Of all the ecstatic pleasures and transcendent joys in life, few things are as uniquely enjoyable as a glass of good wine. Whether you tend to spring for a merlot, a pinot noir or a rose, the simple happiness that comes from indulging in a glass or two of your favorite wine is unmatched by anything else on the face of the earth.
Where you get your wine is up to you. In recent decades, good wine has become less expensive and widely available, making it easier than ever to enjoy a glass of the good stuff without breaking the bank. No matter where you live, chances are you can head down to your local grocery store and buy a bottle of excellent wine for the same price as a large cup of coffee. Wine lovers everywhere, rejoice!
For some, the wine-enthusiasm goes even further. These passionate individuals aren’t satisfied to merely drink wine; they want to know where it comes from, and see through each stage of the process until it’s ready to be consumed. They visit wineries and vineyards, seek out winemasters and attend wine tastings. These are the real hardcore wine fans, you see.
If you count yourself amongst this impassioned few, then you’re likely embroiled in a near-constant search for good wineries. There are good examples of wine-making sites all over the world, but there’s no doubt about the fact that Europe has some of the best. With many such wineries keeping histories that stretch back hundreds of years, there are few places that offer anything even close to what these wineries can offer to wine enthusiasts.
European wineries: the merits of tradition
The coolest aspect of European wineries is undoubtedly their long histories. Many of the wineries and vineyards on this list have stood since the Middle Ages, without undergoing much change to their recipes and techniques. This has allowed them to spend centuries improving their craft to near perfection, creating some of the best wines on earth.
Setting aside the exceptional quality that can be found in most European wines as a result of their detailed histories, seeing these places is just really cool! There are wineries in Europe that have been forced to go underground for decades or centuries. There are wineries that have been staffed entirely by monks. There are even wineries that played a part in the resistance movements of the second world war! Are any American wineries anywhere near as cool?
Why tour European vineyards?
Now, if you’ve never thought of visiting Europe or touring its extensive wine-making centers, you may be asking “why should I visit European wineries?” This question is reasonable, really; there are plenty of excellent vineyards and wineries in the US. Why take all the effort just to go and visit the ones in Europe?
The answer to this question is quite simple. No matter where you go in the US, none of the wineries you can visit have even a fraction of the history and tradition that European wineries do. It’s not about elitism or exclusivity; it’s about appreciating the men and women who have spent centuries painstakingly honing their craft, until it can be honed no further. We think this merits a trip at the very least!
If you haven’t gathered as much by now, this article is about the Wineries in Europe. In the sections below, we’ll be taking a look at the best wineries on the continent, and giving our recommendations on how to best make them a part of your European experience. With things going the way they are, you might not have the chance to see them again; so make it count!
Odobești Cellar – Romania
When you think of Romania, what comes to mind? Is it vampires, living in spooky, cobweb-laced medieval castles? Perhaps it’s a foggy notion of some post-Soviet republic in the Balkans, the existence of which you’re aware of but couldn’t point to on a map to save your life. Among westerners, Romania is all too often perceived as a backwards and undeveloped country that merits little attention; if there’s anything fit to dispel that notion, it’s this winery!
Tucked away in the gently rolling hills of the Romanian countryside, Cramele Odobești is a winery that is every bit as beautiful as its wine is delicious. The winery and its manufacturing floor are both open to the public with a reservation, making it the perfect place to explore all your wildest winemaking fantasies. Take your girlfriend, husband or best friend; we guarantee you won’t regret it!
While you’re in the region, you can also explore Romania; allow us to tell you, it’s not at all like you may have imagined it! A far cry from the bleak cityscapes that pervade the capital, the Romanian countryside is beautiful, vibrant and full of life. As you sit on a pleasant hillside watching the sunset while the wind gently tussles your hair, you might just fall under the conviction that you’ve found heaven on earth. In a place like this, we’d tend to agree!
Kutjevo – Croatia
There’s another country in Eastern Europe about which even less is commonly known in America. That country? Croatia, of course! This pleasant little country on the banks of the Mediterranean looks like something straight out of a fairytale, with immaculate pebble white sand beaches, crystal clear water and balmy coastal weather. But you’re not in Europe for the culture or the scenery; you’re here to sample the wine!
Luckily, Croatia has that in spades. With vineyards, cellars and wineries that have weathered the winds of change for centuries, this is the place to go if you’re looking for some delicious wine that has stood the test of time. Case in point? The beautiful winery and delicious wine in the city of Kutjevo, Croatia!
The winemakers in Kutjevo haven’t just been twiddling their thumbs for all these centuries; they’ve been perfecting their recipe and wine-making techniques! The most notable results of these labours are undoubtedly the legendary Graševina de Gotho wines, which have obtained international recognition and acclaim for their rich and savoury flavor palettes. If you’re planning a trip to Europe, don’t miss this winery!
Château de Goulaine – France
Wait a minute… were we really going to write an article about the oldest and best wineries in Europe without mentioning France? Of course we weren’t! French wine is, without a doubt, the most famous wine in the world. Wine enthusiasts travel from all over the world to taste its delicious pinots, cabernets and merlots, accounting for a sizable chunk of the overall tourist industry each year. But there are so many great wineries to choose from; which should you choose? Why, Château de Goulaine, of course!
As the oldest winery in France, Château de Goulaine has a history that dates back to the eleventh century. The chateau itself has been home to the Marquis de Goulaine as long or longer than the wineries have been in business, making it one of the oldest noble dynasties in France to boot. But you aren’t here to learn historical trivia; you’re here to learn about wine!
Luckily, Château de Goulaine has just what you’re looking for. The grapes used in the manufacture of the wines sold by the chateau are among the best in the world, carefully cultivated by only the most senior arbormasters. The wine is pressed, strained and bottled at the highest standards of excellence as well, which makes for some of the best wine we’ve ever had. If you’re in Europe, be sure not to miss this one!
Staffelter Hof – Germany
Coming in last but certainly not least, we’ve got the oldest winery in continental Europe: Staffelter Hof in Kröv, Germany. Founded by devout monks of the town abbey circa 950 CE, the humble but charming appearance of this winery belies its extensive history and painstakingly preserved traditions. With all this going for it, it’s no wonder that the wine is so good!
While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about the wines made at the Staffelter Hof winery. By volume, the wines made at the winery are primarily white, made from Riesling, Rivaner and Sauvignon Blanc varieties. The vineyards also produce Pinot Noir and Regent grapes, both of which are used in the production of their respective wines.
But wine isn’t the only thing made at Staffelter Hof; there’s also a thriving distillery on site! Sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century, the facilities were expanded to accommodate the production of world class schnaps, as well as a variety of homemade liqueurs and other spirits. If you’re an alcohol enthusiast, you won’t want to miss this one. It’s perfect for enthusiasts of all proclivities!
All in all, we’re convinced that visiting Europe is well worth it for anyone who loves a good glass of wine. With some of the oldest and most well-established vineyards and wineries in the world, the variety and selection on display is enough to make any wine enthusiast go weak at the knees. You might not remember much of your vacation afterwards, but we guarantee you it will be a hell of a time.
Of course, wine isn’t the only worthwhile thing in Europe; there’s no shortage of tourist attractions and vacation spots on the continent. From frigid but cozy winter wonderlands in the Nordic countryside to balmy summer paradises on the Mediterranean, there’s a little something here for just about anyone. If you’re not sure where to go for this year’s vacation, we think Europe might fit your vacation needs quite nicely!