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June 13, 2024

The world’s 50 best vineyards to visit in 2023

Arushi Sakhuja
Wine connoisseurs know that a fine bottle of wine comes from a great vineyard, and making wine is a long process. Hence, it’s imperative to recognize and celebrate fine quality winemakers who take decades to perfect that bottle of Merlot. Earlier this month, the annual list of the World’s 50 Best Vineyards was announced. The list honours the effort that goes behind the topmost wines and the vineyards that produce them. At this new global ranking, Argentina’s Catena Zapata was crowned the No. 1 wine estate in the world to experience firsthand.  
According to the website, the list spans five continents, showcasing the finest vineyard experiences from around the globe, and is chosen by 500 travel and wine tourism experts. The 2023 edition features 15 new additions to the list. Many of the wineries on the list also offer something a little different – such as a horse-drawn vintage carriage tour through the vineyard, tapas amid a collection of beautifully restored classic cars, art from the likes of Pablo Picasso, and lessons in cooking on an open fire.  
All the places on the World’s 50 Best Vineyards list are worth visiting and offer an experience to remember – and delicious wines! From Spain, Chile, and South Africa to Japan, here’s a looking at the top vineyards worth a visit.  
Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina 
Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina
Photo Courtesy: Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina
Topping the world’s 50 best vineyards was the family-run Catena Zapata in Argentina. This is known to be Argentina’s first wine family founded in 1902 by Nicola Catena, who championed the Malbec grape.  
Inspired by Mayan temples, the pyramid-shaped winery is an attraction in itself, but the estate also offers three types of tours, which must be reserved. The ‘Family is Everything’ tour outlines the family’s oenological progress over the years. The ‘Blending Games’ experience turns you into a winemaker for a day, and the ‘Wine and Music’ tour is a multi-sensory session bringing the wines to life in novel ways. And when you’re at Argentinian Malbec don’t forget to try the signature Catena Zapata. Owing to the higher altitudes, it is floral, pretty and surprisingly light in colour. The estate also produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and a set of indigenous grape varieties, some in a natural style. 
Bodegas de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal, Rioja, Spain 
Bodegas de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal, Rioja, Spain 
Photo Courtesy: World’s Best Vineyards
The Frank Gehry masterpiece is now a familiar sight on the Rioja landscape, a futuristic aesthetic belying the history it encases. Founded in 1858, this is where the first ever Rioja wines were bottled.  At the heart of this ‘City of Wine’ is the Plaza del Reloj (‘Square of the Sun Dial’) where you’ll find the original bodega, built in 1860 and home to the old cellars with bottles dating back to the first ever vintage. In 1883 the building was extended in the Bordeaux style and, known as El Palomar (‘The Dovecote’), this is where the family’s premium wines are now made.  
At this vineyard, red wines are made predominantly from the signature Tempranillo grape, with some Graciano and others also going into a summery rosé blend. A sturdier rosé comes from Castilla y León and whites from the family’s Rueda vineyards, using Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc. Today the vineyard is also known for its futuristic Frank Gehry-designed hotel. The 61 luxurious rooms, of which ten are suites, distributed in two buildings linked by a spectacular cantilevered walkway, are all different and unique. 
VIK, Cachapoal Valley, Chile 
VIK, Cachapoal Valley, Chile 
VIK, Cachapoal Valley, Chile
Set across 4,300 hectares in Chile’s Millahue Valley, VIK is one of the world’s most unique wineries and finds a spot in the world’s 50 best vineyards. A visionary blend of wine, architecture, landscape and luxury, the winery has always placed innovation and science at the centre of everything it does. Set among the vines and with the mighty Andes providing a stunning backdrop, the winery alone is a sight to behold.  Visitors are also invited to stay at the property. The hilltop retreat boasts 22 suites, superb dining experiences and an array of activities. 
Creation, South Africa 
Creation, South Africa 
Photo Courtesy: World’s Best Vineyards
The vineyard that took the fourth place in the world’s 50 best vineyards, has a gorgeous holiday cottage made of eucalyptus timber with views over the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and occasional leopard sightings. Translating as heaven and earth, Hemel-en-Aarde lies a couple of hours down the coast from Cape Town with a cool climate ideal for producing fresh, refined Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  
Creation’s location on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge puts the vineyards at around 290 metres, boosting the wines’ acidity and freshness. Chenin Blanc is also produced, along with Bordeaux and Rhone varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier). 
Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Bordeaux, France 
Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Bordeaux, France 
Photo Courtesy: World’s Best Vineyards
Number five on the world’s 50 best vineyard list was Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Bordeaux, France.  In 1990, the estate was bought by former French Olympic skier Daniel Cathiard and his wife Florence, who have embraced biodynamic farming and turned this quintessential Bordeaux winery into a luxury destination. The five-star Les Sources de Caudalie is an opulent bolthole right in the middle of the vineyards. Within its timbered frame, you can enjoy two-Michelin-starred restaurant La Grande’Vigne, or more rustic fare at the cosy countryside inn La Table du Lavoir. A spa offers Caudalie Vinothérapie and with a shop, wine bar, pool, gym, sauna, tennis court and more, one night may not be enough. Day visitors should make a beeline for the tasting room in the orangery.  
The château produces red and white blends using the seven Bordeaux grape varieties, farmed under biodynamic principles – with a little technological assistance. The grapes are monitored by satellite images to tell the team when they should be hand-harvested.   
Bodega Garzón, Maldonado, Uruguay 
Bodega Garzón, Maldonado, Uruguay 
Photo Courtesy: World’s Best Vineyards
Bodega Garzón, Maldonado, Uruguay takes the number six spot on the world’s 50 best vineyard list. The Bodega Garzón winery is already spearheading the Uruguayan wine scene.  Bodega Garzón sits at the same latitude as the finest wineries in Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The 240 hectares under vine are separated into more than 1,000 separate plots, each one identified for its specific microclimate, orientation, humidity, sun exposure and soil composition. 
Tannat is the standout grape, of Bodega Garzón in particular; it is afforded freshness and nuance by the moderating impact of the Atlantic to the south (its Antarctic currents especially), for bold yet taught wines. Experiments with white varieties including the Spanish Albariño are proving hugely promising. There is plenty to keep you entertained, from hiking and picnicking within the vineyards to horse riding, hot air ballooning, and a tennis court.  Patagonian superstar chef Francis Mallmann adds a deliciously wild element to dining here. 
Montes, Colchagua Valley, Chile 
Montes, Colchagua Valley, Chile 
Photo Courtesy: World’s Best Vineyards
Montes, Colchagua Valley, Chile opened in 2004, with a sustainable ethos and feng shui design supervised by expert Sylvia Galleguillos.  Elsewhere, you’ll find metal in the stainless-steel tanks that ferment the wine, here wood in the French oak barrels used to age it. Guided tours will take you down to the cellars, where you’ll find 800 oak barrels in a spectacular semi-circular arrangement being serenaded by Gregorian chants to give the wines optimal ageing conditions. 
 The winery is based in the estate’s prestigious Apalta vineyards, in the Colchagua Valley, and flagship cuvées include the ‘Alpha M,’ an intense red blend only made in prime vintages and aged for 18 months in new French oak. It also includes the Montes ‘Folly,’ one of Chile’s first ultra-premium Syrahs made from the Apalta vineyards’ steepest and highest slopes.  
Schloss Johannisberg Rheingau, Germany 
Schloss Johannisberg Rheingau, Germany 
Photo Courtesy: World’s Best Vineyards
At number 8 on the world’s 50 best vineyard list is Schloss Johannisberg Rheingau Germany. It was only in 1971 that this was legally designated as its own individual vineyard site. It is a founding member of the quality-focused German growers’ association, the VDP, and has consistently proven itself as one of the finest producers of Riesling in every style. 
The vines are planted on 50 hectares of a south-facing quartzite hill, slap bang on the 50th parallel north circle of latitude. The stark difference in temperature between day and night enables the grapes to ripen fully whilst retraining high acidity, their aromatic concentration bestowing phenomenal ageing potential. A typical day kicks off with a guided tour of the eighteenth-century palace before lunch in the Schlossschänke restaurant, and you can enter the iron gate into the 900-year-old subterranean Bibliotheca, which houses the estate’s most precious wines, the oldest from 1748. 
Bodegas Salentein Uco Valley, Argentina 
Bodegas Salentein Uco Valley, Argentina 
Photo Courtesy: World’s Best Vineyards
At number 8 on the world’s 50 best vineyard list is Bodegas Salentein Uco Valley, Argentina. Bodegas Salentein was born in 1996 when Dutch entrepreneur Mijndert Pon bought the present estate and began planting vineyards. Winemaking at Salentein is led by José Galante, considered by many to be the father of modern winemaking in Argentina. José and his team work with 800ha of premium vineyards, located between 1,050 and 1,600m altitude. This high elevation, combined with the region’s mixed stony alluvial soils, provides the foundations for Salentein to produce wines of wonderful definition and distinction. 
El Enemigo Wines Mendoza, Argentina 
El Enemigo Wines Mendoza, Argentina 
Photo Courtesy: World’s Best Vineyards
The world’s 50 best vineyard list features El Enemigo Wines Mendoza, Argentina at number 10. The original goal was to produce a cool climate, high altitude Cabernet Franc – Cheval Blanc in particular. Today, their Cabernet Franc is peppered with a hint of Malbec, displaying the sharpness and tannic grip they both craved. Also very popular is the ‘Gran Enemigo’ Cabernet Franc-dominated blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot.  
Run by Alejandro and his wife María, who are often to be found mingling with guests, Casa Vigil offers some of the finest dining in the region, with three, seven and nine-course tasting menus paired with the full portfolio of El Enemigo wines. The spot is most atmospheric at sunset when the light filters through the stained-glass windows to a dazzling effect. 
For the entire list click here 
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Arushi Sakhuja

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