10 Best Islands for Wine Tasting

Calling all oenophiles: these islands have noteworthy wine regions producing everything from refreshing Rosés to robust Cabernets.

April 10, 2018
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Yes, vineyards may be more commonly associated with valleys than islands, but plenty of great destinations that are lapped by bays and oceans also have noteworthy wine regions producing everything from refreshing Rosés to robust Cabernets. So if you love islands and wine tasting — and don’t want to choose between the two on your next vacation — check out these 10 options, some located close to home and others halfway around the globe.

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Okanagan Valley

Vancouver Island — Canada

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While British Columbia’s grape-growing is centered in the Okanagan Valley, the 37 wineries on Vancouver Island mean there’s plenty of sips to be savored. The first winery opened here in 1992 — and only a few varietals, namely Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Gewürztraminer, thrive in this seaside setting — but tastings are complemented by the island’s top culinary offerings. Many vineyards are in the Cowichan Valley between Victoria and Salt Spring Island, so it’s possible to whale watch in the morning and then enjoy a gourmet lunch and wine tasting in the afternoon.

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Elba, Italy

Elba — Italy

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This arid Italian island located off the coast of Tuscany — and best known as the place where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled in 1814 — has been making wine since ancient times. Modern viticulture now centers on Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Vermentino and Moscato, but you can also try varietals you might not be able to taste at home, such Elba Ansonica (a golden-hued white that can range from dry to sweet) and Elba Aleatico (a deep-red fruity dessert wine).

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Tasmania

Tasmania — Australia

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Famous for the endangered Tasmanian Devil as well as kangaroos and wombats, this heart-shaped island off the southern coast of Australia has also spent the past two decades developing four distinct wine trails that showcase cool climate varietals such as Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Choose from the Tamar Valley Wine Route (near Launceston and known for its gourmet dining), the Southern Wine Trail (near Hobart and offering access to artisanal cheeses, smoked salmon and fresh apples), the East Coast Wine Trail (great to combine with the scenic Great Eastern Drive) and the North West Wine Trail (near Devonport and the wildlife of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park).

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Hvar, Croatia

Hvar — Croatia

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Croatia has a wine culture that dates back more than 2,300 years and the sunny island of Hvar has a climate regulated by the Adriatic Sea that makes it ideal for growing grapes. Hvar wines are produced mostly from indigenous varietals — such as Plavac mali and Marastina — and the island now has a wine road and plenty of wine tours to make tastings at the terraced vineyards near Svirče, Vrisnik, Vrbanj, Pitve and Dol that much easier and enjoyable.

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: New Zealand

New Zealand

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You’ll never run out of tasting opportunities in New Zealand — and you’ll have two islands to sip on. On the North Island near Napier, you’ll find the Hawke’s Bay region, the country’s oldest and second largest with 72 wineries producing mostly Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. Near Wellington, the Wairarapa region has 42 wineries namely offering Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. On the South Island, a must-visit is Marlborough, which savvy winemakers put on the map in the 1980s with their aromatic Sauvignon Blanc.

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Mallorca, Spain

Mallorca — Spain

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To taste a half dozen varietals you’ve probably never heard of — such as Manto Negro, Giró Blanc, Callet and Fogonu — head to this Spanish island in the Mediterranean that has long been known for its beaches, but is also home to dozens of wine estates. Two of this mountainous island’s wine regions, Pla i Llevent and Binissalem, have been awarded the Spanish D.O. (Denominación de Origen) and visitors can opt for a variety of wine tours with transport options that include a van, train, bike or boat

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Madeira

Madeira — Portugal

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This Portuguese island, located in the Atlantic off the coast of North Africa, has a legendary wine named after it: Madeira was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The island has produced its namesake — a fortified wine that’s heated during the fermentation process, aged between five and 20 years and available as Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet or Sweet — since 1753. Tastings in the main city, Funchal, reveal distinct differences between the categories and among the wine houses producing them.

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Long Island, New York

Long Island, New York

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Beyond the suburban neighborhoods and strip malls of its western counties, Long Island boasts a bucolic wine region worth visiting. Along the rural roads of its North Fork, located about 90 minutes by car from New York City, vineyards and tasting rooms in Jamesport, Cutchogue, Mattituck and Southold draw weekenders and day trippers eager to try the Merlots, Cabernets, Chardonnays and blends that its winemakers have been producing for four decades. You can also shop farm stands for local produce and dine at restaurants offering farm-to-table menus and fresh seafood.

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Santorini, Greece

Santorini — Greece

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The Greeks have been making wine for several millennia and they’ve even managed to coax some terrific whites, reds and rosés from the volcanic landscape of this sunny but windswept island. Here, grapevines sprawl outward on the ground rather than climb upward (to absorb all the moisture they possibly can) and the result is a pleasant surprise. Tours that visit two or three wineries are popular — or you can simply sit on a terrace in the photogenic village of Oia at sunset and try a few glasses of local Assirtyko (an aromatic white) or Mavrotragano (a rich, dry red).

Best Islands for Wine Tasting: Sardinia

Sardinia — Italy

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Italian, si, but Sardinian first and foremost. This postcard-perfect Mediterranean island that’s an autonomous region of Italy but has its own flag as well as cultural and culinary idiosyncrasies, also stands apart when it comes to wine. The favored white is light and refreshing Vermentino (grown mainly in the Gallura region) while among reds Sardinians adore deep-red, full-bodied Cannanou (aka Grenache), gown in Alghero, Sassari and Sorso.


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