11 of the world’s craziest wine travel experiences
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Wine tasting doesn’t have to be a snooze.
If you’re an oenophile tired of measured pours, stiff barstools and uptight sommeliers, know that there are plenty of exciting, alternative wine travel experiences around the world. From wine barrel hotels to underwater wineries and wine helicopter tours, these one-of-a-kind experiences combine your love of travel, wine and adventure.
1. Fight with wine in Spain
Every year between 27 June and 30 June in the village of Haro, in northern Spain’s Rioja region, residents and visitors head to a hilltop to drench each other with red wine. If you’ve ever dreamt of Super Soakers or firehoses filled with wine, La Batalla del Vino is definitely your cup of tea — or, well, glass of wine. In any case, prepare to get wine-soaked and a little buzzed, too.
Don’t forget to wear white clothes and bring goggles, and a word of advice: Run from the older crowd. They might look harmless, but it’s the grandmothers and grandfathers in town who will dump a whole bucket of vino on you — and another, and another.
If you can’t make it all the way to Spain, there’s a version of the famous festival in St. Augustine, Florida, that takes place each year.
2. Bathe in wine in Japan
You can soak in a pool of red wine — or in pools of coffee, green tea, sake or ramen — at Japan’s Yunessun Spa Resort in Hakone. Although the pool is filled to the brim with real red wine (the Japanese famously adore Beaujolais nouveau, after all) it’s probably not a good idea to drink any of it directly from the pool. Still, you can take part in daily wine rituals where you can get wine poured on you at 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Note that while children are allowed in the pools, people with visible tattoos are not.
3. Visit a wine theme park in France
Bordeaux’s Cité du Vin is a wine museum and theme park. The almost 150,000-square-foot-space doesn’t have any rollercoasters, but instead boasts 800 varieties of wine from 70 different countries and a number of interactive wine exhibits. You can hop on a virtual boat ride where you’ll have an immersive experience reenacting the life of a sailing wine merchant.
4. Take a helicopter winery tour in Washington, U.S.A.
AvGeeks — or anyone into wine and gorgeous aerial views — should take a wine tour with Flying M Air, which offers a few different helicopter and winery tours. TPG’s pick is the Two Winery Tour, which departs from Wenatchee Pangborn Airport (EAT). The tour starts with a flight along the Columbia River to your first winery for lunch and a tasting. Then, you fly to the next winery for an afternoon tasting, followed by a final flight back to the airport.
5. Sip wine with sharks in South Africa
Adrenaline junkies can cage dive with great white sharks off the island of Dyer in South Africa with Sideways Tours — and calm down after the intense encounter with a visit to a rustic wine cellar for a relaxing post-shark lunch and flight of South African wines from the Bot River region, Stanford or the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.
6. Sleep in a wine barrel in Portugal
Spend the night in your very own giant wine barrel on the grounds of the Quinta da Pacheca wine estate. Each barrel comes with air conditioning, a private bathroom and a large bed. Sip a glass of vinho on your private deck outside of each barrel, complete with a table, chairs and striking views overlooking the expansive vineyards and rolling hills of the Douro Valley.
7. Segway to wineries in Northern California
You may feel silly riding around on a Segway, but double-wheeled rides are actually wildly fun and allow you to cover a lot of ground. They can be especially useful when visiting the redwood forests and vineyards of Northern California, for instance, if you’re on a tour with Segway of Healdsburg. Each Segway has room for two bottles to take with you, so you can stock up before you get on.
For a more far-flung Segway tour, Spier Vineyards in South Africa offers Segway tours that let you ride out among the vines, while Dynamic Solutions has Segway tours that take you through the Penedes wine region of Spain.
8. Saddle up and sip by horseback in Oregon, U.S.A.
There’s really no better way to see the rolling hills of Oregon wine country than by horseback. Hop on a Tennessee Walker through the Dundee wine region, then sample pinot noir varieties with Equestrian Wine Tours.
9. Dive down to an underwater winery in Croatia
Diving enthusiasts can combine their love of water and wine by visiting the “cellar” of Edivo Vina, where Croatian red wines are aged in jugs submerged in the Adriatic for three months. The wine jugs are protected from the seawater by cork and rubber, and locked in cages to fend off both rogue divers and pirates. Endivo Vino believes that keeping its wine underwater makes for the ideal fermentation conditions.
Those taking the diving tour of the sea cellar can even spot a sunken ship. And not to worry if you aren’t PADI-certified — you can still visit the section of the winery that’s on dry land.
10. Combine weed and wine in California, U.S.A.
Now that marijuana is legal in California, you can enjoy wine and weed parings with Cannibis Tours. Hop onto the party bus that departs from Oakland, stopping at a winery and two marijuana farms, where you can sample both weed and wine along the way. You’ll even have an opportunity to try a marijuana-infused wine. And if you end up with the munchies, it’s OK, because the tour also includes lunch.
11. Bike through vineyards in Argentina
Wine bike tours let you enjoy not only the wine itself but the local culture and landscapes by bike. In Argentina, the Mendoza Wine Bike Tour takes you through the Lujan de Cuyo and Valle de Uco, allowing you to bask in sunshine while sampling Malbec varietals.
Travellers can also book wine cycling tours in other major destinations around the world. We Bike Tuscany Tours takes you through the Chianti region in Italy, where you sample local wines as you ride past ancient farmhouses, olive groves, vineyards and medieval villages, complete with a cooking class at the end. To the north, Vienna Explorer opens up the Wachau Valley on the Danube as you pedal past Austrian villages and visit century-old terraced vineyards.
New to points and miles? Make sure to read our beginner’s guide, which will help you get a solid start on maximizing your points and miles so you can end up in Portugal sleeping in that wine barrel, or bathing in wine in Japan’s mountains.
Photo by AbelC. / Getty Images.
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