WASHINGTON — Wine lovers, pack your bags: It’s time for a trip to Bulgaria.
The Balkan nation that hugs Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea is one of Wine Enthusiast’s top-10 wine destinations for 2017, not to mention one of the hottest emerging wine regions.
Wine making is not new to Bulgaria — the country has been producing wine for thousands of years. But now, thanks to a growing infrastructure, others around the world are starting to enjoy it.
“Now you have better hotels, better restaurants — just more access to the region,” said Susan Kostrzewa, executive editor of Wine Enthusiast.
The exotic location is also ideal for adventure-seekers, food lovers and those traveling on a budget.
“You can have dinner in a former Orthodox monastery, drink the wine and be in this incredible historic setting in a very affordable way,” Kostrzewa said.
Wine tourism has exploded in recent years. In California alone, tourists spend more than $7 billion a year — and that’s a number Kostrzewa expects will keep growing in the state and around the world.
“It’s something that has become more popular as wine has become more popular in America. People are starting to want to go to the places in which wine is made,” she said.
Another unexpected pick for Wine Enthusiast’s top-10 list is London. Don’t expect to see vineyards mixed in with skyscrapers and royal residences: Kostrzewa says the city’s rich wine culture — from modern wine bars to old wine shops — is what earned it a spot on the list.
“You can get everything in London; you can get American wines, all the great European wines of the world; you can get Australian, New Zealand — they’re just very sophisticated in their wine demands and choices,” Kostrzewa said.
For those interested in Italian wines, the magazine’s editors recommend Sicily. The wineries are top-quality and the scenery is “dramatic,” with beaches and Europe’s tallest active volcano, Mount Etna, nearby.
“It’s become less remote in a way as people are spending more time in Italy and these wineries have become more sophisticated in hosting guests,” Kostrzewa said.
Two U.S. locations are highlighted in the feature, including Calistoga, which Kostrzewa says has an “old West” feel to it, and the welcoming town of Hood River, Oregon.
“If you don’t know a lot about wine and you’re intimidated about going to a wine region and learning, this is a great place to go,” Kostrzewa said about Hood River.
“Everybody in these tasting rooms is very open and friendly and easy to talk to about wine.”
Other picks for 2017 include Cafayate, Argentina; Canary Islands, Spain; Marlborough, New Zealand; Provence, France; and Rheingau, Germany. You can find the full list and tips on where to dine and sleep in these destinations on Wine Enthusiast’s web site.