Grape Escapes: The Best Time To Visit Winelands Around The World
As weather experts, we’re fascinated by the process of growing vines. It’s a delicate balance; a harsh winter, a late frost or too much/too little rain can all wreak havoc with wine production. On the flip side, if a well-managed vineyard receives perfect weather conditions throughout the year then it bursts with a bumper crop of grapes that often results in award-winning wines.
There’s something extra sweet about sipping a crisp white or fruity red wine in the vine-carpeted valley where it was grown. We’ve rounded up our favourite wine-tasting holiday destinations around the world, along with when it’s the best time of year to visit them. To get more detailed weather information on your favourite wine region, download the Vacay Weather app.
Stellenbosch & Franschhoek, South Africa
The picturesque Cape Wineland towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek (around an hour from Cape Town) are great for a first-time wine-tasting holiday thanks to the diverse number of wines they produce. As South Africa’s go-to wine tasting destinations, the towns are known for their rolling vineyards that produce robust reds and fruity whites like Chenin Blanc. The Franschhoek Wine Tram is a great way to go wine tasting here; on this open-sided tram and bus you can hop on and off at some of the region’s best vineyards including the astoundingly beautiful Mont Rochelle. Historic Stellenbosch is a bigger and busier food-and-wine hub, with over 150 wine estates including established wine farms and up-and-coming wineries.
Best time to visit Stellenbosch & Franschhoek: The Cape Winelands is a year-round destination. September to April is a great time to visit – it’s warm and dry and is when many vintages of wine are released. November to February is peak summer season, so travel outside of these months if you want a quieter experience.
Bordeaux offers the classic French wine experience. It has a whopping 6,000 sun-drenched vineyards, plus there are fairy-tale châteaux, monumental buildings and grand tree-lined boulevards. A lot of the wineries in Bordeaux arrange private visits, so as well as being one of the best places in the world for authentic hearty reds, it’s an excellent place to get to know the makers and the stories behind the wines.
Best time to visit Bordeaux: April to August for warm and sunny days, or September/October to experience harvest season. Some wineries don’t allow visitors during harvest, so it’s worth checking ahead if you have a specific vineyard that you plan to visit.
This one’s not for the faint-hearted – Mendoza’s wines pack a punch. Rich, bold flavours are the order of the day here, with intense plummy Malbecs that are the perfect accompaniment to the region’s succulent steak. Argentina is South America’s biggest wine producer and Mendoza is home to more than 1,500 wineries, from small family-run cellar doors to established international brands. The wine tasting experience here is gloriously laid-back – join a wine tour or cycle around the verdant valleys and Andean foothills.
Best time to visit Mendoza: Mendoza has year-round sunshine. October to April is the best time to visit for dry and sunny days. The annual Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (Grape Harvest National Festival) takes place at the start of March.
Marlborough, New Zealand
Marlborough is the Sauvignon Blanc capital of the world. Big names such as Cloudy Bay and Villa Maria call this sun-kissed region home and today, 80% of the country’s Sav Blanc grapes are planted here. It’s the combination of plenty of sunshine, not-too-hot temperatures, low rainfall and free-draining soil that produces the knock-out gooseberry flavours. You’ll also find aromatic Pinot Noirs and punchy Chardonnays. Marlborough has over 30 cellar doors, which you can visit by bike (the region is mostly flat, so it’s not too much of a challenge to cycle here, even after a few glasses of vino) or join a guided wine tour.
Best time to visit Marlborough: December to May for pleasant temperatures and less chance of rainfall, and to avoid the snowy season.
Napa Valley, USA
In California’s Wine Country, the Napa Valley is a popular weekend vacay spot for locals as well as tourists who flock from San Francisco to Napa’s 400 hillside vineyards. The signature grapes here are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but the cherry notes of the region’s Merlots are also making waves. Explore Napa in style on board the elegant Napa Wine Valley Train – a vintage Pullman carriage that will take you on a 36-mile round-trip through the vineyards.
Best time to visit Napa Valley: Napa has mild weather year-round. November to April is known as Cabernet Season, when you can escape the crowds and see spectacular fall colours or bright yellow spring flowers. Napa's peak tourist season is during harvest time: August to October. If you plan to visit on a weekend during these months, expect traffic, crowds and queues.
Barossa Valley, Australia
Compared to the likes of France, Australia hasn’t been in the wine game long, but its diverse landscapes and unique regional climates have put it on the world stage. South Australia is a red wine heavyweight – close to Adelaide, the hot and dry Barossa Valley produces stand-out Shiraz that’s rich and intense. Almost half of the Barossa’s vineyard planting is dedicated to dark Shiraz grapes and the valley is home to big names like Jacob’s Creek.
Best time to visit the Barossa Valley: The autumn months from March to May have mild, sunny days (pack a jumper for the cooler evenings) and see the harvest celebrations in full swing.
Tempted by a wine-tasting holiday? These are some of our favourites but there are plenty more wine regions around the globe. Use the Vacay Weather app to search for your perfect holiday weather.