English wine is improving all the time and indeed many connoisseurs hold some sparkling wines produced in England, such as Nyetimber, in as high esteem as some of the best champagnes. The fact remains, however, that if you want to visit the vineyards that create the world’s greatest wines you’ll probably have to head south.
For me, combining travel and wine is simply one of the most enjoyable, relaxing ways to spend my time. If I can include some good walking – enjoying great views, and the myriad gifts bestowed upon us by good Mother Nature – and regular samples of fine local cuisine then so much the better. Even thinking about long, slow walks in the country punctuated by fine wine and delicious food is enough for my stress to melt away.
When researching a recent wine trip I happened across Headwater.com who offers a stunning selection of walking and cycling holidays that are ideally suited to oenophiles or people who just like a good glass of wine. The world has so many fabulous wine producing regions which, by their very nature, are generally located in areas of dazzling natural beauty. This makes them ideally suited to a walking holiday and here we take a look at some of the classic itineraries open to those who love to combine their love of travel with a passion for imbibing the local produce
Starting approximately 5,000 miles away from London we have the vast wine growing areas of California, most notably the famous Napa Valley, about 70 miles north of San Francisco. In two weeks you could easily travel to some of Napa’s most famous vineyards, walking between Yountville, the culinary capital of the state and home to the world-renowned French Laundry restaurant, and taking in Calistoga, Healdsburg, Guerneville and Bodega Bay, with its awesome views over the Pacific Ocean.
If California was a country it would actually sit fourth on a list of the world’s biggest wine producing nations, behind France, Italy and Spain and each of those, unsurprisingly, have several great destinations for a walking and wine holiday. In France you can choose from, among many others, the Loire Valley, the Dordogne, the Chablis region, Burgundy, Alsace and Provence. Each has their own unique appeal but more often than not you will encounter charming medieval towns and villages, fields of wild flowers (notably lavender in Provence), ancient woodlands and rolling fields. Given France produces, in most people’s opinion, the finest wines in the world, and some of the very best food too, this all makes for a majestic holiday with options to suit all budgets and tastes
Italy is very similar in some respects and again you have a wide choice of regions to explore. Italy, belying its history, is incredibly regional, with the food, wines and customs all very different from one area to the next. What you can be sure of is that whether you are in Chianti, Barolo, Puglia or anywhere else, the quality of the wine will be outstanding, especially if you are drinking in or near one of the country’s numerous vineyards.
Barolo – in the Piedmont region, around 50km south of Turin – is a personal favourite of mine, not least because of the reassuring abundance of sunshine the municipality gets. This helps with another reason I love Barolo so much, and that is the big, hearty, complex reds produced here. The scenery is also stunning, with sloping vineyards as far as the eye can see, the air scented with sweet pine as you stroll through the lush forests and dappled sun dancing on the ground. Piedmont is also central to the Carlo Petrini-founded Slow Food movement, and with the region home to the University of Gastronomic Sciences you can be sure of marvellous food after a long day of walking.
Of course, there are so many other classic itineraries available in a number of wine producing countries. In Portugal you have, of course, the Douro Valley region to the east of Porto, but also Madeira; whilst Spain, as mentioned, is another superb option which much more on offer than the familiar wines of Rioja. So, next time you’re enjoying a bottle of your favourite tipple why not take a note of its origins and get planning a travelling adventure?