When it comes to travel, there are two things that are for sure: bikes are always the best mode of transport for exploring, and wine is always your friend. Combining the two seems like a no-brainer for globe-trotting lovers of wine and the outdoors.
From historic and world-famous wine regions in France, Italy and Australia to paths-less-ridden in South America and South Africa, we’ve no shortage of places to sip and cycle in this endlessly wonderful world of ours.
Here are the best wine countries to discover by bike.
Clare Valley, South Australia
Follow the trail of white wines and the unravelling of Ngadjuri history in the rural heart of South Australia’s Clare Valley with their well-known 35km Riesling Trail, just waiting to be explored by bike. The round-trip between Clare and Auburn is about as humble as wine tasting routes come.
Barossa Valley, South Australia
The bigger and more glamorous sister of Clare, The Barossa Trail is not to be missed upon a visit to South Australia. Linking cellar doors, cafes, artisan food producers and galleries, this 40km sealed cycling path is the road to a good time if we’ve ever seen one. You might be struggling to pedal with a stomach full of wine and cheese and a backpack full of goods to take home, but you won’t regret it one bit.
Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Those wanting to pair leisurely bike rides with iconic Australian wines will find refuge in the Hunter Valley, where idyllic off-road paths and quiet country lanes link an abundance of wineries and eateries, as if tailor-made for those wanting to explore at their own pace. Target a favourite area and hit a few neighbouring wineries in a row or test out the region’s pride and joy: the 10km Hermitage Road cycleway.
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Its proximity to Melbourne isn’t the only thing making the Yarra Valley a popular destination for visitors. It might also have something to do with their cool-climate Chardonnays and sought-after Pinot Noirs. The whole lot is accessible by bike, riding along the Warburton Rail Trail which encompasses the funky shops and cafes of Warburton town, boutique wineries you haven’t heard of yet and produce-laden farm gates waiting to be opened.
Swan Valley, Western Australia
Combine scenic bushland and well-mapped cycling trails with some of the finest food and wines WA has to offer in the Swan Valley, which boasts multiple bike-friendly wine-laden routes for you to choose from. The 32km food and wine trail loop takes in more than 150 tasty attractions, while the more attainable 3km ‘Meet the Winemaker’ trail takes in just five of the best.
Margaret River, Western Australia
Though perhaps best suited to the more experienced road-bikers among us, the Margaret River wine region is well worth exploring; and if you can do it on a bike, why not? Whether you’re up for the sealed but winding Caves Road adventure or opt to take the bush trails, one thing’s for sure: you’ll be sipping on some of Australia’s finest wines along the way. For pedal mafia newbies, Dirty Detours runs a ‘Sip ‘n’ Cycle’ tour that’ll take the stress out of it all.
Sav Blanc drinkers will be happy to hear that the world-class Marlborough wine region in New Zealand’s South Island is a paradise for active aficionados. Connect the dots between thirty cellar doors boasting all the grassy Sav Blanc you can handle by two-wheeling around Blenheim and Renwick.
Loire Valley, France
Combine history, world-famous wines and luscious valley views by cruising the World Heritage listed Loire Valley wine region on two wheels. Boasting an immense 800km tourism cycle-route, exploring this region by bike isn’t for the faint of heart but it’s certainly for the rich of taste. Vineyards, orchards and scenic fields line the banks of this special valley, which is also home to some of the finest wines in France.
It doesn’t take a oenophile to appreciate what makes this famed French region so popular, in fact, one sip of a Burgundy white and you’ll be a convert. Boasting dedicated cycling paths and an abundance of curated cycling wine tours, not to mention some of the world’s founding domaines and a postcard-perfect countryside, the Burgundy region should almost top the list for any wheelers looking for a wine-laden adventure.
Traditionally popular among explorers for its geological importance (think snowy peaks, steaming volcanic chasms and wild Jeep expeditions), Sicily's Mt. Etna is experiencing a renewed fame for its wine offering. Winemaking on Etna isn’t new, but some contemporary innovators (read: Frank Cornelissen) are bringing the region back into relevance, pristine beaches, celebrated wines, stunning landscapes and all. Enter: you, your bike, and a once in a lifetime wine-drinking experience. Most of the wineries on Etna require bookings in advance and prices vary depending on what you taste (the wines here are premium and extremely limited-run) but it’s well worth the effort. Be sure to check out the many all-inclusive wine-bike tours on offer before strapping your shoes in.
Lovers of bubbly, this one’s for you. Veneto is Italy’s largest producer of the country’s favourite frizzante—the all-important Prosecco—and there’s no shortage of two-wheeled tours and bike-paths-less-trodden for you to make the most of. Cycling the Veneto is rather light-footed and perfect for those primarily focused on the wine side of things, but there’s some ground to cover: beyond Prosecco, wines to try include the renowned Amarone della Valpolicella along the warmer Adriatic coastal plain and Garganega in the cooler northern foothills.
The Wachau Valley, Austria
‘Steep terraces’. They’re the first two words listed under Wachau Valley on the Austrian Wine website, and they might not come as welcome to those on two wheels. But the next few might: ‘noble grapes, monumental wines’. We’re in. This UNESCO-listed valley is home to medieval castles and Benedictine abbeys and is one of Austria’s most well-established wine regions (namely, Riesling like you’ve never tasted). The well-trafficked Danube Cycle Path runs for 365kilometres, but we dare say you’d be happy just completing a part of it and filling the rest of your time up with wine.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Oregon was first made famous in the wine world by their Pinot Noir, but with a growing reputation for Pinot Gris and Reisling and an increasingly trendy tourism-scene, the place is pretty much begging to be discovered by sipping cyclists. So much so, the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway was established to help punters experience the bounty of this diverse region. From the coastal range to the west and the towering Cascade Mountains in the east, the Willamette Valley boasts more than enough to keep you satisfied: world-famous hops, tucked-away wineries, rolling vineyards and rollicking brewpubs.
Sonoma Valley, California
A more folksy and far cheaper alternative to the pomp of nearby Napa Valley, the West County Regional Trail that links three Sonoma Valley towns is the new location of your next mecca for the senses. Sonoma is leading the charge for sustainable tourism, from wine and food to artisanship and agriculture so exploring it by bike makes perfect sense.
Finger Lakes, New York
Sitting just a 4.5hour drive from New York City and home to some deliciously peppery cabernet franc, it’s no wonder the Finger Lakes has become a popular spot for urbanites seeking an active getaway of wining and riding. Scenic wine trails are lined by leaves turned orange and red during the harvest season, when pedal and sip tours can be broken up by refreshing dips in cool lakes.
Colchagua Valley, Chile
Despite cumbersome vineyard regulations meaning that biking in the Colchagua Valley wine region can be done only through tour companies, it remains one of the most interesting places for wine-cycling in the world. Beyond the valley’s incredible natural beauty (it lays just beneath the towering Andes), cycling wine tours will take you past chupalla-donned cowboys and emerald green hills, while tasting the carménère varietal which has been long-extinct in its native Bourdeaux.
A country of wine-lovers, it’s no wonder Argentina is also home to some must-discover wine country itself. Famous for its Malbec, the Mendoza wine region, otherwise known as the Land of Sun and Good Wine, is producing world-renowned drops with some of the best cellar door views going around (wineries in the Valle de Uco, for example, look out over the Andes). The size of the region lends itself to decision-making on where to go, but Coquimbuito’s winery-laden bike path emerges as an obvious choice.
Cape Winelands, South Africa
Aside from being surely the most aptly-named wine region in the world, Cape Winelands is at the heart of South Africa’s wine production and offers some lush scenery to boot. Lap it up by bike with all-inclusive day trips or multi-stage rides that’ll secure you exclusive access to some of the region’s most iconic cellar doors, eateries and, the clincher, private farm roads to ride on.
Keen to explore more? Here are the best road trips to take in Australia.
Image credit: Reuben Teo