Summer is rapidly approaching — have you planned your vacation yet? If you’re hoping to visit a top summer destination where you can indulge in delicious cuisine and savor local wines, here’s the hot list. Some may ring a bell and some may be a bit off-the-beaten-path, but there’s something for everyone.
Normally, visiting the La Rioja region of Spain is best done in fall, where you can check out the grape harvest. The town of Haro, Spain is an exception, famous for their yearly wine fight. A four-day long festival in June, the Batalla de Vino is just what is sounds — similar to a water fight, but people dump and spray wine all over each other.
Have you ever filled a super soaker with wine? Or been sprayed with a fire engine hose filled with Crianza? If not (or even if so) head to Haro to experience this unique festival. Oh, and pack white clothes, but nothing you don’t mind turning purple.
Georgia has around 500 different grape varieties. That’s enough in itself to get me packing my bags, but there’s more: Georgia’s wine production is not only one of the oldest in history, but the country’s special winemaking process is truly unique. It includes adding fermented juice to kvevri clay jars, topped with a wooden lid and covered with soil. The process is even featured on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
You can also embark on a wine bar crawl through Tblisi’s old town. The area is full of shops/bars that stock their shelves with varieties made from small, family-owned vineyards around the country.
Tokyo is already trending as a vacation spot, but if you love wine and food, you may appreciate sampling Japan’s traditional rice wine: sake! While sake is also served hot, drinking it cold can be extra-refreshing, especially in summer. With 1600 different producers in Japan, you’ve got your work cut out for you if you plan to sample them all.
Sushi lovers are also in luck, as many brands of sake have been paired especially to go with sushi — some restaurants in Tokyo will offer pairings. If you can’t deal with the mad hangovers you’re getting, sample an alcohol free sake, koji amazake. This is rarely exported due to its short shelf life, so you’ll likely only be able to try it while in Japan. While you can enjoy sake year-round, it’s particularly invigorating to sip it on a rooftop in Tokyo during the summer months.
If you’re hoping for a summer trip that gets you out of the extreme heat, visit Copenhagen, Denmark. You may not consider this Nordic country to be a foodie or drinks destination, but if you head over at the end of August for Copenhagen’s famous food festival, you’ll surely get to indulge in some of the country’s best eats and drinks.
With over 100 different events based on the Danish food and drink scene, there’s plenty to keep your belly full (and out of the hot sunshine).
Often compared to Miami, Lebanon’s capital is all about sexy beach clubs and chic restaurants. The only difference is you’ll likely spend a third of the price on a chic hotel, fancy dinner and night out on the town than you would in Southern Florida. Many of the wine harvests in Beirut start in mid-August, so if that’s of interest to you, plan your trip accordingly.
In fact, you may surprised to know that Beirut has a very long history of wine cultivation, dating back to 4500 BC. It’s said that some of the wine coming from Lebanon has even been mentioned in the bible and it’s one of the oldest wine-making spots in the world. The unique and long history of Lebanon’s wine-making combined with Beirut’s up-and-coming food scene makes for a fantastic (and cost-effective) vacation.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico has bounced back after the rough hurricane season of fall 2017. Head there and help by donating your tourism dollars to this beautiful island that’s just a short hop from the continental US. Plus, no passport needed!
While late summer is the start of the rainy season, if you go in late spring or early summer, like May or June, you’ll still have great weather and can indulge in all the cuisine Puerto Rico is famous for — like mofongo, arepas, tostones and more. Unfortunately, some of the few vineyards in Puerto Rico were destroyed in the hurricane, but we’re hoping they’ll recover soon. In the meantime, you can do tastings and wine courses at several wine bars in Old San Juan — and you won’t be limited to a particular region, sampling wine from the US, Europe, Latin America and more.
If you don’t want to head too far from home, Chicago is one of the greatest summer spots you can visit. With beaches along Lake Michigan and pretty much any cuisine you could ever hope for, visiting between June and September is the best time to go. If you really want to eat your heart out, visit during the Taste of Chicago. This happens to be the city’s largest festival of the year. Expect to taste delights from over 60-70 food vendors that have set up shop in Grant Park. Alternatively, the city (and surrounding suburbs) are chock-full of wine bars and shops where you can find wines from around the world.