Unique Travel Destinations to Taste Wine

Are summer wines from beautiful vines more delicious? In sharing a list of eminently enjoyable summer wine, TABLE’s wine expert Adam Knoerzer also provides a few unique vineyards that deserve a place on your travel destination bucket list.

Does Wine Grow in Ugly Places?

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but the veracity of the statement stands the test of time: wine does not grow in ugly places.

A box of green wine grapes sits in the soil of a vineyard in South Africa.
Photo Courtesy of Ken Forrester

Go ahead: do a quick inventory of wine regions with which you’re familiar, and I bet you’ll quickly come to the same conclusion. Napa and Sonoma? Gorgeous mountains and valleys aplenty. Burgundy? Lovely gentle slopes in pristine countryside. Mendoza? The Andes create quite a dramatic backdrop for vineyards. Name a wine-growing area, and I’m confident this precept will remain intact.

With that in mind, where might one find the best and most beautiful grapes and regions for summer sipping? The sun is shining, the temperatures are warm, and you’re craving something to quench your thirst while providing maximum vinous enjoyment. Having had the fortune to visit over 30 wine regions in a dozen countries on five continents, here are two favorite destinations that combine maximum gorgeousness with gulpability.

Making Wine in South Africa

While it’s true that wine always comes from a beautiful place, I don’t think I’m alone in suggesting that the winelands of South Africa are quite possibly the most stunning anywhere on earth. Most vines are planted within two or three hours of central Cape Town, and the landscapes vary from rugged, almost desert-like conditions in the Swartland and Cederberg Mountains to lush, green lake country in Elgin that reminds you of the Adirondacks.

Ken Forrester sets a desert like vineyard landscape against a mountain range featuring clouds in the background.
Photo Courtesy of Ken Forrester

South Africa’s Chenin Blanc

South Africa’s signature white grape, Chenin blanc, also happens to be the perfect grape for summer enjoyment. Thought to be one of the first grapes planted in South Africa in the 1650s, it occupies roughly 18 percent of all South African vineyards and is the most-planted grape variety to date–and more is planted here than anywhere else in the world, even its native France.

Ken Forrester, known as “Mr. Chenin,” offers several iterations of the grape, and all are seasonal sensations from his Stellenbosch property. He picks his Petit Chenin early to offer budget-friendly flavors of pear, crunchy apple, and citrus. His Old Vine Reserve offers deeper, richer notes of melon, wax, and honeycomb. But, his FMC is the star of the show. It’s a blend of Chenin with harvest grapes at varying stages of ripeness for a truly bombastic flavor explosion of orange marmalade, honeysuckle, tropical fruits, spice, and a kiss of sweetness. Some say it’s the best Chenin in the world.

The landscape of Hamilton Russell wine vineyards in South Africa.
Photo Courtesy of Hamilton Russell Vineyards

Hamilton Russell Wine in South Africa

The South African story doesn’t end with Chenin blanc, though. Continuing south and east from Stellenbosch along the coast, you’ll eventually find yourself in the quaint fishing town of Hermanus, best known for whale watching. Hang a left from the town center, and you’ll find yourself entering the cool-climate, maritime Hemel-en-Aarde valley, which is Afrikaans for “heaven and earth.” Here you’ll find Hamilton Russell Vineyards and their adjacent property, Southern Right Vineyards, which offer stellar examples of summer-friendly Sauvignon blanc (Southern Right) and one of the most pristine Chardonnays (Hamilton Russell). Though, red-wine are not alone. The Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir is consistently regarded as one of the best outside of Burgundy (and, really, anywhere in the world), and Southern Right’s smoky, brambly Pinotage is handled in a lighter style that is great to chill and pair with everything from your grill this summer.

Making Wine in Chile

Another star in the Southern Hemisphere, Chile’s long, narrow shape allows for wine to grow from north to south thanks to the Humboldt Current that keeps the Pacific’s waters cool. The east-west valley pulls in the cool air to create ideal conditions for growing grapes of all kinds.

Perhaps the best of those areas are a short 45-minute drive to the west of Santiago, Chile’s capital, in the Casablanca Valley. Cool-climate, summer-friendly varieties like Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, and others thrive in these fog-laden conditions that insulate the grapes from the abundant sunshine.

Matetic vineyards in Chile shows a travel destination view of the green vineyards in front of the mountainscapes.
Photo Courtesy of Matetic

The Best Vineyards in Chile

One property making especially delicious wines is Matetic. This 100-percent organic and biodynamic producer, along with their Corralillo line, offer an excellent value, particularly their Riesling and Gewürztraminer, which are best known in Alsace, France, but offer regal refreshment from these ancient granitic soils.

Kingston, another producer in the valley, is noteworthy for their Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir, but it’s their cool-climate Syrah that will be a pleasant surprise for your summer soirées. Though a full-bodied grape, their take on Syrah is lean and restrained with a meatiness that’s begging for steaks or a juicy burger.

In Chile’s far south, Itata is one of the oldest growing areas in the country dating back to the 1500s, well before places like Bordeaux had a single vine in the ground. Here you’ll find red wines made for summer with light body, low tannins, and high acidity: Cinsault and País, the oldest grape in all of Chile. Pedro Parra is an excellent producer of both, and his lineup offers everything from entry-level elegance to high-end hedonism to enjoy all season long.

Story by Adam Knoerzer

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