8 Budget-Friendly Wine Tasting Destinations
Like their Iberian cousins, the Portuguese have long had an affinity for wine, although thankfully, they don’t seem to be as fond as mixing it with Fanta. Instead, Portuguese wines run the gamut from traditional wines to the delightfully off-kilter vinho verde, and the justifiably famous port.
Vinho verde, or "green wine," is produced in the rustic north of the country. The area is home to many small growers, and often produced for private consumption. The wine is produced without any aging, relying on the natural flavors of the local grapes. The fermentation process gives it a small amount of carbonation, which allows the subtle and light flavors to burst on the palate.
Elsewhere, both reds and whites are grown in just about every district. Wine is considered to be a necessity for a good meal, and thus it is quite easy to find both table and vintage wines, the latter
commanding rabid followers and high prices, especially in the case of the fortified port.
For travelers, Portugal is cheaper than the rest of Western Europe, although in major cities, you can still expect to pay around €20euro per person for a decent room. A good home base is Porto in the north, close to the nearby Douro Valley. Transport can be arranged there through some of the many private tour companies, which offer three to four different vineyard tastings, meals, and even relaxing river cruises (check out www.cellartours.com). Alternately, one might rent a car for a more personalized experience. Figure on about $30 to $40, plus gas. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Warl0rdPT)
Although oftentimes overlooked in favor of Californian dominance, New York has been producing high quality and low cost wines since 1788, and is the third largest production area in the US. It is also home to the oldest vineyard in the United States, and happens to be absolutely stunning during the harvest season.
Due to increasing sophistication with grafting Old World grapes to New World roots, New York wines run almost the full spectrum from sparkling whites to deep reds. Central New York, especially the Finger Lakes region, is famous for its whites, and excels at German varietals, especially gewürztraminer and riesling. The region also produces quality ice and sparkling wines. In contrast,
the Hudson Valley, just north of New York City, produces full-bodied reds, focusing on French grapes. As a general tip, 2005 was an incredible year throughout the state, making those bottles the best option.
Although not exactly budget, wine country in New York tends to be far cheaper than California or big American cities, and wine tours are quite affordable. Your best bet is to visit during the harvest times, as especially in the Hudson Valley, visitors are invited to help pick grapes and enjoy the products. Boutique B&Bs start around $70 a night, while good bottles of wine go from $8 and up. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/visit~fingerlakes)
The vineyards tend to band together onto specific wine trails, all of which offer maps for individuals with their own vehicles. Alternately, New York wine country is quite well served by private tours, ranging from party buses to more serious tours for true oenophiles. Good bets are the Cayuga trail near Ithaca and the Shawangunk Trail near New Paltz, about an hour north of New York City. Both trails are quite packed with hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.