As the bubbles hit your tongue, you swirl your glass and breathe in the perfume of Prosecco. For a moment, you can hear the piazzas of Venice, smell the mozzarella melted over pizza. If you open your eyes, you know you’re in your living room — very possibly in your pyjamas — but for now, you’re there; in Italy, learning all about sparkling wine.
Sadly, we can’t always travel. However, there’s nothing stopping us from using our taste buds to transport us to another country. Even better if those taste buds are being treated to some of the world’s best wines.
She’s going to take you on a visit to some of the world’s best wine regions and give you some tips for wine tasting at home. All you need to do is make a quick stop at your supermarket.
1. Bordeaux, France
Did you know Bordeaux is the second most visited city in France after Paris? With picture-book chateaux and vineyards sprawling across both banks of the river, the city of Bordeaux is as beautiful as its wine.
Home tasting tips: Bordeaux is famous for its red wines. To get a taste of the luxury of Bordeaux, look out for Lafite, Latour and Margaux wines. You might pay more than you’re used to but think how much you’ve saved on an air fare.
2. Napa Valley, USA
Which wine lover hasn’t heard of California’s Napa Valley? What makes it a great stop on your virtual wine tour is the sheer variety — sparkling, red, white or rosé, whatever you want to taste, you can find it in Napa.
Home tasting tips: try something you haven’t tasted before. Perhaps a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s been aged in French oak, or a Chardonnay that is unoaked.
3. Hunter Valley, Australia
Hunter Valley is just two hours’ drive from Sydney and with the potential to drive back through the Blue Mountains, past the Three Sisters rock formation, it makes for a perfect side-trip to your time in Sydney.
Home tasting tips: Hunter Valley is famous for its white Semillon wine. However, wine tasting here is as much about the cultural experience as the wine itself, with tasting weekends featuring music and art. So cook something new, crack a bottle, and throw on some jazz, opera or blues.
4. Prosecco, Italy
Prosecco has far surpassed Champagne in popularity and it’s no surprise with its crisp, fresh taste (and, let’s be honest, affordability). Located only an hour from Venice, Italy’s Prosecco region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site complete with its dramatic landscape of hogback hills.
Home tasting tips: Prosecco is classified according to quality. DOC is most commonly found. However, if you want to drink the top-tier Prosecco (like the Italians do), look for DOCG on the label.
5. Stellenbosch, South Africa
As if Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope were not attractions enough, mother nature decided to put a bountiful wine region on Cape Town’s doorstep. Mountain in the morning, wine tasting in the afternoon and sunset sea views by night, it’s the perfect itinerary.
Home tasting tips: Although the Stellenbosch wine region started in the 1600s, the wine route didn’t open up to tourism until the 1970s. Seems like a suggestion for a 70s themed tasting night. What to drink? Try Syrah (red) or Chenin Blanc or Viognier (both white).
6. Mendoza, Argentina
Argentina has long been described as Europe-meets-Latin-America and nowhere is this more pronounced than in the food and wine. However, while the Spanish may have planted Mendoza’s vines, it’s the Argentinian flair that has made them the biggest producer of Malbec in the world.
Home tasting tips: Go straight for the Malbec. It’s perfectly paired with an Argentinian steak.
7. Hua Hin, Thailand
Wait? What? Thailand has a wine region? It does indeed. And it’s less than three hours away from Bangkok. What makes it most impressive is the climate odds that Hua Hin has to defy in order to make wine in a monsoon region.
Home tasting tips: You might need to search online to track down a bottle of wine from Hua Hin. When you do, pair it with something native. The taste of pad thai is one of the best compliments for the white Shiraz rosé.
Tips for planning a wine tasting at home
- Get out of your pyjamas. No, come on, you can do it.
- Try comparing wines (best done with the same colour of wine) e.g. Argentinian Malbec, red Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Look on the winery’s website – they usually have tasting notes. Do you get aromas of gooseberry or leather?
- Try some food pairings. A quick look on the back of the bottle is a good place for quick suggestions.
- Consider a blind tasting — wrap your bottles (rather than your eyes). Can you guess which wine is which?
- Take notes. Which ones did you like? Which ones worked with which food? Which ones are on your list for your next supermarket — or real world — trip?