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

Food and Travel (UK) - - Con­tents -



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


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



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


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

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