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Saturday, January 25, 2014

World Heritage Wine Regions

UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has identified several wine regions in the world as World Heritage Sites.   Having had the opportunity to visit them all, here are my suggestions for the oenophile’s bucket list (alpha order by country):


    The Wachu wine district, steep terraces on the banks of the Danube River, is ground zero to the world’s best Gruner Vetliner grape varietal.  Add jaw-dropping ancient monasteries, abbeys, and castles and you have an area deserving of the UNESCO recognition.

~ Bordeaux:  The 2,000 year old town of Bordeaux, the epicenter of France’s largest fine wine region, has earned its UNESCO status for its role as a cultural center, and for its beautifully preserved classical architecture (much of which has remained unchanged for centuries).

~ St Emilion:  Located in the Bordeaux district, this exquisitely preserved medieval hilltop town was the first wine area to be awarded UNESCO status in 1999.  The entire town is a treasure trove that has survived intact.  Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines surround the village.

~ Loire Valley:  The UNESCO area comprises 164 towns, as well as vineyards producing Cabernet Franc & Chenin Blanc.  Enormous chateaux dot the entire valley, offering a stunning architectural testimony to France’s Golden Age.

The Middle Rhine received its UNESCO status for its role as a major trade artery in the evolution of Europe’s history.  The steep-sided river valley is studded with ancient castles, historic towns and Riesling vineyards that require great care and skill (some slopes angle nearly 45 degrees).


    The Tokaj wine appellation was Europe’s first classified wine district.  Its thousand year old wine-making traditions with dessert wines make it a no-brainer for UNESCO designation.


    The Douro Valley wine region, demarcated in 1767,  was honored by UNESCO because of the extreme human influence on its development.   The landscape’s nearly vertical hillsides is rugged and inhospitable, requiring significant grit and back-breaking toll.  This zone is home to Port.

Lavaux is the largest contiguous vineyard region in the country.  Located on the steep banks of Lake Geneva, the area was honored by UNESCO for its daringly constructed  terraces built in the 11th century.  The main varietal is Chasselas.

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