There are wine tastings and then wine tastings. There is nothing wrong with visiting a vineyard, looking at the well-tended rows of vines and marveling at the large barrels before sitting at a table to taste the goods. Add in a great location, lovely wine pairing restaurant, or quirky gift shop and you’ve got that special something.
But there are places that go further so that you don’t get bored while tasting your wine. Some offer an unusual way to try the wine; others offer a unique way of making wine or a location that is just as exciting as the wine itself.
Here is a list of some great experiences your non-wine travel companions will appreciate, too. If you are looking for an experience to remember, read on.
1st Marathon of the Castles of Medoc, France
Let’s start with what is arguably the strangest way to drink wine: running a marathon. The Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc takes place every year in and around the city of Pauillac in the Bordeaux wine region. Runners, often dressed in costume, hit the track to complete 26 miles with 23 stops. At each stop, they will sample some of the region’s best cheeses and other snacks, while sipping a glass of wine. Needless to say, there are hardly any runners left any closer to the finish line and people are running along in various levels of intoxication, but they are full of joy! For an unusual event with friends and some great memories to make along the way, why not give it a try?
Pro tip: Once in the region, head to Cap Ferret, west of Bordeaux, to discover some of the most beautiful beaches in France.
Photo credit: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com
2. Franschhoek Wine Tram, South Africa
It makes much more sense than walking to sit in an old-fashioned double-decker tram that rumbles through the South African wine country and stops at regular intervals to explore the vineyards. This is a safe and leisurely way of wine tasting with transfers from Cape Town to the tram stop and back so you don’t have to worry about alcohol and driving. This is a hop-on hop-off tram so you can either continue to the next winery or stop longer at a good restaurant for lunch.
Pro tip: There are several tram lines that run through different vineyards so it is worth doing your research before sampling.
3. Submarine Wine Tasting, San Francisco
Yes, it’s a little gimmick, but this is about unusual places and ways to try wines. And the Sottomarino Winery, which hosts tastings in an old United States Navy training submarine on Treasure Island near San Francisco, is as unusual as it gets. Sottomarino means “submarine” in Italian and the wines are made from Italian varieties grown in California. Treasure Island, a man-made island built in the 1930s for the Golden Gate International Exposition, has great views of the San Francisco skyline and makes for a great day.
Pro tip: Learn about the island at the Treasure Island Museum before returning to town.
4. Royal Wine Cellar, France
This in the 18th century for the wine manager of King Louis XV. The cellar built next to the Louvre is a historical, unique and very suitable setting for a wine tasting. It is a complete sensory experience! Learn about French wines on a guided or self-guided tour, a private wine tasting, or a dinner with wine accompaniment in one of the underground rooms. You will even meet the resident oenologist.
Pro tip: If you’ve learned and tried some things, why not visit some of the hidden vineyards in Paris to round off your experience?
5. Underwater winery, Croatia
Located about an hour north of Dubrovnik on the stunning Croatian coast, you will find a wine cellar that is really different. We’re used to it underground, but underwater? Edivo Vina stores its bottles, sealed in amphorae, at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea, and if you wish, you can put on scuba gear and dive down to collect your bottle. There’s even a sunken ship nearby. Allegedly, the even temperatures and the calm underwater world should benefit the wine – you can see for yourself on land.
Pro tip: You can also book a private wine tour of the peninsula and be safely dropped off at your hotel at the end of the day.
Photo credit: Evgeniy Goncharov Photo / Shutterstock.com
6. Ice wine, Canada
Eiswein originally comes from Germany and Austria and is a sweet Riesling or Vidal Blanc wine product. It’s called ice wine because the grapes stay on the vines until after winter and are allowed to freeze, making them much sweeter. The Ice House Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of many wineries in Ontario, but it’s the only one that makes ice wine and even sells ice wine slushies. Sounds perfect for a summer day, doesn’t it?
Pro tip: This winery is a few miles from Niagara Falls – you can choose whether the waterfalls or the wine are the main attraction.
7. Wine and Chocolate, Australia
Hahndorf, in the interior of Adelaide in South Australia, is a quaint old German settlement that will whisk you away to Bavaria with South German architecture, restaurants and events. It’s a good place for a day trip, and you can add even more fun by booking a wine and chocolate couple at the Hahndorf Hill Winery. At this perfect event for chocolate lovers and wine connoisseurs, not only will you get a taste of local wines, but also Australian and French chocolate made from cocoa beans grown in Australia.
It’s great fun to spend the day strolling through the little Hahndorf, buying local treats like their excellent honey, and then relaxing with chocolate and wine before heading to a local restaurant for a good German sausage enjoy.
Pro tip: Hahndorf is the gateway to the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula and just 15 miles from Kangaroo Island, a must-see in the state.
8. Vineyard bike tour, Italy
Umbria, a province in the heart of Italy about halfway between Florence and Rome, is dotted with vineyards and wineries. The region is best explored by bike. Umbria by Bike offers different cycling routes, but the tour of the Montefalco vineyards is without a doubt the most sophisticated. You’ll cycle about 60 miles through five major wine regions, stopping at each to sample the goods. The tour takes place between March and November and is suitable for beginners, the paths are mostly paved. There are a variety of bikes for rent, even electric ones, to make life a little easier.
Pro tip: This is a round trip that starts and ends in Montefalco. So book a room in the beautiful Orto degli Angeli, a palazzo with a beautiful garden and four-poster beds. It’s the perfect place to relax after a day on the bike.
Photo credit: Sergio Sergo / Shutterstock.com
9. Residential Wine Resort, Portugal
If buying a chateau in France to run your own winery is not within your reach, there is always an option to buy a vacation rental in the Algarve Portugal to run your own winery. The Vines is a new concept of turnkey properties surrounded by vineyards. Together with your vacation home and within sight, you can own or rent your very own winery and start producing your own personal label. Local experts are available to teach you anything you need.
Pro tip: The Vines is located on the Algarve Wine Route on the southern edge of Portugal. It’s a perfect road trip that meanders between beaches and coastal towns and select wineries.
10. South Pacific Tasting, Tahiti
A winery on a South Sea island? Yes – there is a vineyard on Rangiroa Atoll, more than 3,000 miles from any mainland. Vin de Tahiti was founded by a French in the 1990s and today produces around 3,000 cases of wine from two to three harvests per year. It’s a 55 minute flight from Tahiti itself, so getting to the vineyard requires dedication, but this is a truly special wine experience. Rangiroa is also a top spot for diving, beaches and an idyllic vacation, literally thousands of kilometers away from civilization.
Pro tip: This distant region of the world is perfect for cruises that allow you to discover more than one island during your stay. Choices range from simple cruises to Paul Gaugin-inspired tours to budget-friendly boat trips.