Holidays for vinophiles made easy
There’s simply no finer way for a gourmand to traverse the globe than with a glass of wine in hand. Sip and swill your way through your next holiday, says Clinton Cawood
DALMATIAN COAST, CROATIA
All aboard for a trip through the ages to discover the wines of Croatia, a country with vinous history going back to Roman times. A tour bus won’t do for this exploration of the Croatian coast. Instead you’ll be aboard the small luxury cruise ship Esperanza for seven nights, traversing the Adriatic Sea. Get to know the region’s indigenous grapes first hand, from posip to vugava, as well as the up-and-coming wines of Istria. The packed itinerary includes a number of tastings with local wine producers and what promise to be some memorable Croatian meals. One highlight of the itinerary is a tasting and lunch with Croatian wine pioneer Miljenko Grgich at his winery. Another is a meal at Bartulovic Winery with owner Mario Bartulovic. Expect plenty of grilled fish and vegetables paired with crisp white wine and azure seas along the beautiful Dalmatian coast.
THE DETAIL From £3,495pp for seven nights’ accommodation, all meals and ground transport. arblasterandclarke.com
If you can’t leave your running shoes at home when setting off on holiday, but still want to enjoy the finer things in life, the Médoc Marathon is the perfect break for you. This is a full-length route (42km) to be run at whatever pace you want to set. As you jog past some of Bordeaux’s most famous châteaux, such as Mouton Rothschild and Lynch-Bages, there are stands offering wine, oysters, steak and more. And if that’s not wacky enough, there’s a dressing-up theme too. For this year’s marathon, held on 9 September, it’s ‘Music in 33rpm’. There’s plenty of wine-related fun before and after the event, with a preparatory pasta dinner party the night before the race, for example. If you can still use your legs the day after the race, there’s a more sedately paced 10km walk in the Médoc on the Sunday, followed by a lunch for 1,500 people at Château Livran. So start training now – maybe interspersing it with the occasional glass of wine. And don’t forget to pack that fancy dress.
THE DETAIL From £439pp for two nights’ accommodation, breakfast, tastings and marathon transfers, with an additional fee for optional race entry (£76pp) and a pasta dinner the night before the race (from £26pp). sportstoursinternational.co.uk
There are few destinations that can satisfy the gastronomically inclined quite like Tuscany, packed as it is with chianti producers, as well as some hefty culinary tradition too. What you need when immersing yourself in the region is a good base and KM Zero’s Fall in Love with Tuscany tour does just that. Six nights are spent in a beautiful villa in the heart of the chianti classico area, with different experiences each day that have food and wine pairing at their core. One night will be a supper of Florentine steak, one a ‘saffron experience’, with the zenith a white-truffle hunt with a cooking class at the end. If you visit during September, there are plenty of grape harvest festivals to witness, and you might catch the start of the olive harvest too.
THE DETAIL From £2,025pp for six nights’ accommodation, including all meals, ground transport, wine tastings, visits to producers, and trufflehunting. kmzerotours.com
Where to begin when it comes to soaking up the rich and vibrant food and wine scene in Spain? Well, a great place to start your journey is the beautiful Basque city of San Sebastián on the country’s northern coast. Fortify yourself with some local pintxos (tapas on sticks) before diving headlong into the country’s best-known wine region, La Rioja. The tempranillo grape is king here, but there are other reds and some lesserknown white wines to enjoy too. This self-drive trip will take you from San Sebastián to Logroño in La Rioja for a full day of wine, with winery visits, tastings and Riojan tapas. Towards the end of the trip you’ll spend two nights in Valladolid, where you’ll learn all about another of Spain’s important wine regions, Ribera del Duero. Here a platter of suckling lamb, perfectly paired with the local wines, is a meal you’re unlikely to forget anytime soon.
THE DETAIL From £1,609pp for six nights’ accommodation, breakfast, two lunches, one dinner and car hire. smoothred.co.uk
An enduring symbol of luxury and celebration, champagne is also a fascinating wine in its own right. This suitably decadent trip offers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the region’s most famous producers, while tasting some of the best wines they have to offer. Over four days you will visit six champagne houses, from big-names such as Ruinart, Billecart-Salmon and Veuve Clicquot, to small, family-run producers. These visits will be interspersed with gourmet meals and historic sightseeing, but perhaps most exciting will be learning the art of sabrage – the opening of a bottle of champagne with a sword. And with everyone getting a go, there’s always plenty of fizz to go around after. Just like there’s never a bad time to pop open a bottle of champagne – with or without bladed weapon – there’s no bad time of year to visit the beautiful Champagne region. The vines will, however, be vibrant, green and leafy in the late summer months, and harvest in September is an interesting time to visit.
THE DETAIL From £1,188pp for three nights’ accommodation, including breakfast, two lunches, and two full-day guided tours and transfers among the houses. grapeescapes.net
As a jet-setting wine lover, you’d be remiss to not check out the exciting winemakers right on your doorstep. Surrey is a good place to start because it boasts the country’s largest vineyard. That honour goes to Denbies, the first stop on this one-day, three-vineyard tour. In contrast, the more diminutive sparkling wine specialist High Clandon is your next stop. Here, much like in Champagne, the focus is on chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. By this point, two wineries in, you’ll be ready for lunch and a spread of regional produce at The Queens Head in East Clandon. At the nearby organic winery Albury, the focus is also on sparkling wines made from classic champagne varieties. You’ll find that there’s no better way to round off a tough day of wine tasting than with a G&T. Luckily, Albury Estate is also home to the relatively new Silent Pool Distillers, where there’s no shortage of its eponymous gin. While you’re more likely to catch some summer sunshine if you visit June to August, the harvest is when the action starts in the vineyard. Picking usually commences in this region around late September.
THE DETAIL From £145pp for a one-day trip, all inclusive. There is also an extended two-day option, with an overnight stay at Broadway Barn and a visit to Royal Horticultural Society garden Wisley. englishsparklingwinetours.co.uk
If pulling the cork on a fine wine isn’t the same if you’re not cooking up a storm to go with it, there’s a eight-day culinary tour in New Zealand with your name on it. It alternates cooking classes with winery visits, for a packed and wide-ranging trip covering a large part of the country; you’ll leave enthused and educated, not to mention well fed and watered. The tour starts with a ferry to Waiheke Island, including a visit to the excellent Man O’ War winery. A highlight a few days later is an exploration of the acclaimed Gimblett Gravels region, which specialises in red wine grapes such as merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon. Marlborough is another important stop on the wine itinerary, with its wineries such as No 1 Family Estate and Te Whare Ra, where you’ll try the region’s famous sauvignon blanc (and have the option to have few cases shipped home). You’ll eat well – sometimes food that you’ve prepared yourself. The responsibility for what to drink with it remains firmly with the winemakers. THE DETAIL From £4,250pp for eight nights’ accommodation, including transport across New Zealand, tasting fees, various meals and culinary classes. grapeescapenz.co.nz
Australia is vast, and perhaps the best way to sink your teeth into its diverse wine country is to pick up a hire car and hit the road. Starting in Adelaide and Naracoorte, you will jump straight into the local wine production here with some winery visits on the first day. Later in the trip you’ll visit McLaren Vale, renowned for its shiraz. There’s also time to take in the worldfamous Barossa Valley, which is also famed for shiraz but, like McLaren Vale, produces an array of other red and white wines. It’s not just back-to-back wineries, though – there’s something here for everyone. You’ll have some beach time in the town of Robe, and experience natural beauty on Kangaroo Island. There’s fishing, sightseeing and trekking. And, of course, at every stop there is some world-class cuisine to be found to accompany all of those superb local wines.
THE DETAIL From £1,429pp for ten nights’ accommodation, breakfast, car hire and map pack. australiansky.co.uk
CAPE WINELANDS, SOUTH AFRICA
The Cape Winelands are renowned for their natural beauty, not to mention the exceptional wines being produced there, from South Africa’s own pinotage grape, to its white wine speciality, chenin blanc. There’s something for everyone, and over the course of this self-drive tour you’ll experience all of it. The first few days are spent in Cellars Hohenort in the Constantia Valley, where you can begin to appreciate the local wines in the peaceful countryside, but you also have the option to explore Cape Town. Subsequent days will take you to Robertson, into the Overberg region and finally into South Africa’s gourmet capital, Franschhoek, before returning to Cape Town. You’ll take home memories of tractor rides into the Langeberg mountains, visits to top-class wineries such as La Motte, and views that you’ll be reminded of every time you try a bin from the region.
THE DETAIL From £1,100pp for nine nights’ accommodation, breakfast and car hire. go2africa.com
OKANAGAN VALLEY, CANADA
While all of your fellow oenophiles traipse the well-worn paths of Burgundy and the Rhône Valley, branch out and discover something new. Something like British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and its miles of lakeside vines, with all the potential to become the next big thing. The waterfront resort Summerland is located right among these vineyards, offering wine lovers plenty of sunshine, beaches and blue skies, as well as everything you need to fully appreciate the region’s wine scene. You have a choice of two five-hour wine tours – either Bottleneck Drive or Naramata Bench. Whichever one you choose, you’ll get five winery visits with tastings at each, as well as a gourmet lunch. The Okanagan Wine Tour package includes two nights in one of the Summerland hotel’s luxury suites, and there’s lots to do when you’re not swirling and sipping your way through the region’s diverse wines – such as kayaking and wakeboarding. THE DETAIL From £395pp for two nights’ accommodation, wine tour, lunch and transport. summerlandresorthotel.com
You could go on a regular holiday and then subject your friends to all of your holiday snaps. Or you could invite them round to share a bottle of wine that you blended yourself in California. If you’re heading all the way to the West Coast, you owe it to yourself to spend some time in San Francisco, getting to know this unique city and its surrounds. There’s everything from awesome food experiences at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, to a visit to famous hippie neighbourhood Haight-Ashbury. By then the siren call of wine country will be impossible to resist and it’ll be time to move on to Sonoma, first taking in the vintage rail cars of the Napa Valley Wine Train, along with lots of wine tasting. It’s at Ravenswood Winery, in a private blending lab, that you’ll flex your creative muscles and put together a blend of your own, with carignan, petite syrah and zinfandel to choose from. THE DETAIL From £1,925pp for six nights’ accommodation, various excursions and some meals. trafalgar.com
MENDOZA AND PATAGONIA, ARGENTINA
Argentina’s dramatic landscapes deserve to be experienced first hand, and this trip calls on you to put on your walking boots and do just that. But what’s even more guaranteed than two to four hours of walking per day is a succession of truly wonderful wines at the end of each jaunt. The trip kicks off in Mendoza in the heart of the country’s vineyards, and specifically that of malbec, the grape that put Argentina on the wine map. And if there’s one thing that partners perfectly with Argentinian malbec, it’s asado, the country’s elevation of the barbecue to a fine art. You’ll learn the secrets of preparing one, and then devour it very soon after. After a few days focused on wine, the latter half of the trip shifts its attention to beautiful scenery, specifically that of Patagonia. Imagine a picnic overlooking the Perito Moreno Glacier, for a start. A sight that could only be improved by having a glass of Patagonian pinot noir in your hand, which you will. THE DETAIL From £4,595pp for six nights’ accommodation, four lunches, four dinners, wine tastings, and the support of experienced guides throughout. classicjourneys.com
Below, from left: Hautvillers in Champagne; spaghetti with a hearty Tuscan red; Avenue de Champagne in Epernay; popped corks; glassesof fizz; winery near Stellenbosch, South Africa
Clockwise from top: a champagne vineyard; Montalcino in Tuscany; super Tuscans; grapes in the Médoc; a Tuscan tasting
Clockwise from top left: wines of Sonoma, California; a Sonomavineyard; its vintage pick-up truck; wine-tasting in Sonoma;wine valley in Barossa, South Australia; wine tour in Argentina;a Mendozan cellar; malbectasting; a Patagonian gaucho