Top 5 destinations for the wine connoisseur

After the excesses of Christmas, it’s usually time to hide away the chocolates, refrain from that double helping of Beef Wellington and avert your eyes when a glass of wine is offered. It’s all too tempting…but I like the idea of spending this time thinking where we can retox! As you get over your ‘dry’ January and kick start the year with a rigid fitness regime why not plan your next trip to truly cherish the full flavours of the grape and organise a wine tour or two! There is nothing more special than having your holidays to look forward to and January is the perfect time to get researching, be inspired and book your super indulgent break away and if you can add wine to the equation – well why not!  They are two of my simple pleasures that go hand in hand – travel and wine.

Wine-Glasses-poured

These are my top five destinations that are a must see, and a must taste!  There are so many delicious wines out there, but sampling them in some of these idyllic settings really adds impact to your wine experience. Then when you see that same bottle on your supermarket shelf months down the line – you can be taken right back to these gorgeous destinations and relive your holiday memories.

1. La Bergerie, Provence, France

A gourmet trip to Provence should always include a moment or two to enjoy a glass of beautifully chilled local rosé, surrounded by the peaceful Provençal countryside. Our favourite place to take full advantage of everything this stunning region has to offer is La Bergerie; an understatedly elegant escape with unobstructed views of the outstanding natural beauty of its surroundings. Local vineyards Château d’Esclans, home to the delicious Whispering Angel rosé, and Château Font du Broc are within easy reach and make for a lovely stop on a day’s cycling through the vines or for a tasting and lunch. Not only that, the service is impeccable and for foodies, its location amongst some of the best wineries in the region, an amazingly well stocked cellar and exceptional chefs make it irresistible!

La-Bergerie-cellar

2. Castiglion del Bosco, Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany is known for its incredible red wine and one of my favourite discoveries was an amazing boutique property in the heart of the Tuscan hills that is a must for any Italian wine aficionado. Located within reach of beautiful Italian towns, such as Florence, Siena and Montepulciano, the Castiglion del Bosco is set on its own working vineyard and offers a unique experience that combines luxury and relaxation with the opportunity to really get to grips with the wine making process. The incredibly knowledgeable staff offer vineyard tours and tastings throughout the year, you can meet the winemaker and learn about the Brunello di Montalcino they produce on site and even help out with the harvest in September! As you might expect from an Italian winemaker, their passion and knowledge does not stop at wine, and the food on offer from their local chefs is just out of this world, especially when paired with the perfect glass picked for you by their in-house sommelier.

Castiglion-del-Bosco-Barrel

3. Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Whether it’s a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hawkes Bay, a crisp Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or a smooth Pinot Noir from the mountains of Central Otago, New Zealand’s wine is as varied and enjoyable as the spectacular landscape for which it is so famous. One of my favourite spots on the kiwi wine trail is Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf, just a short ferry ride from Auckland. This beautiful island retreat has long been home to artists and those seeking a relaxed lifestyle. This laid-back atmosphere infuses the island and its wine and Waiheke now also boasts some of the best and most unique food and wine experiences in the country with inimitable kiwi hospitality. My top picks for a visit are Mudbrick, Cable Bay and Stoneyridge wineries. All offer both incredible food and wine, all set amongst the backdrop of pristine beaches, rolling green hills and the Auckland cityscape on the horizon. Not to be missed on any trip to New Zealand’s North Island!

NZ-wine-lunch

4. Napa Valley, California, USA

Whilst in California, I had the pleasure of staying in the heart of the beautiful Napa Valley at the Meadowood Resort and also at the wonderful Fairmont Hotel in Napa’s lesser visited sister, the Sonoma Valley. Meadowood – ‘Your Home in the Wine Country’ is a perfect retreat with the rooms offering vaulted ceilings, natural light, stunning views , characterful fireplaces and private terraces. I found it to be a haven of tranquillity where you could embrace the Napa Valley surroundings. As a food & wine fan, an experience which will always stay with me was visiting ‘The Restaurant’ at Meadowood, which well deserves its three Michelin stars. The 11 course tasting menu was simply out of this world! Another ‘must do’ are the excellent wine tours, the guides are extremely knowledgeable and you really make the most of the wineries without having to get behind the wheel afterwards!

Napa-valley

5. Franschhoek, South Africa

What better way is there to enjoy South Africa’s finest wines, but to stay where the grapes are grown! I highly recommend the town of Franschhoek, with centuries old vineyards and beautiful Cape Dutch architecture. A highlight for me was the fabulous wine tram, which transports you around a number of wineries (you can hop on and off as you please) taking in picturesque vineyards, breath-taking scenery, warm hospitality & world-class cuisine. With nature reserves, monuments and museums, a 300 year history is here to explore on your journey around the wonderful Franschhoek Valley. There is an all year round Mediterranean climate in Franschhoek, so the beauty is that you can go anytime convenient to you. The excellent weather takes full advantage of the vast views and glorious landscapes in this region. Whether you are thinking about arranging that once in a lifetime family holiday, an active group getaway or the most romantic and exclusive of romantic breaks – this destination is perfect.

Bottles-of-wine

Mike Kelly is Director at Oxford Private Travel.

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