Tasting Treasuries

Five fine wine museums from around the world.

As any student of wine can attest, the real learning takes place in the tasting room, on the wine trail. But sometimes you crave a little bit more history with your vino travels. For those moments, there are wine museums. Below, we've rounded up five. One's urban, the rest are in wine country; some are modest, some more cathedral-like and some (for the more hands-on students) even left you taste.

Torgiano, Umbria, Italy: The Lungarotti Winery not only produces Vino Novello—Italy's version of Beaujolais Nouveau—but is home to the Wine Museum of the Fondazione Lungarotti . On display are the usual accoutrements (bottles, glasses, presses) but the museum also spotlights a wealth of art, depicting wine-making and drinking through the ages. Don't miss the massive terracotta vases that were excavated from under the Mediterranean Sea.
Maipú, Mendoza, Argentina: The vast collection at the Wine Museum San Felipe at Bodega La Rural  contains over 4500 items--ranging from antique crushers, carriages, presses and lab equipment—all of which contributed somehow to the Mendoza wine industry. The museum provides a glimpse into the world of a wealthy Argentine winemaking family (the Rutinis) as well as a look into the overall evolution of the Mendoza wine region.

Paris: The cellars of the Paris Wine Museum  in the 16th arrondissement date back to the 15th century when monks from the Century Passy Abbey used them for bottle storage. Today they house an array of antique tools corkscrews, glasses, bottles and other artifacts from some of the world's most legendary wine regions. Post-tour, enjoy a glass of wine with some foie gras.

Madeira, Portugal: Housed in a 19th century palace that features a striking square watchtower in the main building the Madeira Wine Institute Museum gives visitors the chance to see a skilled cooper make wine barrels using centuries-old techniques. At the end of their tour, there's a tasting featuring several kinds of Madeira wine.

Rioja, Spain: The Dinastia Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture, a four-story temple dedicated to the world of wine (and not just Spanish wine), opened in 2006 to rave reviews. Special highlights include several educational, interactive displays, a gallery of wine-related art, an archive of over 5,000 historical books and manuscripts on wine (viewable by appointment-only) and the "Bacchus Garden", an outdoor area where over 220 varietals from around the world have been planted.  You'll need several hours to see the museum in its entirety but no worries—there are plenty of opportunities for restoration available with an on-site tasting bar, coffee shop and restaurant.


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