Top 10 wine regions in Europe by train
There are hundreds of wine regions in Europe, many of which are accessible by train. Defining the top 10 wine regions in Europe is therefore quite a challenge. That being said, if you have a Eurail Pass and a good map, you should add some of the following regions into your European travel plans.
Wine regions in Europe: A top 10
Porto and the Douro Valley, Portugal
Fortified wines around the world have mistakenly become known as “Port”. Because, like with Champagne, there’s only one place to get the real deal. The grapes used to produce these typically sweet red wines, are cultivated along northern Portugal’s Douro River. Travel on the railway line along the Douro, from Porto to Pocinho, for a spectacular and scenic journey through the wine country. The city of Porto is the place where much of the tipple is fermented. Take a direct train to São Bento station in the city center and head over to Gaia. Here you’ll find the cellars that store and age Port. You can get tours and tastings in most of these cellars!
Bordeaux, in the southwest of France, is one of the largest wine regions in Europe. Bordelais have been fermenting grapes into elegant blends since the eighth century. To get a feel for the region, head to the town of Saint-Émilion. This town is easily accessible by regional rail from Bordeaux city and offers historical attractions beyond vineyard tours and wine tastings.
Piedmont, called Piemonte in Italian, is a wine-growing region in the northwest of the country. The big boys Barolo and Barbaresco largely dominate this region. Nebbiolo grapes are king here. You’ll find wines that are characterized by deep tannins and great longevity. Other wines you may want to try or buy in Piedmont are Barbera d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato and Asti Spumante. Asti and Alba are the two main cities in this notable wine region. You can easily reach them by regional train (which require no fee or reservation) from Turin.
Champagne is one of the most famous wine regions in Europe. This region is easily accessible by rail on a day trip from Paris. You could also spend the night here and do some tastings and tours in Reims. Some wineries let you venture into wine cellars that were dug below the city centuries ago. For a small-town Champagne experience, get off the train early at Épernay. You will quickly see why this city is the historic heart of champagne production! Take the high-speed TGV train from Paris to Reims, and you’ll be drinking champagne within the hour. Alternatively, you can travel by regional train, which will take about 2 hours and allows you to get off wherever you like.
Germany ranks fifth in wine regions in Europe and the country has an efficient rail network to get you there. Head to Mosel to taste some outstanding German wine. While most people associate Germany with beer, wine production here has generated some highly sought-after bottles. The riverside train ride between Cochem and Koblenz is quite scenic. Both Cochem and Trier make excellent bases for exploring the Mosel wine region.
La Rioja, Spain
La Rioja is a small region in northern Spain that has grown famous due to Tempranillo, Spain’s noble grape. The strong and full-bodied wines gain their characters from the long time they spend aging in oak barrels. The best way to sample La Rioja wines is on a night-long tapas and wine crawl through the regional capital of Logroño. Visit La Rioja by long-distance train, but remember that nearly all of them , including AVE and Alvia, require a reservation. Keep an eye out for the reservation-free Intercity trains when planning your trip.
Hungary is an underappreciated wine country, but well-developed with more than a thousand years of wine making experience. There are 22 wine regions in the country. Most noteworthy is the wine region of Tokaj-Hegyalja, which is also a World Heritage Site. An excellent place to start your exploration here is in the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains, in Tokaj. This town is famous for its full-bodied sweet dessert wine, Tokaji Aszú. If you want to sip this wine in the place it’s made, you can get take a train from Budapest to Tokaj in 4 hours.
Italy’s Tuscany comprises of individual wine regions. While the rail network here doesn’t quite reach every little wine village between Florence and Siena, it does get you efficiently to either city. You’ll find that both cities are extraordinary destinations in their own right, and a great place to sample the local wines. Find out how to travel through Tuscany by rail.
Moravia, Czech Republic
Like Germany, the Czech Republic is mostly famous for its beers. Yet in Moravia, on the country’s east side, wine is clearly favored. So if you’re a wine lover, you’lll want to make a beeline for southern Moravia. Znojmo is a good town to get oriented to Moravia’s wine, culture, and history. You can get there by train from Prague in 5 hours and from Brno in 2,5 hours.
Rhône Valley, France
A personal favorite of mine, the Rhône Valley of France, is a wine region that’s highly underrated. Here you will find some deep, dark wines dominated by Syrah. Follow the Rhône to the riverside town of Tain-l’Hermitage, surrounded by hillside vineyards. The town has an abundance of places for you to sip some tasty northern Rhône wines. Take the scenic French regional train to enjoy views of vineyards and wineries from your window, and stop at the region’s wine-producing towns.
Fancy dropping by some of Europe’s wine hotspots? Check out the Eurail Global Pass.