It has been confirmed by this publication and others that wine isn’t a diet beverage and doesn’t substitute for a gym membership. Fortunately, for those hoping to incorporate wellness into a love of wine, active wine vacations do exist — if you know where to look for them.
Many wine regions are essentially farmland, meaning that wineries aren’t always close to one another. While hiking or walking is a good way to burn off extra calories, it’s not always practical. Enter the wine bike tour. Not only can you skip the heated designated driver debate, but biking through wine country gives oenophiles an immersive experience of their favorite wine regions.
Many of the world’s wine regions offer biking trails or organized tours. Some are more conducive to day trips, some span long journeys, and several can be customized by schedule and cycling skill level.
(It’s important to note, of course, that while hopping on a bike is better than getting behind the wheel of a car, drinking and biking can be dangerous. Be sure to take advantage of spit buckets nearby or plan a leisurely trip with stops along the way, allowing for rest after winery visits.)
Plan an active wine vacation through one of these top six bike-friendly wine regions, and enjoy the rows of vineyards guilt-free.
Those who call the Mosel home know that one of the best ways to take in the region’s dramatic sights is by bicycle, which is why they boast over 600 miles of dedicated cycling paths. Some loops, such as the Velo Route Saar Lor Lux, will take riders through different regions and countries, as the Mosel region comes quite close to Luxembourg and France. (Sidebar: Pack your passport.)
Along the way you’ll see breathtakingly steep vineyards near the Mosel and Saar rivers, many offering the region’s signature Riesling. Mosel Rieslings also tend to be lower in alcohol, a saving grace for those planning to hop back on the bike after lunch.
Organized cycling trips are available, but it’s easy for a traveler to coordinate with the local tourism association for a plan to carry luggage from hotel to hotel along the route, allowing for a more leisurely and lightweight trip.
Who wants to see a wine icon like Burgundy through the windows of a car? The rolling hills of Burgundy’s heartland, the Côte d’Or, make for an active but manageable bike trip. It’s all made completely worthwhile by the reward of delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at the end of the day. See the full expanse of the region’s heralded vineyards by traveling from Chablis through the Route des Grands Crus in the Côte d’Or. Or, get up close and personal with some of the world’s most expensive fruit on a day trip from the city of Beaune, renting a bike to visit nearby villages like Pommard, Meursault, and Puligny-Montrachet.
Tackle the tour independently, looking for wineries with signs welcoming visitors, or take an organized trip. Backroads offers a comprehensive tour of Burgundy’s top regions, complete with tastings and tours at top wineries.
Loire Valley, France
Castles and wine and cheese, oh my! A bike trip along the stunning Loire River will allow wine lovers to experience a plethora of regions all at once, easily exploring the diversity of the Loire Valley’s wines. Cycling is encouraged in the Loire, particularly along the nearly-500-mile Loire à Vélo, a popular cycling route running from Orléans to Nantes. Easily accessible at any point along the route by train, the route has plenty of stops available along the way, allowing for wine lovers to progressively taste through the wines of Sancerre, Vouvray, Chinon, Muscadet, and more.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Spike from “Portlandia” would be proud of oenophiles who opt to bike through the Williamette Valley, located just about an hour from bike-friendly Portland. Even the region’s main roads are reminiscent of country lanes, with greenery, vineyards, and hop fields interspersed. After sipping signature Willamette Pinot Noir, stay in one of the area’s quiet, welcoming towns where restaurants like Dundee Bistro in Dundee serve local, whole-ingredient cuisine.
For a DIY trip, rent a bike at Waterfront Bikes in Portland and set out southwest of the city. Highway 47 leads closer to the heart of Willamette Valley wine country, or take the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway to get a view of everything from outside Portland to Eugene. Organized tours are also available, incorporating cycling, winery visits, and local cultural stops.
Marlborough, New Zealand
New Zealand’s wineries have hospitality nailed down, as most welcome walk-in visitors daily for super-cheap or free tastings. Many Marlborough cellar doors, or tasting rooms, are close to one another, but biking through the region as a day trip allows visitors the chance to visit some that might be farther away. The mapped Marlborough Wine Trail is a handy resource for those prepping a convenient course to all the Sauvignon Blanc and seafood pairings they can handle.
Bikes can be easily rented from Bike 2 Wine or Wine Tours By Bike in the town of Renwick, the latter of which will also pick up any riders who may have indulged too much at their final stop in the area.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
About 45 minutes east of Cape Town is South Africa’s key wine producing region of Stellenbosch, known for big Bordeaux-blend reds, whites from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, and, of course, the country’s controversial yet distinctive Pinotage grape. Proximity to one of South Africa’s capital cities; lush, green scenery bordered by jagged, striking mountains; and the prospect of staying in the nearby, historic, gastronomic village of Franschhoek make Stellenbosch an excellent region to tour by bike.
While it’s possible to rent a bike and set out on a solo tour, many Stellenbosch wineries are open to visitors by appointment only. Bike & Saddle offers several trips ranging three to 10 days. Longer ones begin in Cape Town and smaller ones start in beautiful Franschhoek.