With summer winding down, it’s time to start swapping those Watermelon Frosés for a cool glass of Chardonnay. While celebrated wine regions like Tuscany and Bordeaux tend to steal our attention every harvest, it results in lesser-known, but equally noteworthy, regions to go unnoticed. From valleys and rivers to Insta-worthy vineyard terraces, here are seven not-to-be-skipped wine regions in Europe.
1. Kakheti, Georgia
If you haven’t had Georgian wine, you’re in for a real treat. Kakheti is where roughly 75-percent of the country’s grapes are grown and has been for thousands of years. The moderate climate (similar to that of Southern France), and a soil called 'cinnamonic', makes for some great-tasting wines. Wines are also kept in egg-shaped vessels called ‘qvevris’ and housed underground until they’re ready to be poured.
2. Wachau Valley, Austria
Outdoor adventure-types and history buffs will naturally gravitate toward Austria’s scenic Wachau Valley. There’s a well-maintained bike trail that connects several of the medieval towns. It’s hard to get lost, as the Danube River becomes a visual guide. The UNESCO world heritage site is also filled with little wineries and tasting spots (124 vineyards). If you aren’t familiar with Grüner Veltliner, consider this your crash course.
3. Valpolicella, Italy
This charming Italian wine region is hiding in plain sight. It’s a short drive (or vintage vespa ride) from ‘fair Verona’ and well worth a visit. According to the Guardian, the wine and hilltop villages of Valpolicella rival those of Tuscany, and we’d have to agree. Soon after leaving the historic Verona city streets, you’ll begin spotting cyprus, olive, and cherry trees. Home to the Amarone wine, you’ll quickly fall in love with its spicy, dense taste.
4. Tokaj, Hungary
If you remember reading our story on the law school grad who’s bringing Hungarian wine to America, then this one’s for you. Our favorite wine region in Hungary is Tokaj, located in the northeastern part of the country. The sweet wines you find here were the first wines in the world to have their own appellation system, even before the French began to codify their wines. Go for the day or stay longer; either way, you won’t regret it.
5. Jura, France
Just a 2 hour ride from Paris on the TGV, Jura is a stunning wine region that often lives in the shadow of its big brother, Bordeaux. The valley offers picturesque views of the Jura Mountains (minus the high altitude), not to mention deliciously refreshing wines. Speaking of wine, make sure to pair your bottle with some of the area’s local cheese and charcuterie. Jura is most famous for its Côtes du Jura, Château-Chalon, and Crémant du Jura wines.
6. Douro Valley, Portugal
For one of the oldest wine regions in the world, the Douro is finally getting its moment in the spotlight. There are several ways to get around and explore, whether via road, rail, river, or helicopter if you’re in the mood to splurge. A boat ride on the Douro River is a must, especially for capturing the best views of this region of wild natural beauty. On a time crunch? Book a day tour from Porto.
7. Lavaux, Switzerland
If you’re a fan of the iconic rice paddies in Bali, say hello a different kind of terrace: a vineyard terrace. Lavaux is the largest contiguous vineyard region in Switzerland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but you’ve probably never heard of it. Riding the "Lavaux-Panoramic" train is a great way to explore, and make sure to stock up on as many bottles as your suitcase can hold because less than 2 percent of Swiss wines are exported.