New Ranking Lists the World’s 50 Best Vineyards to Visit

By Elin McCoy, Bloomberg, Published July 12, 2023

“The World’s Best Vineyards highlights the very best wine tourism destinations around the globe,” says Andrew Reed, managing director of wine and exhibitions at William Reed “We understand that there is more to wine than grape juice in a bottle. It’s also the story behind the winery, the visitor experiences you can have there.” In 2023, he says, “there are more new entries than ever.”

One underlying aim, naturally, is to promote wine tourism around the world. The United Nations World Tourism Organization held its first global conference on wine in 2016. In an email, Sandra Carvao, the UNWTO director of Market Intelligence and Competitiveness said that “there are no global data on wine tourism,” something they hope to address in an upcoming conference. At the same time, Future Market Insights Global and Consulting estimates that the wine tourism market will reach $85.l billion in 2023, and projects it will reach $292.5 billion in 2033. The growth in oenotourism and the number of wineries over the past two decades are partly why William Reed expanded their portfolio.

How the top vineyards to visit are chosen

The award structure is similar to the way the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are selected. A global voting academy includes chairmen for 22 geographical regions; each of them recruits a panel of about 36 unnamed wine and travel experts. The more than 500 judges nominate up to seven destination vineyards they’ve personally visited in the past two years. The votes are counted and collated, and the vineyard with the most votes becomes No. 1, and so on for the top 100, though the top 50 get the airtime.

Wineries must be open to the public, but there’s no defined set of criteria, which strikes me as problematic. “Decent wine is a given,” says Reed (my view is that the wine should be great), and judges rank wineries based on their all-around visitor experience-which means stunning architecture, views that wow, perhaps a Michelin­starred restaurant or historic cellars, imaginative hands-on activities, concerts, ambiance, and more. Fair enough.

For example, in the second spot this year (for the second year in a row) is Spain’s historic Marques de Riscal, with its dramatic Frank Gehry-designed hotel topped by wide, twisted purple, gold, and silver-hued aluminum ribbons. In No. 3, up one place from its 2022 ranking, is Vik, a self-contained luxury wine destination in Chile created out of 11,000 acres of virgin territory. Besides the winery, it’s home to a contemporary art-stuffed hotel and farm-to-table restaurant and offers horse riding in the vineyards.

How important is winning?

The effect of grabbing the top spot is immediate, according to Sebastian Zuccardi, whose family’s stunning stone winery in the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina, was ranked No. 1 in 2019, 2020, and 2021. It’s now graduated to the Hall of Fame. “There was a big increase in visitors after the first award,” he said in an email, “and it’s continued growing after every one.”

Is wine tourism necessary to a US winery’s bottom line? “The clear answer is yes,” said Rob McMillan, EVP and founder of the Silicon Valley Bank wine division, in an email. He pointed out that all those “visitor experiences” drive consumer interest and attract people to a winery’s tasting room and wine club, which translates into bottle sales that make up about 70% of a small premium producer’s revenue.

Adrian Bridge, chief executive officer of the Flagship Partnership in Portugal, which owns several port houses, once shared why he thought oenotourism had become important. “The modern generation is going back to an earlier time when people traveled to explore and understand. Wine has become a way to unlock a region and culture.”

The Rankings

2. Bodegas de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal

49. Bodegas Muga