Whether you’re looking to treat yourself to a classy, classic champagne-filled holiday or want to discover some hidden wine gems in colder climes, a wine tasting vacation is the perfect excuse for some much needed overindulgence in inspiring surrounds.
Here’s the ultimate lowdown on where to plan your next grape escape in Europe.
France – For the worldly wine traveller, France is the global mecca for wine. Whilst other countries can rival red, white and rosé varieties with plenty of vigour, champagne, the most luxurious of the bunch, remains firmly in the possessive grip of the French. Pick your way through Champagne’s A-list wine offering, starting in Moet de Chandon, where you can waltz through the estate that’s been the frothy fodder of the the rich and famous for more than 250 years. Once you’ve got your champagne bearings in check, Expedia recommends that you visit Reims, the largest sparkling wine region, for a special toast in front of the Notre-Dame cathedral, a Gothic architectural masterpiece that will leave you buzzing. Finish off your booze-heavy vacay with a cultural flourish in Metz, a picturesque town with fabulous museums and restaurants.
Spain – In Spain, wine is not a treat for the privileged few, but a drink to be enjoyed by groups in rowdy tapas bars and gatherings. The purveyor of wallet-friendly riojas and party punch favourite Sangria has unfairly given Spain the reputation of being the cheap and cheerful underdog to Italy and France. It’s time to think again though because Spain really does go further than Rioja. Those on the inside track hit the Ribera del Duero for special wine collections that are wonderfully rich on the palette and not widely exported. Whilst the national sparkling wine Cava (equally undervalued on an international scale) can be enjoyed by taking a pilgrimage to Caves Codorniu from Barcelona.
Italy – Wine experts have a long-standing love affair with Italian wines for the rich varieties, but you don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate the brilliance of the Italian grape. Its wonderful ability to bring together any pasta dish should have you head-over-carafe already. Foodies looking for a match made in heaven should make a beeline for Tuscany, and if you’re like the rest of the world and your thirst for Prosecco shows no sign of running out of steam, then be sure to pop a cork in Cantina Contratto, a 150 year old vineyard on the outskirts of Canelli that aldo happens to be a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Hungary – Compared to European’s holy trinity of wine destinations — France, Italy and Spain — Hungary does stick out like a sore thumb in this list. Whilst you won’t stumble across much Hungarian fare in the supermarket aisles, there is a wealth of wine deliciousness to be discovered once you step on Hungarian soil. Granted, the wine pool is a pretty small one — there are only 120 wineries out of the original 1,000 that existed in the 13th Century. After a city break in Budapest, take the three-and-a-half hour pilgrimage to Villány by way of Pécs and succumb to their sweet and silky dessert wines. To really make the most of this underrated wine region, visit Garamvari, Gyongyos and Miskolc too.
Wales – Like Hungary, Wales is not the obvious choice for a wine tasting weekender. Though it should be — it’s been producing wine since the Roman times after all. Now Wales’ grape stock is back on the rise, particularly for white varieties, more resilient to the bi-polar nature of the British summer. If you’re down for windy walks, then the Wales wine trail is a refreshingly surprising treat for non-traditionalists on the hunt for the new kids on the block. It’s easy to while away a week here, galavanting between Cardiff and Glyndwr’s rolling hills, which make for a beautiful setting to start your Welsh wine education.