Taste your way around the wines of Europe
If you fancy yourself as a bit of an amateur sommelier, then a wine tasting trip through Europe will tick all of your dream holiday's boxes. From driving through the Champagne region of France, and over the rolling green hills of Mittelrhein in Germany, to sipping your way through the vast vineyards of Tuscany, Europe has some of the best wineries in the world. To help you get inspired for your next trip, we've put together a guide to some of the best wine tasting tours across Europe, with the choice ranging from champagne sipping in Hautvillers, to relaxing with full-bodied reds in the Ribera del Duero. So, with your map at the ready, and with this handy guide, begin your journey across the Channel with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle today.
Located in the commune of Hautvillers in North-Eastern France is Champagne G. Tribaut, a family run winery that has been in business since 1975. The owners, Ghislain and Marie-José Tribaut are recognised as 'Récoltant Manipulant', meaning that a percentage of their grapes are sold to the bigger champagne companies, such as Krug and Taittinger – but they still manage to produce an impressive 150,000 bottles of their own a year.
During your visit, be sure to explore the 12-hectares of vineyards that produce three different champagne varieties, which you can sample for yourself at the tasting sessions. Sip on their demi-sec, a sweet champagne that goes perfectly with dessert, the Vintage 2006 Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs that is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, and sample the unusual but delicious Ratafia, which is made from 80% grape juice and 20% champagne, and makes for the perfect accompaniment to a fresh melon and ham starter.
Whether it's before your tasting session or after, make sure you spare a moment to help the grape pickers, and take in the beauty of the rolling green hills of Marne.
Although Belgium might not be the first destination you think of when picking a vineyard to explore, the Domaine du Ry d'Argent is one winery that's likely to change your mind. Located in the scenic Namur countryside, the Ry d'Argent vineyard was named after the stream that flows right past it. Despite it being relatively new (it was set up between 2005 and 2007) it covers five hectares, with four hectares producing red Régent, Dornfelder, and Cabernet Jura grapes, and the other growing the white Solaris grape variety.
Whilst there, you can look forward to an educated tour of the vineyard, and a tasting session where you'll get to sample four wines of your choice, from the fruity and spiced 2002 La Rivière, to the pale yellow and citrusy Solaris. And, if you're feeling helpful, be sure to muck in with the picking of grapes, and watch as the powerful onsite machines churn and juice the fruit, to begin the wine making process.
The Mittelrhein wine region in Germany, or Middle Rhine, starts just below the city of Bonn and follows the River Rhine 60-miles south, making it an area that is often warm and well sheltered from the wind, allowing for more fruitful wine harvests. For a great wine tasting session, make your way to the beautiful town of Bacharach, which is home to the winery, Weingut Toni Jost. The owners look after two different vineyards; the Bacharacher Hahn plot grows Spätburgunder, or Pinot Noir, and the Wallufer Walkenberg estate grows both Spätburgunder and Riesling, a local variety of white grape.
During one of their tasting tours, be sure to sample their very own Rheingau Riesling, a dry-white that's hearty, juicy and perfect for a summer's day. And, if you're a fan of red, keep your taste buds tantalised with a glass of Bacharacher Hahn Spätburgunder, one of their leading red wines that is robust and mature in taste.
If you decide to travel through France and into Northern Spain, the Abadía Retuerta estate and winery in the Duero Valley is the perfect spot for a bite to eat, and to taste some brilliant wines. Covering 700-hectares, the vineyards here grow a fantastic range of grapes that are handpicked to produce some of the region's best wines, from the tannic Pago Negralada, which is aged for two years in oak barrels, to the White Le Domaine, a refreshing white wine that is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which were planted 18-years ago.
When you're not swirling and sampling the delicious wines, be sure to wander around the 12th-century estate, where you can spend the night or dine in the Michelin-starred restaurant, Refectorio.
Tuscany is one of the most fruitful wine regions in Italy, and arguably, the best place to sample some of the area's wines is at the Castello di Casole vineyard and estate. 100 acres of vineyards fill the estate, which consist of 13 distinct vine plots that grow a range of grapes, including Cabernet, Sangiovese, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The plot is also home to a collection of olive groves, which are used to create top quality extra virgin olive oil.
End your visit with a meal in the estate's restaurant, Ristorante Tosca. There, you can dig into delicious Italian cuisine and sample a range of 100 vintages, including a fantastic variety of local wines. And, if you need assistance in pairing a wine to your food, the superb onsite sommeliers will be more than happy to help.
Getting there and around
It takes just 35-minutes to cross the Channel, with each of these brilliant destinations located within driving distance of Calais. Plus, the onward journeys through the breathtaking scenery of Europe are a real treat for the eyes; just remember to keep the tasting to a minimum whilst driving. But, then again, there are plenty of nearby hotels to spend the night if you decide to indulge.
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