10 Most Affordable Wine Destinations in the World
Get off the beaten path to tour vineyards and sample vintages from some of the wine world’s lesser-known regions.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Argentina
When it comes to wine destinations, you can’t go wrong with Argentina—this South American nation is the world’s fifth-largest wine producer. Before the 1990s the harvest—said to be of at best modest quality—was mostly enjoyed domestically among its more than 40 million residents, but nowadays it’s the continent’s largest exporter, shipping more than $700,000 worth in 2010. The province of Mendoza, at the edge of the Andes and about 1,000 km west of Buenos Aires, is the largest wine region, with plenty of well-known red Malbec as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and an increasing amount of high-altitude plantings.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Thailand
It’s not the first country that comes to mind when you think of wine production, but Thailand is home to a growing viticulture industry. The six members of the Thai Wine Association produce about 800,000 bottles a year from locally grown grapes, and are all within a few hours’ drive of Bangkok, making them an easy add-on to a Thai vacation. And where else can you book a wine tour with an optional elephant ride?
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Croatia
Given its geography and its territory’s history as part of the Roman Empire, it’s no wonder this Adriatic gem has a long and rich relationship with wine. More than two decades after the fall of Yugoslavia, the local industry has recovered from the mediocre vintages of communist times and is producing flavourful wines with a focus on quality over quantity. Head to Istria in the northwest to sample the crisp white malvazija, a local specialty, from top winemakers such as Matošević and Kozlović.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Portugal
Lying on the western slice of the Iberian peninsula, Portugal has plenty to offer visitors when it comes to wine tourism. Local specialties include Vinho Verde, “green” or “young” wine, light and fresh whites, reds and rosés characterized by their acidity and light carbonation and produced in the northwest; and Vinho de Porto, or port, a fortified wine—wine with distilled spirits added—from the mountainous Douro region. Beyond these, the country’s winemakers offer plenty of variety for visitors to sample no matter which region they’re visiting.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Sicily
Ever-active Mount Etna and a history of volcanic activity means Sicily’s soil is rich in minerals, a boon to all farmers including the grape-growers, who have shifted in the past few decades from exporting to winemakers on the Italian mainland to producing their own quality vintages, timed well with the renewed attention on the island’s exceptional, locavore-before-it-was-trendy cuisine. The best-known local grape is probably nero d’avola, fermented on its own, in blends and in Sicily’s fortified wine Marsala. On the slopes of the volcano itself, look for vineyards producing white carricante and red nerello mascalese.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Georgia
This former Soviet republic on the edge of the Black Sea is among the oldest wine-producing regions, dating back to the world’s first cultivated vineyards some 8,000 years ago. With more than 500 indigenous grapes grown here, often on a micro scale, you’ll have no shortage of wines to sample and pair with the country’s stellar cuisine. In eastern Georgia, particularly Kakheti, look for examples of the ancient method of producing wine: Earthenware vessels called Qvevri are filled with crushed grapes then buried underground to provide constant temperatures as the juice naturally ferments.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Chile
Like much of Latin America, Chile has a wine history dating back to the first Spanish colonizers, for whom grape vines were an essential import. Modernization of the industry began in the 1980s and the country is now among the world’s leading wine exporters. Starting in the capital of Santiago, where you’re sure to find top local bottles in the city’s restaurants and up-and-coming wine bars, you’ll find much to explore moving north or south through Chile’s grape-growing valleys. Beyond tasting and pairing, winery tours might include horseback riding, blend-your-own workshops, even a funicular ride to an astronomy centre.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Bulgaria
Bordering Turkey and Greece to the south and Macedonia, Serbia and Romania to the west and north, this Balkan country on the Black Sea was known for its inexpensive value wines in the 1980s—at the time, it was among the world’s biggest exporters—but the industry faltered after the collapse of communism. Now, Bulgaria is still relatively unknown as a tourist destination, but its five diverse wine-growing regions are coming into their own and ready to welcome visitors.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Greece
They’ve definitely got history on their side—Greece has been making wine nonstop for millennia. And whether you’re visiting the wine bars of Athens, the province of Macedonia in the north or the island of Crete deep in the Mediterranean, you’ll find an endless supply of flavourful local wines made for perfect pairing with the country’s distinctive ingredient-focused cuisine.
Must-Visit Wine Destinations: Canada
If airfare is what’s holding you back from a wine tour, then perhaps a road trip is up your alley—and where better to explore than our own backyard? Beyond the well-known Canadian wine regions of BC’s Okanagan Valley and Ontario’s Niagara peninsula, you’ll find established and up-and-coming wineries in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Pelee Island and Prince Edward County in Ontario and all over BC, including Vancouver Island, the Similkameen Valley and the Gulf Islands.