Sweetest Wine Country Towns

For this collection of must-visit wine towns across the globe, we’ve found underappreciated spots in well-known regions and in some places that might surprise you.

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Wine regions, with their rolling hills and grape-laden vines basking in the breeze under a reliable sun, are naturally beautiful places. And the small towns of wine country, with their farm-to-table restaurants, tasting rooms where you’ll be welcomed like an old friend, and museums, galleries, and countless other things to do, make practically perfect travel destinations. So pour a glass of something full bodied and start dreaming of your next trip.

North America

The sweetest wine towns in the United States

California is rightly revered as a premier wine destination but don’t stop there: Examine the U.S. map beyond the Golden State and a world of choice awaits. Washington, Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, and Minnesota (yes, Minnesota) are among the states that offer similarly excellent wines, bucolic estates, and tiny towns where a warm welcome awaits.

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A Washington State wine tour

East of the Cascade Mountains that bisect the state of Washington, climate and geography combine to create perfect winemaking conditions and a spectacular backdrop for tasting trips. The land of hilltop wineries and glacial lakes harbors several small wine towns, including Woodinville, only 30 minutes from Seattle; Leavenworth, where Bavarian-themed buildings stand in the shadows of the “American Alps”; and Walla Walla, a college town near the Oregon border.

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South America

An Argentinian wine town that isn’t Mendoza

The malbecs of Mendoza bring many a wine drinker to Argentina, but for a different experience, try Cafayate. This Andean mountain town is set among some of the highest altitude vines in the world, which turn out robust reds and excellent white torrontés—perfect pairings for grilled meats or an empanada or two. The colonial town looks much like it did at its founding as a mission in 1840 and is surrounded by striking rock formations.

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Europe

Europe’s most charming small wine towns

Europe is rich in the kind of wine towns that should be on every oenophile’s list. Across the continent, the terroir and the languages may vary, but the formula remains the same: world-class bottles, great food, and a host of sights and activities. Our roundup of 12 destinations includes a mix of classic and lesser-known spots: a Provençal fishing village; a hilltop town in Tuscany; an ideal spot to sip volcanic reds in Sicily; and a lakeside treat in Hungary.

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Another side of Burgundy

Less renowned than Dijon but equally worth a visit, the quiet town of Beaune is a beautiful mélange of architectural treasures and family-run cellars. Visitors can sample world-class pinot noirs and chardonnays before feasting on menus gourmand and sampling the region’s other specialty, mustard. At night, they sleep in canopied beds under wood-beamed ceilings at historic hotels. Stay for a few days and you can also visit a number of wineries and châteaux just a short drive away.

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Asia

Japan’s answer to Napa Valley

Katsunuma might be less familiar than, say, Calistoga, but that’s precisely why it’s worth exploring. In Japan’s main wine region, Koshu Valley, you can taste wine in temples, hike up spectacular mountains, and relax in an onsen. Also, the grape clusters there wear hats to keep the rain off, which seems reason enough to visit.

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Australia

7 Must-visit Australian wine towns

Where to start in a country as vast as Australia, where juicy grapes grow on Perth’s Indian Ocean coast, in the countryside northwest of Sydney, and on the rugged island of Tasmania? Start small. Near top vineyards across the country there are dozens of towns where you can pair your tasting sessions with fine food, cultural excursions, or wildlife-spotting in the country’s vast outdoors. We’ve rounded up seven to get you started.

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Tim Chester is a deputy editor at AFAR, focusing primarily on destination inspiration and sustainable travel. He lives near L.A. and likes spending time in the waves, on the mountains, or on wheels.
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