From the oldest wine-producing regions on Earth where culture and vine are intertwined to the largest vineyard in the world; from tiny island terroirs in the Mediterranean to the world’s most northerly commercial vineyard, here are 16 of the very best underrated wine countries in Europe!
Europe and wine go hand in hand – there’s simply no better place to dive into wine culture or sample the world’s finest vino. Beyond Bordeaux, Piedmont and the Rhone, there’s a gamut of underrated and lesser-visited wine regions waiting to be explored.
If you want to sip in near solitude or you’re looking to get something more out of your wine tasting experience, this list of up-and-coming wine destinations in Europe spans Cyprus to Switzerland and promises something for every palate.
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Top 16 underrated wine countries in Europe
With an 8000-year-old tradition of winemaking and more than 500 endemic varieties of wine grapes to its name, the country of Georgia is fast gaining a reputation as one of Europe’s best wine regions.
Georgia is known for its natural and low-intervention wines made in Qvevri, rotund clay vessels that are buried underground for temperature control throughout the fermentation process. Amber wines that use the whole grape – skins, stems, seeds and all – are synonymous with Georgia, as are deep red Saperavi and semi-sweet Khvanchkara wines.
Most visitors opt for a wine tour in Kakheti, the biggest and most productive wine region in the east of the country – yet there are appellations all over Georgia, from the highlands of Adjara above Batumi, to Racha. Family Maranis (cellars) welcome guests for casual tastings and tours, while some of the bigger commercial wineries host more formal degustations.
A good time to visit is during Rtveli, Georgia’s annual wine harvest, which takes place in the last weeks of autumn. Just be sure to organise your wine tour in advance as most cellars are very busy during this period. If you don’t have time to visit a wine region, you can find some terrific tastings offered at wine bars in Tbilisi.
Drink this: Kisi is a classic Georgian wine made from grapes grown in Kakheti. Its golden colour, fruity tones and rich tannins make it a firm favourite, while there’s a huge amount of variety between different bottles depending on the terroir and the winemaker.
Take a wine tour in Georgia: Full-day wine tour in Kakheti from Tbilisi.
Along with neighbouring Georgia, Armenia is one of the oldest wine-producing nations on earth. The country’s wine region centres on Areni in the central-west, home to an ancient wine-producing ‘facility’ inside Areni cave that dates back to 4000 BC.
Under the USSR, the Armenian wine industry faced a similar fate to that of the other Soviet Republics: Quantity was prioritised over quality, and many artisanal grape varieties became endangered as a result. Today, family winemakers are breathing new life into the industry by combining old traditions with innovations such as ‘wine cubes’, floating tasting rooms where you can sip fine Armenian wines in situ.
Armenia has five viticultural regions in total. Armavir Province to the west of Yerevan accounts for the bulk of the country’s grape production (for both wine and brandy) and is a good place to explore the wine route.
Drink this: Made from eponymous Areni grapes, full-bodied reds from Areni are synonymous with Armenia. For something lighter, white wines made with Voskehat or Kangun grapes are also very popular.
When it comes to emerging destinations in Croatia for wine, it’s hard to overlook Istria – the peninsula shared between Croatia and Slovenia that reaches out into the Adriatic Sea. This region’s Mediterranean climate makes it perfect for growing grapes, while an abundance of different terroirs ensures a huge variety of wines to try.
This is another wine region that vies for the title of Europe’s oldest. Viticulture in Istria dates back to at least the 6th century BC, when it was introduced to the area by the Greeks. Istrian wine production is small-scale and considered (there are a mere 4,000 hectares of vines in the area), but that’s precisely one of the things that makes it so wonderful.
Vineyards can be found all over the peninsula, scattered between Istria’s pretty hill towns and coastal villages. Whilst exploring the region, one of the best things to do is visit a cellar for a wine degustation.
In Red Istria, grapes for meaty reds and full-bodied whites are grown in the rich, terracotta-coloured soils that lead to the sea. Grey Istria, the interior of the peninsula, has earth rich in limestone and minerals and produces higher acidity, medium-bodied whites. And finally the rocky outcrops of White Istria, with soils even higher in limestone content, produce aromatic and high-acidity whites.
Drink this: Malvasia Istriana is the dominant grape variety in Istria. It makes a light, bright wine that pairs perfectly with fresh seafood. It’s often stored in amphorae (similar to Georgian Qvevri) to deepen the flavour.
Take a wine tour in Croatia: Wine tasting and bike tour of the protected nature reserve at Kamenjak.
Not many people know that Slovakia has a long wine tradition that dates back to medieval times, with strong ties to vineyards in France. The local wine isn’t very well known internationally, but it has a good reputation within Slovakia and neighbouring countries. Exploring local vineyards is a real treat for enotourists.
There are six wine regions, all of them located in the southern part of Slovakia. The most popular is the Little Carpathians Wine Region, a short excursion from the capital, Bratislava. Here you’ll find charming royal towns such as Svätý Jur, Pezinok and Modra and numerous family-owned wine cellars where you can stop to try local wines and learn more about the production.
The best time to visit this region is during Wine Cellars Open Day, which happens twice a year in May and November, and allows you to choose from over a hundred wines to try.
The Little Carpathians Wine Region is one of the easiest day trips from Bratislava – there are tours you can join (driving isn’t recommended if you plan to try all the good drinks). Another underrated wine region in Slovakia is Tokaj, usually associated with Hungary. A small part of this beautiful landscape lies in Slovakia, not far from Kosice.
Drink this: Slovak wines you should try include Ríbezlák (made from red and black currants), Frankovka Modrá, Svätovavrinecké, Veltlínské zelené and Rizling vlašský.
Take a wine tour in Slovakia: Sample 10 varieties of Slovakian wine in Modra in the Little Carpathians, a quick side trip from Bratislava.
By Kami from Kami And The Rest Of The World
You will rarely find Swiss wine sold outside of the country – and that’s because it’s so good, the Swiss like to keep it for themselves! With around 15,000 hectares of vineyards, mainly in the south and west of the country where temperatures are warmer, wine tourism is a burgeoning industry in Switzerland.
The country has six wine regions – Vaud, Geneva, Valais, Three Lakes, Ticino and German-speaking Switzerland – and a history of wine-making that dates back to Roman times. Around 148 million bottles of wine are produced each year with only around 1% exported.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that wine tourism is becoming more popular and, as well as tastings and tours at various wineries, wine hotels are being built to encourage connoisseurs to stay longer.
Each of Switzerland’s wine regions has its own distinct characteristics, from the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lavaux vineyards above Montreux on Lake Geneva (Vaud) to the smallest vineyard in the world in Saillon (Valais). It comprises just three vines and has been owned by the Dalai Lama since 1999.
Pinot Noir grapes account for 27% of Switzerland’s wine production with the white Chasselas variety accounts for 25%.
As its wines are largely unknown outside the country, a visit to any of Switzerland’s wine regions makes for a unique experience. With a huge variety of terroirs and over 250 varieties of grape being cultivated, there is bound to be a wine that is pleasing to your palate.
Drink this: Be sure to indulge in a glass of Chasselas, Switzerland’s most popular white wine. Low in alcohol and low in acidity, Chasselas is quite a neutral wine that really takes on the taste of the terroir in which it is grown.
Take a wine tour in Switzerland: Tour the UNESCO World Heritage vineyards at Lavaux from Geneva, with wine and fondue!
By Carolyn from Holidays to Switzerland
It wasn’t all that long ago that English wines had a bad reputation. However, with the warming climate and the growing skills of our producers, England’s many vineyards are now providing us with some exceptionally good wines.
Four counties in the south in particular stand out, namely Kent, Surrey, West and East Sussex. Not only is the climate in the south most suited to wine production, but there is also a chain of chalk, much like that found in the Champagne region of France, that is particularly good territory for vineyards. The flint-laden, chalky soil drains well and the flint captures the warmth of the sun during the day, keeping the temperature higher than it would otherwise be overnight.
Most of the grapes grown are whites, in particular Chardonnay, but some red grapes including Pinot Noir also do well here. Mostly, they are used in the production of sparkling whites and rose wines.
So, when it comes to English wines, think Champagne-style sparkling whites rather than full-bodied reds, as the climate simply isn’t hot enough for the latter. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that some Champagne companies are buying up English vineyards.
Drink this: There are several wines of particular note including a very fine Brut with a soft honey aroma from the Tinwood Estate at the foot of the South Downs National Park in West Sussex, England’s sunniest county.
By Kathryn from Sussex Bloggers
When you think of amazing wine growing regions around the world, Wales is not the place that comes to mind. Wine was first introduced to Wales by the Romans, though it took several hundred years before the first commercial vineyard was planted. Nowadays there are over a dozen around the country. It might not sound like many, but for a small country like Wales, it is quite an achievement.
Whether you’re looking for a red, a white, a rosé or a sparkling wine, you will be surprised at what is on offer in Wales. Over 20 different varieties of grape are grown around the country to produce a delightful range of bottles.
Vineyards are spread from Conwy Vineyard in the north to Bryn Ceiliog in the south, though there are more in the southern regions to choose from. If you are planning a trip, eight of the vineyards are part of Wine Trail Wales, which is easy to access via the M4 over the Severn Bridge.
Drink this: For delicious Siegerrebe wine, a grape that has fallen out of favour, head to White Castle Vineyard near Abergavenny. Their award winning white and rosé wines are also a pleasure to drink.
By Larch from The Silver Nomad
Romania is the sixth-largest in the EU and the 13th worldwide in terms of wine production. However, with exports accounting for a measly 3.5% of its total output, Romania is definitely underrated, despite having excellent wines.
The wine tradition in Romania runs back to the time when the country was called Dacia. Legend says that Burebista, the king of the country from 82-44 BC, burned down all the vines in order to stop his people from drinking so much wine. Apparently, his strict policies failed – Romania is still a wine-drinking nation today.
There are eight main wine regions in Romania: Transylvania, Moldova, Muntenia and Oltenia, Banat, Maramures and Crisana, Dobrogea, Danube Terraces and Southern Lands. Planning a wine tasting trip to Romania must start with choosing a destination. If you set your base in Bucharest, for instance, you can take day trips to wineries in Muntenia and Moldova. If you visit Transylvania, you can go on wine tasting trips to Jidvei, Blaj, Medias and other vineyards in the area.
Alternatively, you can attend wine tasting events organised in all big cities. Just ask the locals for tips. This is a great opportunity to try Romanian wines from different regions without having to travel too far.
Drink this: Prince Matei Merlot, a dry red wine from the Dealu Mare winery, in Muntenia. Aged in oak barrels for 12 months, and then in bottles for another 12 months, this wine has a fruity flavour and it goes very well with both game and red meat.
Take a wine tour in Romania: Full-day wine tour from Bucharest, visiting LacertA and Budureasca.
By Violeta from Violeta Matei
When the island nation of Cyprus springs to mind, thoughts usually wander to the endless expanse of Mediterranean coastline, to the ancient sites of Paphos or to the divided capital of Nicosia. And while these are all highlights of this beautiful country, very few would consider it a wonderful destination for wine lovers as well.
Cyprus has a long tradition of viniculture and there are countless vineyards and wineries throughout the country, however, the vast majority of them lie in the foothills of the Troodos mountains outside the city of Limassol. There are a number of endemic grape varieties on Cyprus producing unique wines as well, the two most common being the Mavro grape (producing red wines) and the Xynisteri grape (for white wines).
Mavro grapes result in wines that are full-bodied and high in both tannins and acidity. Wines made with Xynisteri grapes tend to be very light-bodied, low in alcohol and low in acidity – perfect to take the edge off of a hot Cypriot day or as an accompaniment to a seafood mezze.
Drink this: If you try one wine in Cyprus, however, do make it Commandaria. This sweet dessert wine claims to be the world’s oldest named wine and has a history dating as far back as 800 BC. Made with sun-dried Mavro and Xynisteri grapes, it’s fortified and often has alcohol levels exceeding 15%. The history and folklore surrounding this wine is fascinating and it’s well worth learning about (and tasting!) when visiting Cyprus.
Take a wine tour in Cyprus: Visit rural villages and local wineries on this day tour from Limassol.
By Maggie & Michael from The World Was Here First
When you picture a vineyard, your mind will likely conjure up images of the sun-drenched valleys of France, Germany, or Southern Europe. However, as climate change impacts the world and science allows us to breed hardier grapes, new wine regions are opening in places where not so long ago it would have been impossible for a grapevine to grow. Due to these circumstances, wine production has reached the southern grips of Norway.
Fed by meltwater from the glaciers, the soils of southern Norway are rich in minerals and perfect for hardier grapes to take route. One of the most established vineyards in Norway is the Lerkekåsa Winery in the town of Gvarv, which claims to be the world’s most northerly commercial vineyard.
Located around 150km southwest of Oslo, the winery is still in its early stages, testing out which grape varieties grow best and curating blends that work well year on year.
While grapes deliver fruity notes, the acidity and sweetness of the wines here tend to change every year due to the turbulent climate in Norway. Given its scenic location, this area makes a great weekend trip from Oslo, with accommodation available at the winery itself. Tours of the vineyard are available on request and a great way to learn all about the production process and the challenges of growing grapes in Norway.
Drink this: Solbris, a white wine, is one of the most popular at Lerkekåsa. It’s produced using the Solaris variety of white grape normally found in Germany.
By Megan from Megan Starr
Are you an oenophile looking to explore beyond the bounds of French and Italian classics? When it comes to underrated wine countries in Europe, Hungary stands out as another solid contender.
Hungary’s unique location in the midst of the Carpathian basin, surrounded by mountains with an unusual terroir, gives it an obvious edge in winemaking. If you’re into wine and need a break from the capital city, two of Hungary’s best wine regions are an easy day trip from Budapest.
Visit the fairytale town of Eger in the Upper Hungary Region and seek out the Valley of Beautiful Women. Here, you’ll find the renowned Egri Bikavér, a red blend affectionately known as ‘Bull’s Blood’, and learn the local legend of the drunk and outnumbered Hungarians who saved the city from Turkish forces.
If you’re into something sweeter, then you’ve got to try Tokaji Aszú, the world’s first noble rot wine. The Tokaj region is the oldest recorded wine region in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition to Tokaj and Upper Hungary, there are 20 other wine regions around the country. Depending on where you visit, you can find everything from deep, masculine reds to crisp, ashy whites and everything in between.
Drink this: If you find the opportunity, you must try the Chateau Pajzos Esszencia from Tokaj.
Take a wine tour in Hungary: Hungarian wine tasting experience in Budapest with a local sommelier.
By Jade from The Migrant Yogi
Despite being bordered by giants of the wine world, Austria is yet another lesser-known wine country in Europe. Excellent vineyards can be found in the eastern part of the country and have a history that dates back to the Middle Ages. Having a glass of wine is still a fixed part of Austrian culture.
There are four main wine regions to discover in Austria: Burgenland, Styria, Lower Austria, and Vienna. Each has its own charm and character. Styria is particularly beautiful, with its hilly landscape and numerous traditional wine restaurants. Here you can wander from one so-called Buschenschank to another, enjoying inexpensive and delicious wines along with regional food specialties.
Another wine-growing region that is worth visiting is Vienna. Few people realise that you can combine a city trip to Austria’s capital with a wine excursion. There are many vineyards right outside the city, including Grinzing.
Lower Austria is home to the famous Grüner Veltliner, a spicy and peppery white wine that is enjoyed all over the world. Burgenland is also very beautiful, with its picturesque Lake Neusiedl. Here, grapes grow in an almost Mediterranean climate, producing delicious red wines.
Drink this: Must-try wines in Austria are the white wine Grüner Veltliner, the rosé wine Schilcher, and the red wine Zweigelt.
Take a wine tour in Austria: Meet local winemakers in the Weinviertel Wine Region on this half-day tour from Vienna.
By Martina & Jürgen from PlacesofJuma
There are many reasons to love the Czech Republic, and wine is definitely one of them! Everyone knows that Czech is famous for its beer, but did you know that wine has been produced here for centuries?
The majority of the many parks you see in and around Prague all used to be vineyards back in the day. Only one still exists: Altán Grébovka, which is located in Prague 2 in the area called Vinohrady – which means ‘wine castle’ in English.
The most famous wine region in the country is Moravia, located southeast of Prague. Moravia is a huge area that captures several wine regions including Znojmo, Mikulov, Great Pavlovice, and Moravian Slovakia – all of which are located south of the Czech Republic’s second-largest city, Brno.
To visit the wine region you can either drive or take public transport. Stay in the wine region for at least a few days, spending your evenings at one of the many cute vineyards that offer accommodation.
Aside from the fruity flavours, another thing that makes Czech wines so appealing are the prices! You can find decent local bottles at the grocery store for as little as 2 USD.
Drink this: If you happen to visit at the end of summer, try Burcák (young wine), a sparkling, sweeter wine. You should be able to find it at any market or vinoteka.
Take a wine tour in Czechia: Private tour of Prague’s vineyards with a Czech wine tasting.
By Dom & Jo from Red White Adventures
Bulgaria may not be the most famous wine producer, but according to archeological evidence, its history of viticulture dates as far back as 5000 BC, thus making it one of the oldest in the world.
In the 1980s during the communist era, Bulgaria became the world’s fourth largest wine exporter – although most of that went to the Soviet Union. After the collapse of communism, the industry inevitably went into decline.
It’s only now – 30 years down the road – that wine production in Bulgaria is beginning to grow again. Since 2005, the country has had two official wine-growing regions: Danube Plain and Thracian Valley.
While you can find a high number of international grapes in Bulgaria, there are 44 native wines that you won’t find elsewhere, including Mavrud, Rubin, Kadarka, Dimyat and Red Misket.
Exploring the Bulgarian wine regions is best done as part of a guided tour, which can be arranged from the major cities such as Sofia or Plovdiv. The great thing about Bulgaria is that it’s one of the most affordable countries in Europe, so you’ll get excellent wines at ridiculously low prices.
Drink this: Be sure to try Trastena, a red wine made of vinified organic raspberries and fine Merlot.
Take a wine tour in Bulgaria: Full-day wine tour in Melnik from Sofia.
By Ummi from Ummi Goes Where?
We all know that Greece is a great sun, beach, and ancient history destination. But did you know that you can also find delicious locally produced wines here? Greece is another of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world, with traditions that date back at least 6,500 years.
The Greek wine regions are spread across the country and include wine-producing islands such as Crete, Rhodes, Evia, Peloponnese, and many more. On the mainland, you can find wine regions near Athens, including the Attic peninsula.
It’s funny how a country that brought wine to the world and even had a god dedicated to wine (Dionysus) has become relatively obscure as a wine destination in the modern world. However, with its numerous regions, various types of grapes and history-steeped fermentation processes, Greece deserves to be on the list of top wine countries.
Drink this: The most famous Greek wine and therefore a must-try is Retsina, a white wine (though it’s also available as a rosé) that derives its flavour from tree resins. A bottle of Retsina makes for the perfect Greece souvenir.
Take a wine tour in Greece: Greek wine experience in Athens with a wine tasting under the Acropolis.
By Lara from The Best Travel Gifts
Not many people know that the largest single-owned vineyard in the world is located in Montenegro, just outside the capital city of Podgorica.
The 13.Jul-Plantaže produces wines that are an important part of Eastern Europe’s cultural heritage. Their vineyards take up an impressive 2,300 hectares, producing a whopping 16 million bottles of wine per year, which get exported to 40 countries around the world.
One of the coolest things you can do in Podgorica is go on a Plantaze Wine Tour. The experience is unique and absolutely worth every penny. You start by walking into the massive wine storage cellar, which is located in an old aircraft hanger. Here, you can taste wines from all over Montenegro severed with local cheeses, olives, bread and olive oil.
Drink this: Varnac, the most famous of Montenegro’s wines, is rich in flavour and takes on an extremely dark purple colour.
By Ania from The Travelling Twins