12 Hidden Gem Wine Regions in Europe
We will never shun Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Rioja or Tuscany but once in a while we like to get up close and personal with more clandestine grapes. Grapes, for example, that produce choice wines in the likes of Germany, Greece, Portugal and Switzerland. With that, discover some of the best under the radar oenophile havens in Europe.
A lot of people think “German wine” and Riesling and Eiswein come to mind. In Saale-Unstrut, however, in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, a motley of rare white and red varietals flourish, from Müller-Thurgau and Bacchus to Dornfelder and Zweigelt. Not bad for one of the northernmost wine regions on the continent.
Where to stay: Colombi Hotel Freiburg
The Peloponnese, Greece
The manifold visitors who prowl the Greek islands from Crete to Santorini make wine tours a fixture on the tourism itinerary. The Peloponnese is not as fizzy a scene but produces superb wine just the same. Base yourself in Patras and a plethora of vineyard day trips unfurl.
Where to stay: Airotel Achaia Beach Hotel Patras
The Douro, Algarve and Vinho Verde wines of historic Minho province lure a lot of keen connoisseurs but Portugal has less accessible and more diminutive grape enclaves to discover. One wonderful archetype sits close to the town of Mourão on the border of Spain, some two hours from Lisbon.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Ritz Hotel Lisbon
Swiss wines are as integral to that après-ski staple, fondue, as Gruyère and Emmental. To truly connect with the integral ingredient, one sublime spot is the southernmost canton of Switzerland, Ticino. The region on the border of Italy produces quality Merlot and local varietals like Bondola.
Where to stay: Hotel Lugano Dante Center
While it seems sensible to bask in Corsica’s coastlines, trips inland proffer significant rewards. Take the photogenic commune of Patrimonio, the gateway to Cap Corse, where small-batch AOC wines compete for attention with a fantastic international guitar festival in July.
Where to stay: Demeure Loredana Hotel Corsica
France, the mother of all wine destinations, has scores of wee regions for every Côtes du Rhône and Loire. One exemplar is Irouléguy, a Basque commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department that exports very little wine but is well worth a special trip from the likes of Biarritz, Bayonne and Pau.
Where to stay: Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa Hotel
Ribera del Guadiana, Spain
Spain is not all that different from France when it comes to the less popular, off the touristy vineyard path gems. With too many to cite here, we confess that we have a soft spot for Ribera del Guadiana and, indeed, the region of Extremadura. With relatively few visitors, UNESCO World Heritage charm and absurdly delicious wine, what is not to like?
Where to stay: Badajoz Center Hotel
Valle de Güímar, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Yes, frolic in Tenerife’s terrific resorts but please, for your sake, make time for the island’s wine producers. We humbly suggest the scenic Valle de Güímar.
Where to stay: Dream Hotel Gran Tacande Tenerife Island
Calabria is not necessarily off the radar in Italy but suffers some as the filler between Campania and Sicily. Moreover, the lovely wine hub and city of Crotone is on the quieter Ionian Sea side of the region.
Where to stay: Best Western Hotel San Giorgio Crotone
Sardinia may be a part of Italy but the island feels entirely like another world. The wines of Mandrolisai are proof.
Where to stay: Sa Rocca Hotel & Resort Guspini
Croatia’s output pales next to Italy but the country is a wine producer on the rise. The Slavonia region in the much less touristy part of the country between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Hungary is a good place to start.
Where to stay: Best Western Premier Hotel Astoria Zagreb
Belgium produces wine? Yes, the foremost capital of beer makes wine, albeit in modest volumes. Hageland, in Flemish Brabant close to Leuven, is the most historic region in the country.
Where to stay: Sofitel Brussels Europe