5 Amazing European Wine Regions For Hiking

How does this sound for spending a day of vacation…

Wake up on a vineyard in Barolo, Italy. One of the best wine regions in Italy.

Have cheese for a quick breakfast snack and fill up water bottles. Walk out the door to catch a hiking trail that disappears into the vineyards. Don’t you just love active travel?

After an easy 2.5 mile vineyard hike through rolling hills and grapevines, you come upon the neighboring village of Novello. You stop in a cafe for an espresso and pastry to enjoy among the local Italians.

After exploring the tiny hilltop town and snapping photos of the views, you disappear back into the vineyards for the next leg of your walk.

A hilly 4 miles later, you get to the next tiny wine village of Monforte d’Alba. Right on time for lunch.

After climbing through the narrow stone streets, you find a nice terrace for an al’fresco (outside) lunch. The plate of risotto and glass of Barbera wine is perfect for refueling.

3.5 miles later, you get back to Barolo.

Over 10 miles of fresh air in the stunning Italian countryside and it’s still mid-afternoon. You earned the wine and plates of pasta that you will most definitely indulge in later that evening.

Does this sound like a great way to spend a day on vacation? Then add these wine regions of France, Italy, and Spain to your Europe bucket list.

The Best Wine Regions in Europe for Food, Wine, and Hiking

Barolo, Italy

Piedmont Italy Vineyards

Barolo wine is one of the most famous in Italy. The full-bodied red is made from the Nebbiolo grape and must be grown in the designated region (DOCG) of Barolo. While Barolo is considered the “king of wines” in the area (and arguably throughout Italy), Barbera (the “queen”) – and Dolcetto (the “princess”) grapes are also grown here to produce wines of the same name. These are more affordable and approachable red wines that pair great with traditional Italian cuisine such as tagliatelle with wild boar ragu or potato gnocchi with butter, sage and parmigiano reggiano.

Within the Barolo wine region, there are 11 villages. Fortunately for hikers and walkers, these villages are connected by hiking trails that wind through the vineyards and hills. Be advised that the hikes are hilly. But with hills, come great views.

Inside or near the town of Barolo is a good home base for exploring the region via hiking. The limestone based soils offer a lighter style wine. Similarly, the wine produced near the town of La Morra (See Hiking Recommendation 1) offers a similar light style.

Alternatively, a few communes to remember with sandstone soils are Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba (see Hiking Recommendation 2), and Castiglione Falletto. The wines produced in these areas are usually bolder.

Hiking Recommendation 1: Barolo – La Morra – Barolo

Type: Out and Back

Approximate Length: 5 miles each way; 10 miles total

Difficulty: Hard

Route details can be found in the picture below

Barolo Hiking Map to La Morra
Barolo hiking map – Barolo to La Morra. (Piedmont, Italy)

Hiking Recommendation 2: Barolo – Novello – Monforte d’Alba – Barolo

Type: Loop

Approximate Length: 10 miles

Difficulty: Hard

Route details can be found in the picture below and here.

Barolo Hiking Map to Novello
Barolo hiking map – Barolo to Novello to Monteforte d’Alba. (Piedmont, Italy)

Burgundy, France

Beaune France Vineyards

Burgundy (or Bourgogne in French) is the land of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The premier Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in the world are produced here. If your idea of a Pinot Noir is light, simple, and fruity while Chardonnay is smooth and oaky, then be prepared to experience complexity and depth.

Similar to Barolo, some of the towns that make up this region are generally connected by hiking trails through the hills and vineyards. The town of Beaune is considered the wine capital of the Burgundy region. With just over 20,000 people, Beaune offers plenty of wine tastings and indulging in the regional cuisine that includes beouf bourguignon, coq au Vin, and escargots de Bourgogne.

Hiking Recommendation: Beaune – Pommard – Mersault (optional)

Type: Out and Back

Approximate Length: 4 miles to Pommard (8 miles total), 9.8 miles to Mersault (19.6 total)

Difficulty: Moderate

Route details can be found here.

La Rioja, Spain

Rioja Mtns

Big and fruity with high tannins, Rioja wines are produced primarily from the Tempranillo grape. Garnacha is the main addition to these red blends to add fruitiness. These wines are great accompaniments to meat and cheese heavy Spanish dishes such as jamon (ham) serrano and manchego cheese.

Rioja wines are generally a great value in and outside of the region. I have had delicious Riserva bottles (see classifications below) from my local wine shop that cost less than $15.

Their classifying system is simple and easy to understand. A consumer can quickly know the quality of the bottle they are getting. The designations are:

  • Rioja: Aging 1-2 years, little or no oak

  • Crianza: Aging 1 year in oak, 1 year in bottle

  • Riserva: Aging 1 year in oak, 2 years in bottle

  • Gran Riserva: Aging 2 years in oak, 3 years in bottle

The region lies within the Ebro Valley with the surrounding Sierra de Cantabria looming to the North. The small wine town of Laguardia has great food and lodging options (the town of Haro is another good choice).

Hiking Recommendation 1: Laguardia Lagoon Loop

Type: Loop

Approximate Length: 6 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Route details can be found here.

Hiking Recommendation 2: Laguardia – Albaina

The GR 38 Wine and Fish Route covers over 100 miles. Starting in Rioja, the trail cuts through Basque country until the ocean is reached in Bermeo. The full hike is typically done in 8 stages. The hike outlined here is a single stage of the longer GR 38.

Type: Out and Back

Approximate Length: 13.7 miles each way; 27.4 miles total

Difficulty: Hard

Route details can be found here.

Southern Rhone, France

Dentelles de Montmirail France

Grenache is the primary grape in Southern Rhone. It is blended with other grapes – Mourvèdre, Carignan, Syrah to name a few – to produce earthy, full-bodied reds that pair nicely with food.

Surrounding the Southern Rhone Valley to the East is the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range. The Dentelles de Montmirail are the foothills of the highest peak in Provence, Mont Ventoux. There are over 600 trails and paths that lead up to the jagged limestone peaks that are available to explore.

Some of the most beautiful villages in France, such as Sablet, Seguret, and Gigondas, speckle the Southern Rhone Valley. Many of these towns have paths that lead in to the mountain range. Gigondas (which is also where some of the best red Rhone wine is produced) is a great base for exploring the Dentelles de Montmirail.

Hiking Recommendation 1: Dentelles de Montmirail from Gigondas (short)

Type: Loop

Approximate Length: 5.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Route details can be found here.

Hiking Recommendation 2: Dentelles de Montmirail from Gigondas (long)

Type: Loop

Approximate Length: 8.15 miles

Difficulty: Hard

Route details can be found here.

Northern Rhone, France

L'Hospital Hike Rhone France

Whereas Grenache rules in the southern Rhone Valley, Syrah is the King in the Northern Rhone Valley. The steep hillsides along the Rhone river are considered the birthplace of Syrah. These reds are full bodied and deep.

As mentioned above, the hills where these grapes grow are steep, giving hikers an opportunity to go for a climb. The neighboring towns of Tain-l’Hermitage and Tournon-sur-Rhone provide access to the hills and wine.

Start with either hike 1 or 2 below, then walk across the pedestrian bridge connecting the two towns (Passerelle Marc Seguin) and do the other hike. If you need some extra fuel, make a pit stop at Valrhona’s Cite du Chocolat for free chocolate samples.

Hiking Recommendation 1: From the Hermit to the Hermitage (Tain-l’Hermitage)

Type: Loop

Approximate Length: 3.1 miles

Difficulty: Hard

Details of the hike can be found here.

Hiking Recommendation 2: Les Tours Trail (Tournon-sur-Rhone)

Type: Loop

Approximate Length: 2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Details of the hike can be found here.

Ready to Visit One of These Places?

Wine regions in Europe are amazing because they almost always have plenty of hiking and walking opportunities.

Adding an activity like hiking to your food and drink focused travel itinerary will make you feel much healthier during your trip. No more feeling sluggish and tired after your trip.

Hiking or walking is a great way to get outside and explore your destination. Plus, it’s free!

If you’re ready to plan your trip, then use this travel planning guide to get started.

It will guide you through all the steps you need to take to budget, save, and plan for your trip! Bon voyage!

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