Portugal named Best Wine Region to Visit

British Columbia, Chile, New Zealand, Croatia see top five finishes

The corks are pulled, the votes are in, and readers of USA TODAY and 10Best have passionately voted Portugal's Alentejo the #1 'Best Wine Region to Visit,' from among 20 worthy nominees.  

Our well-travelled expert nomination panel - a wine educator and a wine buyer - made the original selections and then readers voted daily during the contest's four-week run.  While British Columbia's Okananagan Valley enjoyed an early lead, fans of Portugal's appealing Alentejo region eventually assured it took top honors.  

  • Virginia

    "With three-quarters of the nation’s population living within a one day drive of Virginia, this region gets high marks for access," explains wine expert Kerry. "It is also one of the most beautiful with rolling hills, the Blue Ridge Mountains, expansive vineyards, large horse farms and lush countryside. At the center of the farm to table movement, you’ll also find great restaurants touting the local products used in your meal."
    Photo courtesy of LAmeetsDC/Flickr

  • Hunter Valley, Australia

    Conveniently located just a few hours from Sydney, Hunter Valley is close enough for a day trip but worthy of a multi-night stay. "Wine tours to this area are well organized," says Kerry, "The wines from this area, primarily Shiraz and Semillon, truly express the terrior of the region." A lineup of sumptuous five-star hotels and amazing cuisine - all at affordable prices - round out the region's appeal.
    Photo courtesy of duha127/iStock

  • Oregon

    Oregon, one of wine expert Frank's favorite regions, produces some of the world's top Pinot Noir ... a perfect pairing for salmon caught in the streams and rivers of Western Oregon and served at one of numerous quality restaurants dotting the region. The state also boasts a visually stunning wine country throughout the year, particularly in Willamette Valley where tulips color the landscape in spring and produce stands line the roads come autumn.
    Photo courtesy of RobertCrum/iStock

  • Tuscany, Italy

    Millions of visitors from around the world visit Tuscany, the quintessential Italian wine region, each year. "Many of the wineries are 'open for business' with little planning needed," says wine expert Kerry, and "wine tours are well organized and readily available." Even non-wine drinkers love the region for its stunning landscapes, history - it's home to seven UNESCO sites - and other food-centric tours, like cheese and olive tastings.
    Photo courtesy of manu10319/iStock

  • Napa Valley, Calif.

    "Napa hits on everything I look for in a wine vacation," says our expert Kerry, "amazing wine, terrific/locally inspired food, 5-star accommodations and easy access. It really can’t be beat." All that well-deserved hype has made it one of the more expensive regions, but the price tags on tasting fees, wine, places to stay and restaurants are well worth the expense of visiting.
    Photo courtesy of visitnapavalley.com

  • Croatia

    The beautiful Croatian landscape is dotted with vineyards famous for producing especially good whites ... it's a place where wine is a fundamental part of day-to-day life. According to wine expert Kerry, Croatia offers "a unique experience in that access is easiest via sailboat. Start in the south at Split and head north sailing along some of the most beautiful places you will ever see."
    Photo courtesy of brozova/iStock

  • Marlborough, New Zealand

    On the South Island of New Zealand, the Marlborough wine region attracts with stunning scenery and friendly locals eager to recommend the best places to grab a bite or catch an ocean view. "The best and most common wines are of course Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir," says wine expert Kerry, "but you can also find some nice Rieslings, Pinot Gris and some Bordeaux red varieties. Amazing lamb (of course) but there is also spectacular seafood."
    Photo courtesy of lovemarlborough.co.nz

  • Maipo, Chile

    According to wine expert Kerry, "Chile’s oldest wine region, Maipo, is also the closest region to Santiago making it a little more accessible." It's possible to day trip from the Chilean capital, but with so many French-inspired boutique wineries - earning the region the nickname "Little Bourdeaux" - it's worth spending extra time. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere coming from the region are top-notch, and nearby El Morado National Park makes an ideal setting for enjoying Chile's natural beauty.
    Photo courtesy of Tituz/iStock

  • Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

    "Drop. Dead. Gorgeous" is how wine expert Kerry describes Okanagan Valley, a remote British Columbia wine region famous for its white and ice wines. Tucked between two mountain ranges, about a four drive from Vancouver, Okanagan Valley enjoys a rural character, dramatic vistas and abundant outdoor adventures to occupy the time between tastings.
    Photo courtesy of Destination BC/JF Bergeron

  • Alentejo, Portugal

    "When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."
    Photo courtesy of Ronald Isarin

The full list of winners in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice contest for 'Best Wine Region to Visit' contest category is as follows:

  1. Alentejo, Portugal
  2. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
  3. Maipo, Chile
  4. Marlborough, New Zealand
  5. Croatia
  6. Napa Valley, Calif.
  7. Tuscany, Italy
  8. Oregon
  9. Hunter Valley, Australia
  10. Virginia

The vast Alentejo, stretching to Portugal's southwestern coast, is still off the radar for many travelers.  This intriguing rural region   is like a trip back in time.  The diverse terrain holds olive groves and vineyards, quaint villages, flower-filled meadows and forests.

"The Alentejo is best known for its hardy red wines made from a unique combination of indigenous varietals," says Kerry Woolard, who served on the expert panel.  "Now, more familiar vinifera such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot are being produced there too."

The food in Alentejo is rustic and authentic, taking full advantage of the agrarian lifestyle in the area.  You won't find a developed coastline of hotels;  instead Alentejo's beaches - considered some of the most dramatic and beautiful in Europe - require visitors to seek out lodging in independent guest houses.  The Alentejo is like a trip back in time for wine lovers.  The Faro and Lisbon airports are each less than two hours away.  

British Columbia's Okanagan Valley came in at a strong #2, its loyal fans reminding voters of the area's lush landscape of mountains and rivers.  The Okanagan offers excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation in between tastings.      

A hearty congratulations to all our winners!   



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Kerry Woolard

Kerry Woolard

Frank Pulice

Frank Pulice

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