Europe is arguably the finest wine-producing continent on the planet. France, Italy, Portugal and Spain are famous for their distinctive reds and whites, along with being popular tourist hotspots, which can make an ideal holiday for wine connoisseurs.
If you’re looking for some inspiration for your holidays in 2012, below is a list of five top European destinations for wine lovers; destinations that can be visited at various times of the year by those who wish to sample the finest local produce at the source.
Douro Valley, Portugal: When people think of famous wine-producing regions in Europe, their attention normally turns to France, but Portugal also has plenty to offer wine lovers.
Douro Valley is particularly important to wine lovers as it is the home of Port, a traditionally sweet, fortified wine that is produced from grapes growing on the banks of the Douro River.
Visitors to Douro Valley can sample dessert wine Ports in red and white varieties, while tourists can also sail the Douro River and explore the many olive and almond farms in this pleasantly warm region of Portugal.
Bordeaux, France: Widely regarded as the wine capital of the world, Bordeaux is home to some of the most celebrated vineyards in Europe, producing wines of all varieties (but most notably reds).
There are approximately 8,500 wine producers in Bordeaux, where daily vineyard tours afford visitors the opportunity to sample reds, whites and sparkling wines of outstanding quality. The city of Bordeaux is also worth visiting for its culinary and architectural delights.
Things to do in Bordeaux include visiting Ecole du Vin, a wine school offering three-day courses, Cathedrale Saint-Andre, Notre Dame Church (not the more famous building in Paris) and the Opera National de Bordeaux.
Tuscany and Umbria, Italy: The Italian wine industry is arguably every bit as historic and prestigious as that of France, with many of the finest European whites, including Chianti, produced in Tuscany.
Umbria is traditionally associated with Torgiano and Orvieto, which also claim a healthy share of the European market.
Aside from visiting local vineyards to sample their produce, visitors to Tuscany and Umbria can explore the surrounding hills and villages by bike or on foot. Tourists might also wish to explore the beautiful beaches in Tuscany.
Empordà-Costa-Brava, Spain: There are few more enjoyable wine-producing regions in Europe to visit than Emporda on the Costa Brava, in the Spanish province of Girona. Situated on the border with France, Emporda offers wine lovers a variety of things to see and do (not to mention taste).
Visitors to the region can enjoy Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, Granacha Tinta, Chardonnay, Moscatel and various other wines, in addition to visiting popular restaurants such as Can Patacano and El séller de Can Roca.
Champagne-Ardenne, France: No trip to Europe in search of the finest regional wines would be complete without a visit to Champagne, which produces the world-famous sparkling white of the same name.
There are numerous wineries and vineyards to visit and explore in Champagne-Ardenne. Celliers Ruinart, Champagne Pierre Legras, Cris-Event and many others provide tours and wine-tasting on a regular basis.
An additional treat for wine lovers is provided by Champagne Fresne Ducret, an independent producer in Villedommange. Fresne Ducret serves the finest quality Champagne alongside superb French cuisine, the cooking and presentation of which are taught by the producer.
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