It's always a great idea to visit a winery. You're almost guaranteed to catch some beautiful views, a good buzz and vino knowledge (with or without a dose of pretension) to drop on your friends when you get home. But these wineries all have a little something extra to offer, from wine tunnels you can drive through to architecture that will blow your mind.
Believe it or not, the world’s largest wine collection is in a country most Americans probably couldn’t find on a map. Moldova’s state-run winery, Milestii Mici houses about 65 million liters of wine.
But that’s not why you should visit. The real highlight is that the wine is housed in a 200 km underground cave system – that you can drive through. Just make sure to stop the car as you zip past barrels of cabernet to check out the wine lairs hidden by secret electric stone doors.
The views from Vienna’s winery might not be the world’s most idyllic, but they’re still jawd-ropping and unlike any other place on earth. Vienna is the only world capital that produces a significant amount of wine within its city limits, and the views from the vine-covered hills offer vistas of the city’s parks, cathedrals and Danube River below.
Most of the wines are young wines, and when they are ready, you can drink them in the heurige – wine taverns – in the neighborhoods below the vineyards.
If you never thought of Georgia as a wine region, you’re thinking of the wrong Georgia. The country of Georgia has been producing wine for more than 8,000 years, and many believe that wine was actually invented in this former Soviet nation.
But it’s not really about how long Georgians have been producing wine; it's more about how they produce it. Quite a few of the country’s wineries still use the traditional method of qvevri, large clay barrels that are filled up and buried underground for up to a year.
The fertile basalt-rich soil in Israel’s Upper Galilee region is excellent for growing grapes and results in some great wine. But Rimon Winery, in Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra, near Tzfat decided to skip the grapes altogether, instead developing a new type of pomegranate ideal for making wine.
Since 2003, Rimon has been producing dessert pomegranate wine, and has since expanded to include dry, rich and port-style pomegranate wines.
Basque Country (Spain)
Rioja. Tempranillo. Garnacha. Spain makes some delicious wines, but so do a number of other countries. However, Spain’s Basque region might have the most interesting wineries from an aesthetic standpoint, the crowning example of which is probably Marques De Riscal. This whimsical, almost psychedelic Frank Gehry-designed structure explodes with flowing ribbons of gold, silver and purple titanium set at the foot of the Cantabrian Mountains.
Less than 10km away, Bodegas Ysios, is a wine cathedral with an undulating, practically pixelated aluminum roof – that mirrors the surrounding mountains – and walls of copper and stained cedar meant to resemble the wine barrels inside.
Verde means green in Portuguese, but the name Vinho Verde has nothing to do with the color of the wine. Verde also means young, which is where this young, crisp, acidic wine gets its name – that and because the Minho region in which it’s produced is filled with verdant landscapes and rolling green hills.
Most people think of Vinho Verde as white, and more than 90% of it is. But until the last decade or two, many wineries produced red Vinho Verde (often called Vinhão), a wine that’s even more acidic and effervescent – almost intensely so. And in the last couple years, wineries in the region have begun amping up their production of this unique vinho.
Pico Island (Azores)
Everything about the UNESCO World Heritage-listed vineyards of Pico Island is unique: the aesthetitics, the methods used, the wine itself. The vineyards on this Azores island don’t have the typical lush green landscapes with seemingly infinite rows of grapes that come to mind when you think of wine regions.
Thanks to the 18th century eruption of Mount Pico, Portugal’s highest mountain, the vineyards on the “Black Island” are as black as they are green. Small basalt walls protect the grapes from salty seawater, but most of the vineyards are empty, as phylloxera wiped out almost everything until the last decade or so when winemakers have begun to produce mineral whites from grapes native to the Azores.
Snow. Ice. Freezing temperatures. These are not qualities one usually associates with wine, but the ice wine producers of Ontario must press their grapes when they’re still at a maximum of 17 degrees, so that the water is frozen and the grapes are more concentrated.
That means anyone working at the vineyard is usually out picking in the dead of winter, usually before the crack of dawn. The results are a sweet dessert wine.