1. Sanlucar de Barremeda
A small and indiscriminately located town in Andalusia, it is the home of Manzanilla sherry and a place I fell in love with last summer. As a result of my passion for sherry, Manzanilla being one of my favorites, the trek to Sanlucar was more like a pilgrimage than a vacation. Sitting at a beachside bar watching the sunset with a cold glass of Manzanilla sherry, I literally thought I had died and gone to heaven. Couple that experience with a tour of one of the oldest Manzanilla sherry houses, where I sipped 150yr old PX out of a barrel, and I would have to say this is a “don’t miss” for any wine lover.
2. Priorat and Montsant
Located just inland from the Roman town of Tarragona, this is one of the most exciting new wine regions in Spain. However, because Priorat wine is currently priced well beyond anyone’s wine budget, you might find yourself exploring other regions for economic reasons. Fortunately, there is another option. The region of Montsant literally circles Priorat, offering fantastic wine for great value. Rugged terrain with steep hills, poor soil and rich history, this region is a fun place not only to visit, but when stopping in the region’s default capital of Falstet, it is a great place to pick up some wine! Because production levels are so low, however, it may require you to book a ticket and plan a trip to taste many of the exquisite wines from this region, which in the grand scheme isn’t such a terrible thought to ponder.
3. La Rioja
How can I not mention Rioja? You have Longroño with narrow streets and winding roads where some of the regions greatest culinary treasures can be tasted – think stuffed mushrooms, white asparagus, and chorizo and potato stew, but you also have wine galore. Although for me, I would rather spend my time in Haro, a quaint town that is not only full of great restaurants that serve traditional roasted lamb, but also holds the greatest wine museum created by the winery Dinastía Vivanco. I’ve been to a lot of wine museums in my travels and to be honest, the majority of them bore me. What makes this wine museum different is that they take you through the entire wine making process from beginning to end, while giving you a unique and interesting perspective on the process of making wine. This is not to be missed by any wine lover who has a chance to wander over there.
Granted, you could probably visit this small Castilla y León town in a day, but it will be a day well spent. In truth, although the Bodegas are growing rapidly, they are relatively uneventful to visit and the region as a whole is a bit barren. On the other hand, this area is dripping in history, having sent some of its Toro wines with Columbus as he went off to re-discover the new world. Additionally, the town is nestled inside ancient stone walls where a castle and a quaint little square house several small bars offering just about every wine produced in the region. You can wander all night trying different tapas and tasting the rich ink like wines from this region, while feeling history vibrate through your soul. Plus, not a stone throw’s away, you have the incredible white wine region of Ruéda with its cornerstone grape Verdejo. The best part is the fact that you are only two and a half hours from Madrid, allowing you to not only visit the city famous for its night life and architecture, but also taste wines from one of the most famous regions in Spain!
Located in Portugal, this city has so much history and significance to the world of wine it would be a shame to miss it. Influencing such wines as Ribera del Duero and Toro in Spain, and Port in the Douro valley of Portugal, Oporto is wedged in the valley of the Douro River as it makes its exit out to the Atlantic. Steep slopes with colorful houses and historic buildings, Oporto even lays claim to one of Gustav Eiffel’s architectural achievements – a giant two level bridge that is the focal point for visitors to this town. Take a day to eat octopus at a small restaurant on the bank of the Douro and then wander across to the other side of the river and take a tour of the world’s most famous and historically significant Port houses where you can sample their wines. This year is the 250th anniversary of the region’s wine demarcation as the oldest regulated wine region in the world. If you visit Iberia, don’t forget this town!