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Beyond the cellar door: 5 wineries with a difference

Gourmet dining, in-depth degustation classes, nature trails, and even cycling through cellars: visiting a vineyard is no longer just about the wine, say Audley Travel’s team of global travel specialists.

Here, in no particular order, they’ve selected five wineries from around the world that elevate your wine-tasting experience. Several are boutique winemakers, while others are located in less-obvious wine regions, meaning you’re unlikely to encounter big crowds.

Bouvet-Ladubay, the Loire Valley, France

This Loire producer of sparkling wines keeps its bottles in vast caverns, the leftovers of the region’s tuffeau limestone quarries. Today, you can take a bicycle tour of this subterranean warren, your headlamp illuminating aisles of wooden barrels and crates as you go.

Your guide explains how the caves’ temperature is ideal for helping to age the wines, and how wine is specially stored down here. A tasting follows — see if you can detect the cave’s mineral tang in the different sparkling varieties. Our specialists rate the Bouvet Brut Zéro.

Babylonstoren, near Paarl, South Africa

Babylonstoren Farm near Paarl, South Africa

A 17th-century estate at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains, Babylonstoren is an experience, not just a cellar door. The vineyard is part of a boutique hotel (where you can also stay), and the whole complex is a sustainable working farm.

You can follow up tastings with tours of the gardens and farm, making your own perfume, and dining in the farm-to-table restaurant. The oaked chardonnay has cachet, but our South Africa specialists recommend the Mourvedre rosé — pale, delicate, and crisp.

Nk’Mip Cellars, the Okanagan Valley, Canada

Vineyards on the shores of Lake Okanagan, British Columbia

Many wineries have their own restaurants, but Nk’Mip Cellars in Canada’s fertile, off-the-beaten track Okanagan Valley, deserves a special spot in the pantheon. From their patio restaurant, you look out over braided vines to Lake Okanagan itself.

Pronounced ‘inkameep’ and founded by a member of Osoyoos Indian Band, it was the first indigenous-owned winery in Canada. Their pairing menus reflect this heritage: there’s one based around the ‘food chiefs’ of local indigenous cooking, which pairs wines with salmon, bitterroot, and Saskatoon berry.

Voyager Estate, Margaret River region, Western Australia

Vineyards in Margaret River region, Western Australia

The understated Margaret River region — dotted with karri trees and home to boutique wineries rather than household names — is a great variation on Australia’s better-known winelands, such as the Hunter Valley or Yarra Valley.

Our Australia specialists like Voyager Estate, an organic winery that gives you a comprehensive introduction to its practices. On its ‘Voyager Estate Unearthed tour’, you won’t just have a tasting. There’s a vineyard walk, then an in-depth class on the characteristics of Margaret River staples such as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc sémillon — followed by a sumptuous cheeseboard.

Bodega Garzón, near José Ignacio, Uruguay

The first sustainable winery outside North America, Uruguay’s leading eco-winemaker makes a statement in many ways — not least through its entranceway, which greets you with ornamental pools and an enormous contemporary chandelier.

The fine dining restaurant is impressive, but what our specialists really like are the variety of activities on offer. Think picnics among the vines, cooking classes, and self-guided nature trails (binoculars provided), plus a chance to ‘blend you own’.

Explore more wine-related adventures with Audley Travel — a tour operator with more than 25 years’ experience in creating meaningful travel shaped around you.

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