Toast to Discovery: Europe’s 8 Best-kept Wine Secrets

Europe is synonymous with wine, boasting some of the oldest and most renowned wine-producing regions globally. While Bordeaux, Piedmont, and the Rhone Valley often steal the spotlight, a treasure trove of lesser-known wine countries awaits exploration.

From historic vineyards steeped in culture to expansive estates and unique island terroirs, here are 8 underrated wine destinations in Europe that promise unforgettable tasting experiences.

Discovering Georgia’s Wine Tradition

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With an 8000-year-old tradition of winemaking and more than 500 endemic varieties of wine grapes to its name, the country of Georgia is fast gaining a reputation as one of Europe’s best wine regions.

Most visitors opt for a wine tour in Kakheti, the most significant and productive wine region in the country’s east. Yet, there are appellations all over Georgia, from the highlands of Adjara above Batumi to Racha. A good time to visit is during Rtveli, Georgia’s annual wine harvest, which takes place in the last weeks of autumn.

Just organize your wine tour in advance, as most cellars are busy during this period. If you don’t have time to visit a wine region, you can find some terrific tastings offered at wine bars in Tbilisi.

Exploring Cyprus: A Wine Journey Through Millennia

Exploring Cyprus: A Wine Journey Through Millennia image

Cyprus boasts a winemaking history that spans millennia, blending ancient grape varieties with modern techniques to produce robust reds and crisp whites against stunning Mediterranean landscapes. One of Cyprus’s standout grape varieties, Xynisteri, flourishes in the island’s sun-kissed vineyards, producing aromatic and refreshing white wines that delight hot summer days.

Venture to the southern slopes where Maratheftiko grapes reign supreme, yielding bold and complex red wines that embody Cyprus’s winemaking prowess. Visit the ancient city of Kourion, where archaeological finds hint at Cyprus’s wine production dating back over 6,000 years, showcasing its integral role in Mediterranean trade and culture.

At local tavernas and wine bars, indulge in meze paired with indigenous wines like Commandaria, known as the world’s oldest named wine still in production, celebrated for its sweetness and historical significance. In the bustling capital of Nicosia, modern wine culture meets historic charm, with wine festivals and tastings that draw locals and tourists alike to celebrate Cyprus’s evolving viticulture.

Exploring Switzerland’s Hidden Wine Treasures

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You will rarely find Swiss wine sold outside the country, and that’s because it’s so good that the Swiss like to keep it for themselves. With around 15,000 hectares of vineyards, mainly in the south and west of the country where temperatures are warmer, wine tourism is a burgeoning industry in Switzerland.

The country has six wine regions, Vaud, Geneva, Valais, Three Lakes, Ticino, and German-speaking Switzerland, and a history of wine-making that dates back to Roman times. Around 148 million bottles of wine are produced each year, and only around 1% are exported. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that wine tourism is becoming more popular.

Along with tastings and tours at various wineries, wine hotels are being built to encourage connoisseurs to stay longer. Each of Switzerland’s wine regions has distinct characteristics, from the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lavaux vineyards above Montreux on Lake Geneva, Vaud, to the smallest vineyard in the world in Saillon, Valais.

Exploring Istria: Croatia’s Emerging Wine Destination

Exploring Istria: Croatia and #039;s Emerging Wine Destination image

Regarding emerging destinations in Croatia for wine, it’s hard to overlook Istria, the peninsula between Croatia and Slovenia that reaches out into the Adriatic Sea. This region’s Mediterranean climate makes it perfect for growing grapes, while an abundance of different terroirs ensures a wide variety of wines to try.

This is another wine region that vies for the title of Europe’s oldest. Viticulture in Istria dates back to at least the 6th century BC when it was introduced to the area by the Greeks.

Istrian wine production is small-scale, and there are a mere 4,000 hectares of vines in the area, but that’s precisely one of the things that makes it so wonderful. While exploring the region, one of the best things to do is visit a cellar for a wine degustation.

Exploring Hungary’s Underrated Wine Country

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Regarding underrated wine countries in Europe, Hungary stands out as another solid contender. If you’re into wine and need a break from the capital city, two of Hungary’s best wine regions are an easy day trip from Budapest. Visit the fairytale town of Eger in the Upper Hungary Region and seek out the Valley of Beautiful Women.

Try Tokaji Asz, the world’s first noble rot wine if you’re into something sweeter. The Tokaj region is the oldest recorded wine region in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to Tokaj and Upper Hungary, there are 20 other wine regions around the country.

Discover Moldova: Eastern Europe’s Rising Star in Wine

Discover Moldova: Eastern Europe and #039;s Rising Star in Wine image

Moldova, a hidden gem in Eastern Europe, is gaining recognition for its exceptional wines, particularly its renowned sparkling varieties crafted in the historic Cricova underground cellars. The country’s winemaking tradition dates back centuries, with vineyards spread across picturesque landscapes that rival those of more famous wine regions.

One standout feature of Moldovan wines is their excellent value for money, appealing to connoisseurs and casual enthusiasts. Visiting Cricova’s underground tunnels, where millions of bottles are stored, offers a fascinating glimpse into Moldova’s winemaking heritage.

Beyond sparkling wines, Moldova produces a wide range of varietals, from robust reds to crisp whites, each reflecting the region’s unique terroir. The capital city, Chisinau, is a hub for exploring Moldova’s wine culture, with many wineries just a short drive away.

Exploring Bulgaria’s Wine Regions

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From the Thracian Valley to the Black Sea coast, Bulgaria boasts diverse wine regions that yield a wide array of wines—the country’s winemaking heritage dates back thousands of years, rooted in ancient Thracian traditions. Bulgarian winemakers have also embraced international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in recent years, blending tradition with modern tastes.

With its fertile soils and favorable climate, the Thracian Valley is the heartland of Bulgarian wine production. Traveling east towards the Black Sea coast, the landscape shifts, influenced by maritime climates and refreshing sea breezes. Regions like Pomorie and Nessebar are emerging as key players, producing crisp white wines and elegant ross that reflect the coastal terroir.

Wineries in Bulgaria often combine traditional methods with state-of-the-art technology, ensuring each bottle captures the essence of its terroir. Whether you’re a seasoned oenophile or a curious traveler, Bulgaria offers a wine experience that marries ancient heritage with modern craftsmanship.

Exploring Lithuania’s Cool-climate Wines

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Lithuania, a Baltic country known for its rich cultural heritage, surprises wine enthusiasts with its emerging cool-climate wines. In the picturesque Dzūkija region, nestled among lush forests and rolling hills, local winemakers craft unique Pinot Noir and Riesling expressions. Despite its northern latitude, Lithuania’s climate and terroir create favorable conditions for growing these delicate grape varieties.

The cool nights and moderate temperatures during the growing season contribute to the wines’ crisp acidity and pronounced fruit flavors. For example, in the Dzūkija region, wineries like Aukštaitijos and Anykščių are gaining recognition for their commitment to quality and innovation.

Visitors to these wineries can experience firsthand the passion and craftsmanship that goes into each bottle. The region’s unique soil compositions, influenced by ancient glacial deposits, impart distinctive mineral notes to the wines. Local winemakers often blend traditional techniques with modern practices to showcase the best of Lithuanian viticulture.