Some people say that wine in Europe is equivalent to water in America. Wine is a distinct part of European culture and did you know it predates the Romans? During your European travels, you will not only experience how art, history, and the sciences have influenced various regions of a country, but also observe firsthand how wine acts as an important part of life.
New studies are released on a regular basis lauding the benefits of wine, in moderation. It has been shown that wine contains antioxidants, and is said to reduce the risk of stroke, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and that it also promotes longevity. While wine aficionados are happy to pour a glass at the end of the day, it’s understandable that wine is an acquired taste and may not appeal to everyone.
The beauty of drinking wine is Europe is the wide range of tastes that appeal to every palate. From sweet ports to refreshing Cava, unwind with the perfect wine on your European vacation.
The French are serious about their wine! In fact, French wine is subject to one of the strictest quality control systems. The highest classification indicates wines that have been produced under stringent conditions – only specific grapes used, in designated areas, and adhering to traditional methods. You may be familiar with some or all of these French wines – Chablis, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Côtes de Provence, Shiraz – but the following are well-known around the world:
Bordeaux is one of the largest wine-producing regions in the country, with about 10,000 producers. It is the most famous and highly coveted wine blend in the world. Red Bordeaux is a wine that is always made from blending Cabernet Sauvignon wine and Merlot together. Wines from this region are typically medium-bodied reds with fruity notes.
Burgundy produces one of the most famous wines in the world. Burgundy wines are typically dry reds made from Pinot Noir grapes and white wines made from Chardonnay grapes. Wines are usually soft, earthy, and medium-bodied. Visitors to this region can also find small amounts of rosé, meaning that there truly is something for everyone.
Champagne, France is known for its sparkling wines, and only wines made in the Champagne region can be labeled as champagne! This wine dates back to the early 12th century and the double-fermentation method can be attributed to the region’s climate – cold winter temperatures and warm spring weather.
Italy is a global influencer when it comes to setting trends in the food and wine industry. The country has been producing wine for over 4,000 years and is the largest producer in the world. Italy’s top three grapes in terms of production are Sangiovese, Trebbiano, and Montepulciano.
Tuscany is the most famous wine region in Italy. With rolling hills, country roads, and quaint villages, it is truly a wine-lover’s paradise. Sangiovese grapes flourish in Tuscany, and it is used in a wide range of Italian wines including Chianti. These grapes have high acidity, are medium-bodied, and flavors include cherry, blueberry, plum, violet, and earthy.
About one-third of all the wines in Italy are Trebbiano and is has high acidity properties which often make it a base for Cognac and Brandy. Expect a refreshing, light-bodied white wine that has very little aroma. It tends to be dry and crisp, with a fruity flavor. Versatile and food-friendly, enjoy this wine with meals featuring cheese, fish, and pastas.
Wine drinkers have likely had a fair share of Prosecco. This refreshing and flavorful sparkling wine is produced in select parts of northeastern Italy. It is made from Glera grapes, which grow mostly in soil that is heavy in minerals. Prosecco is typically the beverage of choice for Italians when it comes to a pre-dinner drink, and you may also find yourself adopting this habit during your Italian vacation.
You must try Cava on a trip to Spain. It is the famous sparkling wine of the country and is perfect for newbies who consider red wines too bitter, and white wines too dry. Cava, produced mainly in the Catalonia region of Spain, goes through a method of secondary fermentation in the bottle to get those famous bubbles. Expect a crisp and refreshing taste.
Tempranillo is another popular native Spanish wine. This grape is grown in the north and central regions, and is the most popular wine grape in Spain. When young, the taste can be fresh and fruity, while older Tempranillos have more tobacco and leather flavors that serious wine lovers adore.
Wine is an important part of Spanish culture, as well as its economy. Spain devotes the largest amount of land in the world to vineyards, and is the third largest wine-producing country in the world after Italy and France. More and more tourists are visiting Spain just to explore the various wine regions.
Portuguese wines have historically been in the shadow of wines from France, Spain, and Italy. However, the country has more than 200 indigenous grapes, few of which have been exposed globally. The most popular wine produced in Portugal is Port. Port wine is sweet, flavorful, and delightfully aromatic. It is only made in the Douro Valley of the country, and you will have a tasting on your tour! A small glass of Port goes a long way and those new to wine will appreciate the idea of sipping small portions. Because it has brandy added during fermentation, it has higher alcohol content and more body than your average wine.
Madeira wine is another popular option that is made in the Portuguese Madeira Islands, off the coast of Africa. It is produced in a variety of styles – from dry to sweet. If you want to try this wine at a restaurant, ask for a glass of 10-year Madeira, as it will have a more complex and developed richness.
There is no shortage of amazing wines in Europe. Each country offers unique varieties and distinct wine-drinking habits. As a tourist, you may have a more fulfilling cultural experience by tasting new types of wine in the various cities you visit. Rely on your tour guide to provide recommendations when it comes to which wines to try in order to get a truly local experience!