There’s a mound of stones on my mantel: white chalk, black basalt, a fossilised oyster shell, sharp slivers of slate, bits of sandstone, chert and pebbles.
I enjoy vivid memories of the vineyards where I found these special souvenirs. At the Nacional plot at Quinta do Noval’s vineyard, high up in the Douro Valley, the afternoon light danced upon the silvery rock as I picked it up, the taste of that wine still on my lips. The vast sky above the snow-capped Andes was bright as I enjoyed an Argentine Riesling and collected one stone from what looked like a sea of pebbles. In the Côte de Nuits, it was a horse-drawn plough that revealed my cream-colored piece of limestone.
These are just some of the souvenirs that bring places to life for me as I sip their wines. It’s my business to understand wine, and there’s no better way to achieve that than to go stand in the vines, to feel the same sun and wind as its grapes do.
Oh, The Places I’ll Go In 2018
First, I will revisit the Felton Road vineyards in Central Otago, New Zealand, where I worked harvest in 2009.
After that, I will criss-cross German regions from Ahr to Sachsen for a new project.
I also itch to visit the slopes of Ribeira Sacra in northern Spain, and the volcanic vineyards of Mount Etna in Sicily.
In addition to place, wine is also about people. It’s a walk in a vineyard with the women and men who make the wine, looking inside their cellars, listening and learning from them. Every wine lover should try it.
Increasingly, wine regions understand this intimate connection. They seek to communicate what make their wines unique, and the best way to do that is to welcome you.
Wine tourism has come a very long way since the first few routes were signposted in continental Europe in the 1950s. It’s now a key industry, integral to regional revenues. Just think of places like Napa Valley (a region that’s never needed your visit and support more), Bordeaux and the new Cité du Vin. Consider luxurious wine spas, designated wine hiking trails, all of the regional wine routes and wineries with world-class restaurants and overnight accommodations across the globe.
You don’t even need to be well-heeled to have such experiences. On some of my most memorable trips, I slept in my ancient Volvo that was parked overnight at a campsite. I figured that my money was better spent on wine.
Go and explore. If you love a certain wine, discover where it’s made. Meet the people who make it. You’ll experience so much more than just wine, but the landscapes, languages, foods and cultures that surround it. In an increasingly virtual world, these encounters will help you love the wine you’re with more. Every sip will become a greater pleasure.
Beauty, adventure and greater appreciation await—drink it all up.
When not traveling around the wine world, Contributing Editor Anne Krebiehl, MW, loves to grow roses and peonies in her London garden.
Published: January 19, 2018