Hawke’s Bay and Te Muna Road in Martinborough) to the delicious chardonnay and pinot noir of the Family Collection, you can be guaranteed your meal will be complemented by something special.