Expedia unearths some of the world’s best 'untapped' wine destinations

On June 03, 2009 at 02:00 PM

Countries as diverse as Argentina, South Africa and Hungary provide a fresh alternative to the ‘tried and tested’ wine destinations

Beyond the well worn paths of the wine regions of Italy, France and Spain, there are several other international destinations that produce exceptional wines, which have remained largely undiscovered by wine-loving Australian travellers. With equally superb scenery, authentic food, hospitable locals and fewer crowds than their more famous counterparts, these ‘alternative’ wine destinations offer much for lovers of fine wine and travel.

Louise Crompton, Marketing Manager for Expedia.com.au™, operated by Expedia, Inc., the world’s leading online travel company, says: “Australians are known for their love of wine, so the vineyards of France, Italy and even the Napa Valley in the US are perennial favourites to us.However, Australian travellers with a passion for discovering wine regions around the world will also be interested to know there are plenty of other, less-known countries which have been producing fine wines for hundreds of years. In fact, there is a whole range of destinations that offer wine lovers a unique and interesting insight into new wine making techniques, grape varieties and blends – not to mention interesting cuisines and cultures, and stunning scenery.”

For instance, countries as diverse as Argentina, South Africa, Hungary, Portugal, Canada and the Canary Islands have wine-growing regions that are producing outstanding wines. They also offer abundant scenic, culinary and cultural attractions, which provide a welcome and refreshing alternative to the usual destinations associated with winemaking. In fact, wine tasting can be incorporated into any kind of trip, whether it be for skiing, safari or hiking. Furthermore, as many of these destinations are not as famous as their French or Italian counterparts, they tend to offer better value for money and are often less touristy and less crowded.

“Irrespective of where you go in the world, and whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a tasting novice, a wine tour is an enjoyable way to see a country and meet the local people. Wine is also a great souvenir to bring back from your holiday and enjoy with friends while reminiscing about your trip,” she said.

Expedia.com.au pops the cork on some of the world’s best ‘untapped’ wine destinations:

South Africa:

The Mediterranean climate of South Africa’s Western Cape region makes it an ideal area for wine production. In fact, the French Huguenots brought the practice of wine making to South Africa in 1688 and, as a result, ‘the Cape’ (as it is more commonly known), and particularly the Franschhoek Valley, enjoys a distinctly French flavour to it with historic wine estates with names like La Motte, Clos Cabriere and La Couronne. The Cape region alone boasts over 2,000 grape varieties, while the popular white wines such as Cape Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay dominate the region’s wine production. However, the red wines are a national treasure in the native ‘Pinotage’ grape variety: developed in South Africa almost 100 years ago, the variety is a cross between a Pinot Noir and Cinsaut grape, which produces earthy, smokey flavours. Located just 50km from the vibrant city of Cape Town, there are many organised tours to choose from, where wine lovers can sample some of the region’s best wines and visit stately wineries set against dramatic mountain backdrops. The surrounding Western Cape countryside is spectacular, with breathtaking beaches, valleys and hills displaying changing views around every bend.

You can get to Cape Town from Sydney or Perth via Johannesburg and while you’re there, why not stay at The Cellars-Hohenort (5-star) with its beautiful vineyard setting.


With over 60,000 wine growers, Portugal boasts many native grape varieties. The far northern region of Minho is known largely for its white wines, with vast spreads of vineyards growing the local specialty, the Vinho Verde. Literally translated as ‘green wine’, this is a Portuguese favourite and is designed to be consumed within a year as the wine does not require ageing. A unique blend of medieval and modern, the region has many villages, mountains and forests beyond the wineries. Porto, or Oporto in English, is the second largest city in Portugal and the centre of the Northern region. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is also the home of the internationally renowned ‘Port’ wine, named after the city where it was first produced. If you’re after deep reds, head further south to the Alentejo wine region, in particular Borba and Redondo, where rich wines are matched with equally delicious hearty cuisines.

Portois a quaint, romantic city and if you stay atthe Pestana Porto Hotel (4-star) you’ll be in the centre of town. You can get to Porto daily from London.


A short drive north east of the country’s capital, Budapest, in the Heves region, is the historical town of Eger. Having been occupied over the past century by Germans, Turks and Slavic tribes, Eger is well worth visiting for many reasons, not least its winemaking prowess. Beyond its medieval castle, cathedral and central square lies ancient vineyards still employing traditional winemaking techniques. However, the region is also at the forefront of modern production, with plastic kegs helping many tourists take a sample of Eger wine home. Producing red and white wines in equal measure, Eger makes wine tasting simple with almost thirty cellar doors within walking distance from the main town.  Since Hungary is one of Europe’s more affordable destinations, why not stay at the landmark Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal (5-star) in Budapest; you can get to Budapest from Sydney and Melbourne via Singapore and Frankfurt.

Canary Islands:

The Canaries are a fascinating blend of Spanish, African and Latin American cultures. However, few tourists think to visit the Canary Islands for its wine culture,which makes it the perfect opportunity for any wine buff to scope out a relatively untouched wine destination. The rich volcanic terrain of the Canary archipelago produces continuously-cool soils, perfect for growing the local White Malvasia grape variety. While wine production in the Canaries dates back as early as the 16th century, many of the local wines, including the Listángrape from Tenerife, are not sold in foreign markets. Despite the small geographical size of the islands, there are five main wine producing regions with distinctly different wine characteristics as a result of the varied micro-climates. Apart from visiting the many wineries, visitors to the islands can take in the picture-perfect beaches ideal for snorkelling, sailing or just sun baking; explore the agricultural delights of large scale fruit and vegetable production; or the extensive modern architecture. Tenerife is the biggest of the eight islands that make up the Canaries, with the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife, attracting nearly 10 million visitors each year.Surprisingly the city isn’t over run with tourists, unless it’s during the internationally renowned Carnival, which takes place at the end of January each year.

Tenerifeis the ideal destination to relax and refresh so why not do it in luxury and stay at Vincci La Plantacion (5-star); this is asleek hilltop resort hotel with spectacular views. You can get to Tenerife daily from Madrid and London.


Being somewhat of a hidden gem in the wine making world, Argentina is home to some of the purest, most organic wines in the world. Located in an area that has young and undisturbed soil, the wine region is perfect for cultivating a grape rich in flavour and aroma. From blackberry and green pepper-infused Cabernet Sauvignons in the northwest Salta region, to Rio NegroSemillonsinfused with mineral and earthy accents in the south, Argentina’s wineries will tempt even the most astute of wine connoisseurs. While in France the Malbec grape variety is declining production, in Argentina it is thriving and becoming increasingly popular, creating robust reds, ideal for longer term cellaring. The laid-back cosmopolitan city of Mendoza provides the perfect base for exploring the many wineries in the central northern regions, as well as sampling the many varieties of locally produced olive oil. The popularity of the surrounding vineyards has led many wineries to convert their cellar doors into hotels or inns to accommodate visitors onsite. The Mendoza region itself accounts for almost 80% of Argentina’s annual wine production, with some 70,000 annual visits. Of course the thriving cultural metropolis of Buenos Aires is also only a short flight away.

To enjoy stylish Spanish accommodation, stay at the Park Hyatt Mendoza (41/2-star). Get to Mendoza from Sydney via Buenos Aires.


Known more for its ski slopes than its wineries, Canada is not on the top of most wine-lovers’ lists. However, Canadians are making the most of their cool climate -producing a unique Icewine. Grapes are picked at temperatures below -10 degrees Celsius, after they have frozen naturally on the vine. Originally discovered by accident after a snap frost in Germany in the early 1700s, frozen grapes have a high sugar concentration making them intensely sweet and flavoursome. A German migrant established a winery in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia which today is one of the main Canadian regions producing Icewine. Icewine is the perfect drop to end a night at the British Columbia ski slopes of Whistler, Banff or Big White, which are not far away. The impressive coastal city of Vancouver is a great starting point to explore the rest of Canada. Located on a beautiful harbour with snow-capped mountain backdrop, it’s easy to see why Vancouver is often listed as one of the best cities in the world to live.

Get cozy at the slopes by staying at Nita Lake Lodge (4-star) in Whistler; a beautiful wood and stone building conveniently located adjacent to a Whistler Mountaineer train station. You can get to Vancouver direct from Sydney and Melbourne.

For excellent travel deals and a great travel experience, visit www.expedia.com.au.

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