To get the best wines you can isn’t hard. You only need to use four little words. Go into your local wine seller or reputable wine merchant, hand over a list and simply say, “ Got any of these?” It saves a lot of faff. And hit or miss.
You can also wave the same list at your travel agent and when greenlit, go and visit the winemakers and their vineyards in person and enjoy stunning wines in stunning settings.
The World’s Best 50 Vineyards have just been announced. So, at the top of your shopping list should be Argentina’s Zuccardi Valle de Uco, Rioja’s Bodegas de Los Herederos del Marques de Riscal and Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux.
They are the top three in a list that represents the best cellar door experiences on the planet. According to 600 travel experts and organizers, the UK-based William Reed Group, the leading information source for the food and drink industry.
Third generation winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi’s winery is in the Uco Valley desert. His family has been making wine since 1963. A new modernistic winery, completed in 2016, was designed by architects Tom Hughes, Fernando Raganato, and Eugenia Mora using only natural, local materials both inside and out. The vineyard on the alluvial plains of the Tunuyán River in Altamirais is named after the stones that had to be removed plant Malbec vines.
Overlooking the Andean landscape is an on-site restaurant, Piedra Infinita Cocina, offering four-course lunches of regional produce. Concrete eggs resembling amphorae are used for fermentation. The ‘Finca Piedra Infinita’ cuvée is the flagship wine.
Frank Gehry’s unforgettable futuristic aluminum ribbons wrapped around Rioja’s Hotel Marqués de Riscal reflect the purple, gold, and silver hues of Francesco Hurtado de Amezaga’s wines and bottles made in the bodega below.
Founded in 1858, the estate bottle the first-ever Rioja wines with the then Marquis’ first vintage in 1862. It is also where the trend for covering bottles of Rioja in golden mesh began, the estate’s wines have become so popular by the early twentieth century that they required a form of seal to ensure authenticity. Marqués de Riscal can furthermore be credited with introducing white wines to the nearby province of Rueda and assisting its elevation to DO status in the 1970s.
The 61-room hotel with its glass corridors and tilted walls is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection. It boasts a Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant led by chef Francis Paniego, another restaurant, an alfresco grill, and a Caudalie Vinothérapie spa. The Plaza del Reloj (‘Square of the Sun Dial’) contains the original bodega, built-in 1860, and home to the old cellars with bottles dating back to the first vintage.
Château Margaux – “the Versailles of the Médoc” – dates to the twelfth century and its winemaking history to the sixteenth, but its neo-Palladian villa is the nineteenth century and home to the First Growth winery with its gold and white labels. The winemaker is Philippe Bascaules. and owner Corinne Mentzeloppoulos. The new nouveau “Cha” was designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster and contains a research and development center and an orangery. He also designed the ‘Vinotheque.’
The top South African vineyard is “Creation”. Delaire Graff and Klein Constantia are also included in the vineyards which provide the best wines and best visitor experiences. Hensche is the top Australian, Taittinger the top Champagne house, and Craggy Ridge the leading New Zealand estate. Two US vineyards – Robert Mondani in Napa Valley and a- are included. As are Schloss Johannisburg which hosted the event and Austria’s Domaine Wachau. There are no British, Greek, or Bulgarian vineyards on the list.
Uruguay’s Bodega Garzon in Maldonado took fourth spot. It has a golf course. Its restaurant is overseen by Patagonian chef Francis Mallman who also supervises the kitchen at Montes in the Apalta vineyards of Chile’s Colchagua Valley. A guided tour takes you down to the cellars, where you’ll find 800 oak barrels which are serenaded by Gregorian chants to give the wines the optimal aging conditions. So you might be asked to sing for your supper.
Montes also has vineyards across the Aconcagua, Curicó, Itata, and Maule Valleys. its flagship cuvées includes the ‘Alpha M,’ an intense red blend only made in prime vintages and aged for 18 months in new French oak, and the Montes ‘Folly,’ one of Chile’s first ultra-premium Syrah made from the Apalta vineyards’ steepest and highest slopes, its bottles adorned with artwork by British illustrator Ralph Steadman.
Founded by an airline pilot, Captain Habib Karam, south Lebanon’s Karam Wines in Jezzine, an area famous for one of the world’s highest waterfalls and the Middle East’s largest pine forest. And now its wines and hospitality. The star wine is Meksassi. Lebanon’s Chateau Cana also features in the top fifty vineyards.
Chile has seven on the list followed by six Portuguese vineyards. There is no British one. Two Russian vineyards made the prestigious Alexander Sikorsky’s gravitational Sikory winery showcases the work of Alyona Tselousova with the Krasnostop Zolotovsky “red foot”) grape.
Using as many natural materials as possible, the winery’s award-nominated interiors were designed by Sikorsky’s elder daughter, Yulia, and based on her family’s Polish-Ukrainian roots. Ukraine’s traditional eight-point star adorning the walls and light fixtures in deconstructed forms. The circular tasting room peers down onto the cellar through a glass floor, with panoramic views over the Semigorye Valley. As well as gastro restaurant there is a grill house. Blankets are provided.
The Lefkada Valley, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains in the Krasnodar region, is where owner Mikhail Nikolaev and winemaker Roman Neborsky produce Bordeaux blends and single varietals including the Saperavi grape. There is a Museum of Wine and close by the opportunity to swim with sturgeon in Lake Gechepsin. The winery has an 11-room guesthouse, built-in minimalist Tuscan style. The first wines were made with late French consultant Patrick Léon, noted for his work at Mouton Rothschild.
The Antinori family has been making wine since 1385 when Giovanni di Piero Antinori became a member of the Florentine Winemakers’ Guild. Six centuries and 26 generations later, a cutting-edge winery amid olive groves and oak trees, its roof covered in vineyards, is home to gravity-flow vinification. The famous super-Tuscans, The Antinori family runs eight nine estates including Tenuta Tignanello. The winery holds an extensive art collection as well as the rooftop terrace restaurant, Rinuccio 1180. As well as Sangiovese, you can get to try local varieties like Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Malvasia Nera and Mammolo.