Sunday, 17 July 2016

Exciting Wine Tours, Tastings & Experiences in Beautiful Places Around the World

Here's just a selection of my favourite wine-related experiences, dotted around the globe in my favourite places, including tastings, tours, and cellars... Some involve popular and well-known wines, while others involve something a little different. Let's start fairly local:




Wine Tasting & Food Pairing:

The Wine Bar – Stamford, England

Wine bar stamford

Wine and nibbles


















For a unique experience in quaint English town Stamford, head to The Wine Bar for a food-paired wine tasting. This trendy, classy bar is a friendly place to enjoy great wines, spirits and snacks. Stamford makes an interesting, historic visit to the East of England. A traditional stone market town, it has a plethora of tearooms, gift shops and restaurants, with postcard-pretty lanes and streets.

We sat comfortably in the dedicated tasting room, and the host took us through the wines in a relaxed, informal way. He had a great way of talking about the wines informatively without an ounce of pretension – no easy feat! Although Richard and I enjoy a good wine, we both sometimes cringe a bit at overly gushy sommeliers and connoisseurs!

We started with a fruity and complex Argentinian white, and worked our way through five other wines around the world, along with tasty nibbles to pair with the wines, opening up a whole new world of tastes and fragrances I never knew existed! It’s like combining blue and yellow, and ending up with not just green, but rose gold, luminescent pink, and velvety mauve all at once! The dark chocolate with a Chilean red was one of my favourites, as well as a strange mix I never expected; a sparkling Italian red Lambrusco with Parma ham. It just goes to show that it’s not always just about the wine but what flavours you put it with.

Alongside being told I have a good palatte (yay, get me!) I had such a great evening – educational, tasty, and relaxing. 

Wine tastings range from around £12-30 per person depending on the number and types of wines, and the food.



Dining & Tasting:

Ruca Malen Wine Estate - Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza 

Table with wine glasses













Ruca Malen is a prestigious wine estate outside Mendoza with stunning uninterrupted views of the Andes and enormous snow-covered Aconcagua. Mendoza is a more well-off city in Argentina and enjoys a great active outdoors lifestyle with the mountains so close by and many activities on offer.

After a fascinating tour of the Ruca Malen vineyards and their use of irrigation (all the vines are watered via this system because Mendoza is in a desert), we sat on the terrace with perfect views of the vines and mountains. We began our epic discovery of food and wine, involving a four course meal and paired whites and reds, including some of the richest Malbecs paired with the perfect Argentine steak. Mmm! 

This experience was one of the true highlights of our trip to Argentina, and in Richard’s words, was everything he has ever wanted in a vineyard tour; the vines, the tasting, the food, everything.

The price at the time of writing was around £50 per person including the tour.



Artisan Winery Bicycle Self-Tour:

Maipu - Mendoza, Argentina

Cycle tour


















Maipu is the part of Argentina’s wine country, that can be independently explored on rented bikes without great cost. The bike rental places issue visitors with a map marked with the wineries, olive groves and artisan producers, with details of what each of them produce. Buying is not obligatory and most places offer tasting and samples of products. The wine and other delicious items are mostly made onsite at each winery.

We hired bikes and visited around five different artisan wineries and olive groves. It was beautiful riding past the vines and fields, with views of the Andes beyond. The cycling was great exercise too, and on arriving at each place we were ready for tasters and snacks, despite the short distances between some of them. We met the sweetest Israeli guy who joined us and was good company for Richard as he was the only one who could keep up with him, while my mum, Jess and I lagged behind, and took minutes at a time to cross the road (it wasn’t even busy - or difficult)!



Sweet Dessert Wine and a Cake at the Opera:

Budapest

Opera hall budapest













Beautiful Budapest, with its vintage thermal baths, stunning architecture, and splendourous gilded opera house interior. Two unusual great wines are produced in Hungary and little-known elsewhere; the heavy red ‘Bull’s Blood’ and the sweet but refined ‘Tokaj.’

I’m not usually a fan of sweet dessert wine, but this wonderful little Hungarian creation 'Tokaj' is well worth a taste, added to all the more by a stunning opera theatre, an inspiring ballet and a yummy jammy cake. The only thing was, I had to rush it, as food and drink are not allowed in the auditorium. Anyone who knows me, will know how hard I find this! Slow isn’t even the word...



Marche Aux Vins Wine Tasting & Cellar Tour:

Beaune, France


This underground tour of the cellars includes a tasting of some of the most prestigious Cote d’Or wines, at various intervals around the atmospheric cellars and informative displays, at visitors' own pace. Beaune is a beautiful medieval French town, well known for the production of Cote d’Or wine, and with some of the best wine shops in the region.

We actually did this whilst I was pregnant! Therefore I could only taste and not properly drink any. But don’t worry Richard certainly made sure my share didn’t go to waste...



Champagne Cellar Tours:

Reims, France









Reims is a great place to admire the tradition and culture of Champagne production, as are Troyes and Epernay. Reims cathedral and its shopping make good additional draws to the city, and Champagne chateaux like Tattinger and Pommery are grand, interesting places to learn about this infamous drink and try a few samples!

We took the cellar tour at Pommery with tasting afterwards, when we did our first road trip to Switzerland. It is a delicate and biscuity Champagne and we enjoyed choosing and buying some small novelty gift bottles branded ‘pop’ – marketed at teens to raise the sale of Champagne to younger adults. The tour demonstrated just a small portion of the labyrinthine passages under the city, and even that seemed huge to us – endless cool, dark tunnels and chambers for storing and ageing Champagne. I loved the old place-name signs in the different areas, labelling the various shipments overseas (e.g. Manchester, or Detroit).



Marsden Estate Winery & Restaurant:

Kerikeri, New Zealand


‘New Zealand wine’ can often just be translated to ‘Marlborough,’ however there is more. To enjoy wine and subtropical bliss, the Marsden estate is a well-established wine estate in New Zealand’s Northland area of the North Island. It is also not far from the beautiful scenic Bay of Islands, and the unbelievable Tutukaka coast.

We visited the Marsden Estate on a sunny afternoon in February – late summer. It was just beautiful sat out on the terrace with views of the vineyards and the tropical landscaped garden. The wines on offer are varied and mostly their own. I specifically asked for a wine to go with my New Zealand lamb and the combination was delicious, as were the individual parts!



If you have further info on any of these experiences, or any exciting ones to add in other places, share in the comments! 

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