SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Wine tourists are a growing breed as wineries around the globe step up their game and offer visitors better services and gourmet food alongside wine tasting.
Forbes.com (www.forbes.com) has come up with 10 top international wine destinations assisted by George Taber, author of "In Search of Bacchus: Wanderings in the Wonderful World of Wine Tourism." The list is not endorsed by Reuters:
1. Castello Banfi, Tuscany, Italy
The Banfi winery was started by John Mariani, an American wine importer. One of the more gorgeous wineries in Tuscany, it boasts a beautiful castle with two great restaurants, a wine tasting room and cellar tour.
2. Montes, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Montes is among the most well-known Chilean wine producers, but it hasn't lost its eccentricity. "It's the only winery in the world I know where the wines are aged with Gregorian chants being played in the background," says Taber.
3. Ken Forrester, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Stellenbosch is considered one of the most beautiful wine areas in the world, with a Mediterranean climate and scenery reminiscent of the Napa Valley, without the crowds. Winemaker Ken Forrester made several trips to France's Loire Valley before applying his expertise back home in South Africa.
4. Fournier, Mendoza, Argentina
This winery is only about 10 miles from the Andes "so in the background you can see the snow-capped mountains all year long," says Taber. The winery has a modern design, almost like a spaceship that landed in the middle of the desert.
5. Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River, Australia
Margaret River is closer to Singapore than it is to Melbourne, so it's a long trip getting there. "It's a little pocket that makes just outstanding wines," says Taber. The beautiful landscape with old forests "is so isolated it's not so crowded -- you get wonderful service."
6. Felton Road, Central Otago, New Zealand
Relatively new to the wine world, Central Otago is also the southernmost wine region on the planet. Some areas, like the Gibbston Valley, are more aesthetically pleasing than others, such as the Bannockburn area, the site of Felton Road. But Otago's pinot noir superstars, such as Carrick, Mt. Difficulty, Akarua and Felton Road are all here in Bannockburn.
7. Bodegas Ysios, Rioja, Spain
The area has become famous in the past few years for architecture by the likes of Frank Gehry. Bodegas Ysios, designed by Santiago Calatrava, resembles the mountains that lie just behind it. "They also make great wine," says Taber.
8. Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley, Portugal
Reach this winery by driving along narrow, winding roads. If you're planning on tasting more than one glass of wine, consider staying the night. "They have a guest house hotel that has beautiful views," notes Taber.
9. Chateau Lynch-Bages, Bordeaux, France
Bordeaux is known to produce some of the best wines in the world. But until recently, the region did not have a reputation for beautiful views or a friendly tourist experience. Lynch-Bages now offers a hotel, restaurants and shopping.
10. Peter Jakob Kuhn Oestrich, Rhein/Mosel, Germany
This is one of the world's most romantic settings, with mountain-top castles and a friendly, welcoming winery. Don't be put off by the screw caps on all this winery's bottles, says Taber -- the wines are now the best and most consistent they've ever been.
(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)