The corks are pulled, the votes are in, and readers of USA TODAY and 10Best have passionately voted Portugal's Alentejo the #1 'Best Wine Region to Visit,' from among 20 worthy nominees.
Our well-travelled expert nomination panel - a wine educator and a wine buyer - made the original selections and then readers voted daily during the contest's four-week run. While British Columbia's Okananagan Valley enjoyed an early lead, fans of Portugal's appealing Alentejo region eventually assured it took top honors.
"When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."
The vast Alentejo, stretching to Portugal's southwestern coast, is still off the radar for many travelers. This intriguing rural region is like a trip back in time. The diverse terrain holds olive groves and vineyards, quaint villages, flower-filled meadows and forests.
"The Alentejo is best known for its hardy red wines made from a unique combination of indigenous varietals," says Kerry Woolard, who served on the expert panel. "Now, more familiar vinifera such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot are being produced there too."
The food in Alentejo is rustic and authentic, taking full advantage of the agrarian lifestyle in the area. You won't find a developed coastline of hotels; instead Alentejo's beaches - considered some of the most dramatic and beautiful in Europe - require visitors to seek out lodging in independent guest houses. The Alentejo is like a trip back in time for wine lovers. The Faro and Lisbon airports are each less than two hours away.
The full list of winners in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice contest for 'Best Wine Region to Visit' contest category is as follows:
- Alentejo, Portugal
- Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
- Maipo, Chile
- Marlborough, New Zealand
- Napa Valley, Calif.
- Tuscany, Italy
- Hunter Valley, Australia
Source: 10 best