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The Best Wine Tours in Europe

Are you in the mood to visit beautiful cities and landscapes, enjoy picturesque vistas, broaden your horizon? And do you want to sample some of the best wines Europe has to offer? If so, why not take part in the best wine tours in Europe? On your visit to the many wineries and vineyards you will not only gain knowledge first-hand about the process of winemaking. You will also be able to experience each country’s unique wine culture.  

In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through Europe’s most important wine-producing countries: France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Prior to that, however, we’ll fill you in on the basics of wine. No matter if you’re a novice, a connoisseur, or an expert, you’ll surely find a wine tour that’s to your liking. Are you ready? Then let’s get going! After all, it’s well past wine o’clock!

Re-Wine Your Life

Before we get to the wine tours in Europe, you have to know what wine actually is. Wine is an alcoholic beverage made of fermented grape juice. However, unlike the grapes you’d normally buy at the supermarket, wine grapes are smaller, sweeter, and they have thick skin and seeds. There are more than 1,300 grape varieties used in commercial wine production. However, 75% of the world’s vineyards are composed of a mere 100 of these varieties. The most commonly planted wine grape is called Cabernet Sauvignon, which is used to produce different types of red wine.

Due to the fact that wine can only be harvested once a year, it is sorted according to vintage year, representing the year the grapes were picked and turned into wine. If there’s no vintage label on the wine bottle, it means that it’s a blend of various vintages. In the northern hemisphere, harvest season lasts from August to September, whereas in the southern hemisphere, harvest season lasts from February to April.

Besides blends, there are also single variety wines. They are made of primarily one variant of grape; the percentage of that variant depends on the country it’s from. In countries such as the US, South Africa, Australia, and Greece, only 75% of the wine has to be made up of one grape variety to qualify. In Argentina, this percentage is 80%. And in Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Portugal, Spain, and New Zealand, 85% of a bottle’s content has to be composed of a single variety of grapes.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the flavor of wine, probably the most important aspect of all. There are various factors that influence a wine’s taste. These include acidity, sugar content, alcohol percentage, aroma compounds, tannin, and the wine’s age. Generally speaking, wine tastes tart. Wines can have no sugar at all, or they can taste as sweet as grape juice. If a wine is “dry”, that means it’s not sweet at all. The alcohol percentage of wine can range from as low as 5.5 % up to 20 %. Red wines contain lots of tannin, leading to its bitter but complex taste. The different aromas largely depend on the individual grape varieties. Finally, the longer wine is stored in oak barrels, the more it oxidizes. Thus, it gains special flavors such as fruity, floral, or nutty notes. 

No Wine Left Behind

As you can see, we can’t keep our knowledge of wine bottled up any longer. Next, let’s talk about the nine primary styles of wine.

First, there’s sparkling wine, which contains a high level of carbon dioxide. The most famous kind of sparkling wine is champagne, originating in the Champagne region in France. Interestingly, sparkling wines are also the most complicated and time-consuming wines to produce.

Secondly, there’s light-bodied, full-bodied, and aromatic white wine. The light-bodied variant is light and zesty, which is why it goes well with most other foods. The full-bodied variant, on the other hand, is characterized by a smooth taste and subtle creaminess due to a special winemaking technique involving oak-aging. Aromatic white wine is one of the oldest types of wine in the world. It not only tastes great, but smells amazing, too. Most aromatic white wines taste a bit sweeter due to their perfume-like aromas.

Red wines can be divided into light-bodied, medium-bodied, and full-bodied types. Light-bodied variants contain relatively little tannin, making them less bitter and lighter in color. In contrast to that, full-bodied red wine is dark-red and contains lots of tannin. Tannin doesn’t only make the wine bitter, but it also binds the proteins in our saliva, leading to a palate-cleansing effect. Medium-bodied red wines offer a nice balance between bitterness and richness in flavor. As a result, they are a good match for many other food.

Contrary to popular opinion, Rosé wine isn’t a blend of white and red wine. Instead, the skin of red grapes makes the white wine darker. It was first popularized in the late 18th century, and is now available in many styles.

As the name might imply, dessert wines match well with dessert. They are generally very sweet and incredibly strong in flavor.

Wine Tours in Europe

Congratulations! You’ve officially passed the wine course for beginners! As a reward, we will introduce you to the best wine tours in Europe now.

France

France is the birthplace of many famous wines, most notably Champagne and Bordeaux. They received their names from the eponymous regions of the country. For centuries, France is and has been the ultimate destination for wine tourism. The French themselves drink more wine than anyone else in the world – one glass per day on average. This fact should more than suffice as testament to the quality of French wine, and by extension also their wine tours.

Champagne, the home region of the sparkling wine, is so beautiful that a single wine tour won’t cover it all. After all, you won’t only find gorgeous vineyards here, but also quaint little villages, kilometer-long underground cellars, and architectural marvels. Why not participate in a wine tour that teaches you about the history of monk Don Perignon, the creator of champagne? Other highlights include the ruins of the Roman Empire in the city of Reims, and the battlefields of the First World War in Verdun. For athletic wine-lovers, we recommend the Champagne Guided Bike & Wine Tour.  After cycling through the historic cities of Reims, Epernay, and Marne, the wine and food will taste all the better. If you’d like to try picking grapes yourself, then we highly recommend this wine tour, where you’ll join the harvest team at night, and be able to enjoy the spoils of your own labor.  

During your visit to the wine region of Bordeaux, you will not only have the opportunity to sample the best wines, but also to admire over 6,000 castles. Walk along the “Route des Châteaux“ to marvel at both the magnificent castles – whether medieval, renaissance, gothic, classicist, or modern – and the picturesque landscapes that surround them. On this particular wine tour, you will explore the Bordeaux region over the span of four days, including a visit to the Château Pichon Longueville Baron, one of the most famous wineries of Bordeaux. Or are you looking for a fun and environmentally friendly way to travel through the Bordeaux region? This wine tour allows you to ride an electric bike through Saint-Emilion’s countryside. In addition to wine tastings and bike tours, there will also be a guided tour through the medieval village of Saint-Emilion, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. 

Spain

With over 1.2 million hectares, Spain devotes more land to vineyards than any other country, showing how passionate they are about wine. Additionally, over 400 grape varieties grow here. Rioja and Ribera del Duero are two of the major Spanish wine regions. The two most famous kinds of wine from Spain are Cava and Sherry, a sparkling and a fortified wine, respectively. They have definitely earned their place on our list of wine tours in Europe.

On the five-day-long Classical Wines Tour: Rioja y Ribera del Duero, you will visit both small and big wineries, meet their owners, and taste the best Spanish wines. You will also be able to visit sites of historical or artistic importance, such as monasteries, castles, churches and palaces, ancient medieval towns, and even the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. If you’re a fan of architecture and design, we recommend the Wine and Architecture Tour, highlighting the effect that wine had on the architectural development of the two regions. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Portugal

Portugal is home to one of the most beautiful wine regions of the world, the Douro Valley. Generally, wine tours in this region have become ever more popular in recent years. Not only because they are relatively cheap in comparison to the other wine-producing countries on this list, but also because Portuguese wine tours place great emphasis on unique wines and local culinary specialties, attracting foodies from all over the world. Port wine is the country’s signature wine. It received its name from the seaport city of Porto.

As a World Heritage Site, the Douro Valley will impress you with its scenic natural surroundings, tasty cuisine, and some of the world’s greatest wines! Take part in the Douro Valley Bike Tour and explore Porto, among many other scenic villages. Learn everything there is to know about Port wine as you sip on a glass yourself. Or would you like to take a cruise on the Douro River? On this particular wine tour, you will not only have the opportunity to indulge in wine, but also olive oil, honey, and other local specialties. Meanwhile, you can explore the Douro Valley, its traditions, and the beautiful scenery, from a wholly different point of view. It will surely make for a great experience!

Italy

Italy is the world’s largest wine producer, accounting for 19 % of the global production in 2018. That’s why it definitely belongs on our list of wine tours in Europe. The Romans laid the foundations of Italy’s success in winemaking. They used efficient winemaking methods and improved large-scale storage techniques, such as barreling and bottling. Italy has 20 wine regions, each with their own flavor profile. To keep things short, we will focus on wine tours in the two most important regions, Tuscany and Piedmont.

Tuscany has two signature wines. Vin Santo, meaning “Holy Wine”, is one of them. It’s usually served with biscotti to dunk in. Chianti, a dry kind of red wine with a fruity note, is the second signature wine. Not to exaggerate, but they’re some of the most delicious drinks we’ve ever tasted!

Try the Florence: Chianti Wine Tasting Tour with Food and Wine Tasting to taste both of these delicacies. After a guided tour through two authentic wineries and its facilities and vineyards, you will be able to taste select wines, accompanied by local snacks produced in the region, such as cheese, bread, olive oil, and salumi. If you’d also like to go sightseeing, we recommend this wine tour. Highlights on this tour include visiting the medieval villages of San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, exploring the old town of Siena, and enjoying a food and wine tasting in a Chianti winery. You will also have a wonderful view of the Tuscan rolling hills and Chianti countryside.

The region of Piedmont is home to Barolo, a dry red wine commonly referred to as the “king of wines and wine of kings”. Even though only 30 % of Piedmonts landscape is suitable for growing vineyards, it produces some of the best wines. On the Piedmont Wine Country: Walk from Barolo to Barbaresco Tour, you will hike through the varied landscapes of the region of Langhe, with numerous stopovers at wine stores in medieval towns and villages. For those of you who are both connoisseurs and golfers, we recommend the Top Golf And Wines In Piedmont Tour, where you get to play in one of Italy’s top golf clubs, savor fancy delicacies, and drink exquisite red wines.

Conclusion

Wine and its intricacies may sound complex and overwhelming at first, but now that you’ve read this article, you’re more than prepared to plan the wine tour of your dreams. All these European countries and their respective wine regions will welcome you with open arms and a bottle in hand. There are many other wine tours in Europe, so you’ll surely find one that’s to your liking.

So, will you accept this Rosé and partake in one of the wine tours in Europe?

Michelle Vetter

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