8 Budget-Friendly Wine Tasting Destinations
Because of wine’s long history in Georgia, the traditions of the country’s viticulture have become entwined with its national identity. It’s rare when traveling Georgia’s wine regions not to be invited into homes for endless glasses of homemade pinkish white wine, which is made by fermenting the grape on the grape skin — a process used only for red wine in the west.
Traditional Georgian grape varieties are little known in the West, but there are more than 400 to choose from, nearly 40 of which are officially grown for commercial viticulture. Many commercially marketed Georgia wines can taste sweet to a Western palette, but rely on the superavi grape for a crisp and plumy experience.
Georgia is a budget traveler’s paradise. Homestays (which includes breakfast, dinner, and usually endless wine) within Georgia’s principle wine region, Kakheti, cost around $20. You can hire a car and driver to tour the region for $60 a day (which can be split by up to five people), and your average bottle of wine will cost about $5The best base for touring Georgia’s wine region is the gorgeous, peaceful town of Signagi, reachable via mashrutka from Tbilisi for about $5.
Cyprus is another ancient wine country. It has been vine-growing and wine-producing for millennia. Internationally, it is best known for commandaria wine, an amber-colored sweet dessert wine that dates back to 800 B.C. Commandaria has the distinction of being the world’s oldest named wine still in production, with the "commandaria" name dating back to the crusades in the 12th century.
Most of the wine is produced from indigenous local grape varieties such as mavro (black), opthalmo (red), maratheftiko (red) and xynisteri (white), though international varieties such as cabernet
sauvignon and chardonnay have also been planted.
The Paphos region and the Lemesos (Limassol) region are the two largest wine growing areas in Cyprus. Their respective capitals, Paphos and Limassol, are good bases for exploration of the area. In both private double rooms can be found for less than $30. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Shelley & Dave)
Cyprus is small and getting around, as long as you aren’t crossing the border to the North, is simple and easy. Spurting around on a 100CC scooter costs less than $10 a day and is the best way to enjoy the island’s mild climate and scenery. Your average bottle of wine will cost around $6, and a decent meal in a midrange restaurant runs about $15. A good resource to help plan your Cyprus wine tour is Cyprus Travel Secrets.
Traditionally, Thai wines haven’t caused much fuss among wine enthusiasts. But over the past few years Thai winemakers have been borrowing technologies from France and Australia that have catapulted them to a new prominence in the market, making one the most popular budget destinations in the world also a nice destination for a wine holiday.
With 90-degree heat, 90 percent humidity, incredibly high precipitation, and flat, low altitude topology, growing wine grapes in Thailand has to be done a bit differently than pretty much everywhere else. One advantage, however, is the ability to harvest two crops of grapes per year.
There are three regions in Thailand that produce wine: Northern Thailand, Khao Yai, and the Chao Phraya delta, and tours can be easily arranged from Bangkok, which can serve as your base. You can hire your own taxi, which will cost about $45 a day, or you can arrange a tour through an agency, which costs around $50 per person and can be arranged through websites such as www.winetourthailand.com. Expect to pay between $5 and $9 for your average bottle. A double room in Bangkok runs about $15 and most meals will cost around $5; up to $15 in some of the nicer establishments. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/sherrattsam)