Where to get tipsy

Workers harvesting grapes at the La Motte wine farm in Franschhoek near Cape Town, South Africa.
Workers harvesting grapes at the La Motte wine farm in Franschhoek near Cape Town, South Africa.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • So you have been to Bordeaux, Burgundy and Tuscany and splashed out on the exorbitant winery tasting-room fees in the Napa Valley. Where next?

An ever-growing number of wineries are wooing curious wine lovers with sophisticated boutique hotels, serene infinity pools, soothing spas, Michelin-starred restaurants and insider experiences such as harvesting grapes at midnight wearing a headlight.

The following destinations offer these luxe options in spades.


Take Vina Vik, a dramatic art- centric wine resort that opened last year in Chile's Millahue Valley, a two-hour drive south of Santiago. It is a rare combination of raw nature, cutting-edge art and design and ambitious red wine.

The vineyard and winery came first. Norway-born entrepreneur Alexander Vik had a eureka moment while running the Bordeaux marathon and he and his wife Carrie started hunting land where they could "make the best wine in South America".

With the help of star Bordeaux wine-maker Patrick Valette, they found a 4,450ha property of sloping hills, a glassy lake and spectacular views of the forested Andes mountains in an undeveloped valley and planted vines. 

Staying in one of the 22 suites is like living inside an installation of a single artist's work, with a glass-walled view of vines.

The winery entrance is even more enchanting, with a sloping plaza with streaming water and artistically placed rocks, criss-crossed by wooden walkways.

Tasting the two red blends (powerful, plush Vik and velvety Milla Cala), riding on horseback to neighbouring vineyards and joining the harvest will keep you busy. 

Suites start at US$1,200 (S$1,610) a night, including meals, wine, mountain biking, horseback rides and tastings.


Venissa, on the tiny, peaceful island of Mazzorbo in Venice's lagoon, is the ultimate urban vineyard resort and surely the only wine destination where you can learn to row a gondola. And it is only 20 minutes from Venice proper by water taxi.

A decade ago, Mr Gianluca Bisol, whose family makes top proseccos, discovered almost extinct dorona grapes in a private garden on a lagoon island.

He delved into grape research, using the vines he had discovered to revive this ancient white variety in a tiny walled vineyard on Mazzorbo, then renovated the large country house within it as a six-room boutique hotel and restaurant.

The spacious suites (from US$275) are the best bet, with exposed wooden rafters and simple, elegant furnishings.

Staying here is like being in the midst of a wine fairy tale, complete with once-lost grapes now found and side trips across a wooden footbridge to Burano, a colourful island of lace-makers.

In Venissa's one-Michelin- starred restaurant, you can taste the winery's violet-scented red and intense, slightly salty white, which both pair nicely with local lagoon delicacies such as sea-snail soup.


The Margaret River region is known for world-class surfing, secluded coves of wild, sandy beaches and air scrubbed whistle clean after its thousands-of- kilometres journey across the ocean.

On top of this, its 100 wineries make some of the country's most sophisticated and collectible cabernets and chardonnays.

You can spend the morning tasting, the afternoon lolling in the surf, hitting the reef breaks or hiking part of the long coastal Cape-to-Cape track with views of the Indian Ocean.

In the evening, dine at a winery on local marron, a succulent freshwater crayfish, and, yes, kangaroo steaks.

The essential estates to visit are Cullen, Vasse Felix, Voyager Estate, Moss Wood, Cloudburst and Leeuwin Estate, whose sleek, lemony chardonnay is one of the world's best, and which offers the top daylong wine experience. 

Though most wineries have restaurants, none offers luxe accommodation.

A romantic hotel is Injidup Spa Retreat in Yallingup, a secluded group of villas right on the beach, with private plunge pools and access to a private chef (rooms start at US$800 for two nights).


No wine region surprises you more with its beauty than the sleepy, remote Douro Valley.

The Unesco World Heritage site is a 90-minute drive from the city of Porto, in the northern part of Portugal.

Flanking the winding Douro River are stone-terraced vineyards on steep, vertigo-inducing hillsides dotted with white-washed 18th- and 19th-century quintas (wine farms).

This is home turf for sweet vintage ports, but more recently, dozens of port houses have begun making luscious dry reds from such grapes as touriga nacional.

 Quinta do Vallado (delicious dry reds) offers privacy in the vineyards at its new six-suite Casa do Rio guest house (from US$210) in Vila Nova de Foz Coa, while port house Quinta do Bomfin in Pinhao opened for superb tastings, tours and lunches last summer.

But the latest extraordinary place to stay, opened last year, is Six Senses resort in Lamego (from US$577 during high season; suites start at US$1,386).

Blue and white azulejos (tiles) and cork ceilings echo the region's aesthetic. The staff can arrange private quinta visits and a day picking grapes and crushing them by foot in a traditional square stone trough called a lagare.


The Cape Wine Country is a tapestry of lush green vineyards, craggy hills, 17th-century white-washed Cape Dutch farmhouses and sleek, glamorous contemporary wineries.

South Africa's stunning wines are still under the radar and deserve discovery.

Picturesque Franschhoek is east of better-known Stellenbosch and an hour from Cape Town.

Its appeal is contrast - ringed by towering, dramatic mountains and nature preserves ideal for hiking, it is also studded with 50 wineries, super-luxury places to stay and shops and restaurants with French flair.

Just-opened Leeu Estates (from US$506, suites from US$830) is set among sauvignon blanc vineyards with brick walkways and gardens and includes a winery, boutique hotel and wellness spa; the Mullineux-Leeu wines are stellar.

Other fascinating wineries to visit are Allee Bleue, Chamonix, La Motte, Babylonstoren, Boschendal and Solms-Delta.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Where to get tipsy'. Print Edition | Subscribe