For many people, wine is the elixir of life – and some even have a glass of this delicious concoction with beans on toast. There are daily polls that tell us alternatively that wine drinking in moderation is good or bad for you so having read a recent positive poll, we’re riding that wave of optimism and delving into some wine breaks, facts and figures for ourselves.
The Ultimate Wine Estate:
Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine is an award-winning wine estate, located in the Castile y Leon region of Spain. An historic monastic estate dating back to medieval times, the hotel is found within acres of their vineyards, tucked away on a wine plateau, a thirty minute drive away from Valladolid, the nearest city.
Not only does this hotel boast a Michelin starred restaurant, it is surrounded by rows of award-winning vines distilled into some of the very best of Spanish wine by the estate’s own winery, Abadia Retuerta. A complimentary bottle of Abadia Retuerta wine is included within every room rate and even the spa features its own Spa Sommelier which harks back to wine and aromas.
Best Time to Visit: Visit during the harvest end of September and October and help bring in the vines. Whilst at the hotel, schedule in a tour of the vineyards and especially, a visit to the shop where not only wines are sold but wine salts, honey and even pine-nuts.
Rates & Breaks: Rates at LeDomaine start at €430 (£340) for an overnight stay with breakfast, free minibar and taxes. The Gourmet Bliss package starts at €730 (£570) for double occupancy, train transfers from Valladolid, a gourmet meal in the one-Michelin Refectorio, a tapas-style lunch in Vinoteca, a tour of the abbey and unlimited access to the Santurio spa. On space availability basis, subject to change. Tours of the winery start at €30 (£24).
Getting here: From the UK, fly into Madrid and take the hotel limousine to the hotel. Around a 1.5 hour drive from the airport. Alternatively, take the train from Madrid to Valladolid, transferring to the hotel (25 minutes).
Pineau des Charentes:
This delicious aperitif was born apparently by accident when, so the legend has it, a local 16th century winemaker accidentally poured some grape juice or must into a barrel of cognac, leaving it to ferment for several years. Returning to it some time later, he was surprised to find a different but delicious alcoholic drink in the barrel – hence Pineau des Charentes was born. Once a secret known only to the locals, Pineau’s popularity has grown alongside French tourism and it is now exported around the world.
Although the exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, the rough proportions are one part cognac to three parts grape juice – and the better the cognac, the higher quality the resulting pineau. The mixture is aged in oak barrels for a minumum of 12 months before being bottled. As you can imagine in an area like Poitou-Charentes, with Cognac close at hand, there are many pineau producers, all offering tours and tastings throughout the year. You only have to follow the signs when you are driving around!
Getting here: Poitou-Charentes is easily accessible by either train (with www.voyages-sncf.com) or by air from major and regional airports throughout the UK.
Denbies Vineyard: Flying the Flag for English Wine
When you visit Box Hill in Surrey’s famous hills, you don’t expect to find a vineyard, much less England’s largest private vineyard. Now comprising some 627 acres, 200 of which are woodlands, Denbies Vineyard is happily situated just a short stroll from the Mercure Box Hill Burford Bridge Hotel and you will find a selection of their wines on the hotel’s gastronomic Emlyn Restaurant menus.
The vines of the family-owned Denbies Estate are situated on the North Downs in the town of Dorking with its famous chalky soil, in a protected valley of south facing slopes. A total of 265 acres have been planted which is three times the size of any other in the United Kingdom.
A Wine Paradise
The Côtes du Rhône vineyards is France’s second largest wine-growing area, brimming with flavours and full of hidden treasures and easily accessible from either Lyon or Marseilles There are thirteen wine trails designed by Inter Rhône allowing wine lovers the opportunity to experience the different terroirs and lifestyles of the Côte du Rhône villages. From the gateway of the Camargue through Provence and up towards Lyon, the routes lead visitors across six departments (the Drôme, the Gard, the Ardèche, Vaucluse, the Loir and the Rhône), with opportunities to discover both the culture and viticulture en route. Each route is clearly colour coded and signposted and can be enjoyed by air, by foot, by bike or by car.