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by Nick Trend, The Daily Telegraph, May 9, 2016
By happy coincidence wine country is very often ideal territory for holidays: it combines a warm, benign climate, gently rolling countryside and very often a fabulous gastronomic tradition. In short, you can eat well, drink well and then lie back and enjoy the sunshine. But it’s not all about sybaritic self-indulgence. On a well-organised wine tour, you’ll be on a steep and fascinating learning curve. Nothing improves an understanding and appreciation of wine more than visiting the place where it is made and the people who make it. Suddenly it is more than a bottle with a label. It is a landscape, a vineyard, and a sensory experience forever associated with the personality of the man or woman who made it. Here are 10 of the best tours that will ensure you enjoy just such an insight.
Prices below are per person based on two sharing a room and include breakfast, all tastings and vineyard visits.
Alsace rieslings are among the greatest white wines in the world – but also among the least appreciated. As a result, the winemakers are particularly welcoming and the wines represent exceptional value. This private four-day tour, based in Strasbourg, visits six wineries and has tastings of 26 wines.
Exclusive Strasbourg Alsace from Grape Escapes (08436 430860; grapeescapes.net ). From £1,174 including private guide and transport and private walking tour of Strasbourg, one dinner and lunch. Excludes travel to Strasbourg.
Winemakers in Alsace are particularly welcoming and the wines represent exceptional valueCredit: Fotolia
No one has done more than Oz Clarke to enthuse the British about wine, and there is no more charismatic guide to take you around some of the world’s most famous vineyards. This fabulous five-day tour by wine experts Arblaster and Clarke includes tastings at all the left-bank first growths, Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton and Haut-Brion, as well as many other leading châteaux on both sides of the river.
Bordeaux tour with Oz Clarke from Telegraph Tours (0333 005 9069; telegraph.co.uk/ozwine ). From £4,495 including all tastings, several meals and flights to Bordeaux. Departs June 20.
Château Lafite RothschildCredit: Jeronimo Alba 3. The Loire
The 15th- and 16th-century châteaux of the Loire are among the architectural highlights of France, and the vineyards tucked away on gently sloping hills between them are home to some of its most elegant wines. This seven-day tour led by historian Dr Michael Jones and wine guide Lys Hall combines visits to several historic châteaux including Chenonceau, and some of the best producers of the chenin blanc whites of Vouvray, the fragrant reds of Chinon and Bourgeuil, as well as crisp, dry muscadets.
Loire Châteaux – Wine and History tour with Historical Trips (01722 713820; historicaltrips.com ). From £2,345 including coach travel from London and some meals. Departs September 4.
Château de Chenonceau gardensCredit: Brian Jannsen 4. Champagne
Few wine tours turn out to be more fun or more convivial than those that involve champagne-tasting. This four-day, small-group tour, based in Reims, is a particularly special one. It starts in the cellars of Ruinart and includes tastings of top cuvées at Billecart-Salmon, Veuve Cliquot and Moët et Chandon/Dom Pérignon as well as visits to the vineyards outside the city.
Premium Champagne tour with Grape Escapes (08456 430860; grapeescapes.com ). From £968, including most meals, but excluding travel between the UK and Reims. Departure dates in May, June, September and October.
This special tour is based in Reims Credit: John Kellerman / Alamy 5. Pompeii and Amalfi
This striking itinerary combines in-depth visits to some of the world’s most spectacular archaeological sites, including Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum, with an exploration of the fascinating viniculture of Campania, where wines have been made for 4,000 years and many rare and historic grape varieties still survive.
Pompeii and Amalfi – Wine and Archaeology with Andante Travels (01722 713800; andantetravels.co.uk ). From £2,475 including some meals, but excluding flights. Departs September 24.
Explore the fascinating viniculture of Campania, where wines have been made for 4,000 yearsCredit: Matthias Riedinger / Alamy 6. Wine cruise in Italy
This seven-night cruise must count as one of the most relaxing ways to explore the wines and vineyards of Italy . SeaDream’s 60-berth top-end “yacht” cruises the coast from Rome to Cannes, makes calls at Elba, Livorno, Portovenere and Portofino and includes excursions to vineyards plus on-board tastings led by wine experts. There is also a Winemaker’s Dinner.
Wine Voyage from SeaDream Yacht Club ( seadream.com ) from about £3,000 full-board but excluding flights. Departs October 1.
Starting in the vineyards of La Mancha and including tastings at two of the best sherry bodegas, this well-planned eight-day tour combines wine with Andalusia’s rich gastronomic culture – Iberico ham, lemons, olives, tapas and excellent fish – and its most important monuments including the mosque at Cordoba and Seville Cathedral.
Gastronomic Andalusia – Food, Wine, Art & Architecture with Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com ). From £3,020 including flights and some meals. Departs March 3 2017.
The mosque at Cordoba Credit: Sean Pavone 8. Northern Spain
This imaginatively planned journey across the north of Spain starts in the Basque country with a visit to the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. It goes on to combine touring, sightseeing, walking (gentle four to seven-mile day walks) and wine tasting in the vineyards of La Rioja, Montsant and Priorat before ending up in cava country and Barcelona. While not for serious wine buffs, it’s a great way to get a feel for the context and terroir of some of Spain’s greatest wines.
Food, Wine and Walking in Spain with Explore (01252 883694; explore.co.uk ). From £1,095 for 10 nights, including one dinner and one lunch; excluding flights. Departures in August, September and October.
The Guggenheim museum in BilbaoCredit: Robert Harding / Alamy 9. Napa Valley
Relatively few of the great cabernets and pinot noirs from Napa Valley make it to Britain, so this five-day private tour is an excellent excuse to head to California and taste them on-site. You enjoy private escorted visits and tutored tastings at four top vineyards in Sonoma Valley, including Dry Creek and Russian River, and four in Napa Valley itself.
Napa Valley with Smooth Red (020 8877 4940; smoothred.co.uk ). From £2,636 based in two five-star hotels, and including two Michelin-star meals with paired wines, but excluding flights.
The vineyards of Napa Valley Credit: Dennis Frates / Alamy 10. The Cape
A top choice for next winter, this eight-day tour of the Cape’s rich, varied and innovative wine culture includes visits to Walker Bay, Stellenbosch, Swartland and Constantia at harvest time. Highlights of the tastings include special access to Buitenverwachting with owner Lars Maack, and a lunch with winemaker Anthony Hamilton Russell. A game drive is also included in the itinerary.
South Africa wine tour from Arblaster & Clarke (01730 263111; winetours.co.uk ) including nine meals with wine and return flights to Cape Town.
The Buitenverwachting wine estate Credit: Anthony Souter
This article was written by Nick Trend from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.