Six of the best: Scenic wine regions


You'd expect a place nicknamed "the smile on the face of Austria" to be pretty, and this gentle upsweep of the Danube an hour out of Vienna is one of those ridiculously cute European congregations of vineyard, ruined castle (Durnstein), splendid baroque abbey (Melk), crenellated old town (​Krems) and river scape. Cycling along the river path on the north bank provides great outlooks while alleviating guilt over wine and cream-cake indulgence. Lovely scenes can also be enjoyed from the baroque mini-mansion of cellar door Domane Wachau among Austria's famous Kellerberg vineyards, which produces gruner veltliner grapes.

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One of Australia's least-known wine regions runs along the border of NSW in south-east Queensland, and has both interesting wines and scenery thanks to its high altitude and four distinct seasons. Fifty-odd cellar doors produce shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and semillon, but the region has notable Mediterranean varietals such as nebbiolo, sangiovese and tempranillo too. National parks such as Girraween and Sundown have rugged landscapes dotted with great granite outcrops and wildflowers, while stone-fruit orchards provide a glorious springtime confetti-drift of blossoms. It's enough to make you cackle like the happy rosellas that tumble through the Granite Belt's trees.

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Switzerland isn't often associated with wines, but that's because they're nearly all consumed domestically. The Lake Geneva region has 26 appellations and produces mostly crisp, fruity white wines and some gamay reds. The Route des Vignerons drive takes you high along the flanks of Lake Geneva, where steep vine terraces provide sumptuous outlooks over the lake towards the French Alps. Walking paths are just as scenic: try the meander between Lully and Féchy, or the Grande Traversée de Lavaux through the World Heritage-listed eastern end of the lake, where a dozen modest cellar doors supply extravagant views. 

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Away from the world's famous wine regions are other fine surprises, notably Oregon's Willamette Valley, which has some 400 boutique wineries, mostly producing pinot and chardonnay but with plenty of intriguing varietals too, from marsanne to viognier and gamay noir. The 240-kilometre valley features green rolling hills, pine forest and a backdrop of purple mountains that culminate in the occasional show-stopping volcano. There are brilliant views around any number of cellar doors, from the sweeping panoramas over the Cascade Mountains at Marks Ridge Winery to outlooks towards the icy pyramid of Mount Hood from Quailhurst Vineyard. 

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Practically every New Zealand wine region is beautiful, but follow the road out of Queenstown towards Gibbston Valley and beyond for a full panorama of snow peaks and lakes. Particularly scenic sips can be enjoyed at chic Amisfield Estate – whose Arcadia wine is nicely accompanied by a Serrano ham platter – and Rippon Vineyard, which has marvellous views over Lake Wanaka towards the Buchanan Mountains. The fast-growing wine region has some 80 cellar doors where you can try not just impressive pinot noirs but other whites as well, including interesting, obscure grape types such as muller-thurgau or breidecker. 


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Follow the brown tourist road signs between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, east of Cape Town, and drive among green valleys, neatly-pegged vineyards and rugged mountains, beneath which hunker gabled Dutch farmhouses fronted by gardens of hydrangeas and roses. The section of the R310 that swings over Helshoogte Pass is particularly magnificent. Top scenic cellar doors include Rustenberg estate, reached down a kilometres-long road lined by flowerbeds and cattle-dotted hills, and Vergelegen​ for its 1700s manor house, 300-year-old camphor trees and gorgeous gardens. And it isn't only the region's wines and scenery that seduce: this is a noted gourmet destination, too. 

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The writer travelled as a guest of Austrian National Tourist Office, Destination Queenstown, Switzerland Tourism, South African Tourism and Travel Oregon.