What’s not to love about visiting vineyards on your holiday?
Let’s face it; the majority of Europe’s wine regions are located in some of the world’s most picturesque corners. Vineyards go hand in hand with great food and scenery.
All the ingredients of a perfect holiday!
When it comes to sampling the local drop, don’t forget these few essential tips to make the most of your tasting room experience:
If you’re from the US or Australia, you may well be used to turning up to tasting rooms unannounced, not a problem since most vineyards in these parts of the world keep something of normal business hours. In many European vineyards, however, this is simply not the case. Smaller (often family) operations mean that most winery staff wear numerous hats. Don’t be surprised if the person welcoming you into the cellar is in fact the person responsible for creating the wine in the first place. To ensure that someone will be there to welcome you, and not amongst the vines or in the cellar, it definitely pays to call a few days in advance to book a tasting room appointment.
Go easy on the perfume
There’s nothing worse than trying to appreciate the “nose” of a wine, only to find that your own nose is distracted by the Chanel Number 5 being worn by one of the members of your party. Yes, your usual spray of perfume or cologne that you apply each morning could very easily overpower the delicate aromas of the wines you (and those around you) are attempting to appreciate. It’s a fairly easy mantra to remember: let the wines be the only aromas you smell throughout the day.
Become friends with le crachoir
Now, we don’t mean to be a party pooper, but let’s face it. When you spend all day tasting wine, there’s a fair chance you may end up a little tipsy by the end of it. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, until you start reaching for full bottles across the tasting bar – believe us, we’ve witnessed such a sight first-hand! Instead, we’d recommend familiarizing yourself with the location of the spittoon (le crachoir in French) and making use of it. Your palate will remain much fresher for it, not to mention your mind and body the next day!
A souvenir to remember
You know that $400 bottle of rare Bordeaux or Rioja that you’re saving to buy at your local bottle shop to celebrate your next special occasion? Guess what? Now’s your chance to purchase a bottle direct from the vineyard! Don’t expect cut price wines, but considering the taxes and duty levied on wines imported into the US (and other countries), purchasing direct represents great value for money. You also get to try before you buy, and will always have a wonderful souvenir from a holiday spent touring some of the finest vineyards in the world.
Wine Check? Check!
Last but not least, if you’re anything like us, you know you’ll fall in love with a fair portion of the wines you’ve sampled along the way. So why not pre-empt the inevitable heartbreak by organizing to have the Wine Check Luggage waiting for you at your hotel? That way, you can transport up to twelve of your favourite bottles home with you on the plane! We can deliver the Wine Check Luggage, along with our very own Lazenne Bottle Protectors, to destinations throughout Europe.
You can thank us later for making travelling with wine easy!
Let Lazenne take the confusion out of travelling with alcohol with our guide to flying with wine and alcohol.
If you look around the world of wine today, you'll notice that most wine is made with the same grape varieties. Pretty much every 'New World' country produces wines made from grapes native to France; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot... the list goes on. This is no bad thing as stylistically, all the above varieties can be drastically different depending upon climate, soil, viticulture and vinification. The vast majority of glossy, bold Shiraz from Australia is, literally and figuratively, a world away from the savoury, peppery wines of the Northern Rhone, for example. However, in the last 10 years the fashion has been to move away from seeking out the 'best' examples of these well known varieties and instead to look for unique expressions, typically from grapes native to specific countries and regions. This has seen the emergence of some new stars in the world of wine, from the austere, mineral wines of Mount Etna in Sicily to the powerful, racy Assyrtiko of Santorini in Greece. Austria has re-modelled its vinous reputation with the versatile Grüner Veltliner and even as afar as South America, Bonarda and Pais are resurging on both sides of the Andes, in Argentina and Chile respectively.
However, no country has been rediscovered in quite the same way as Spain. There are somewhere in the region of 600 grape varieties on the Iberian Peninsula, the vast majority of them indigenous and regionally specific in production. Despite this, Spain was for decades synonymous with oaky, extracted wines from Rioja, and to a lesser extent Ribera del Duero, with Tempranillo the only celebrated indigenous grape hailing from the country. Short-sighted producers ripped up their old, unfashionable vineyards and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and anything that was currently selling, not realising that in doing so they were giving up their major point of difference on the international market-place. However, this wasn't true for all producers and quietly, many went about their business as they had done for centuries; cultivating their families vineyards and producing wines of distinction and style, as their vines slowly became older, sturdier and produced better quality fruit. To look at the market now compared to 20 years ago is staggering. Shops in Barcelona are awash with local Catalan wines, Galician field-blends are appearing in top restaurants across the world and even Sherry is making a come-back! To cover the entirety of this resurgence would take a strong liver and a lot of time, but I'd like to share a few exciting varieties from my own little corner of Spain, the fiercely independent Catalunya:
Wine is a fussy product. Starting from its very beginnings as embryonic genetic material located on the buds of vines, to its moment of glory in your glass, there are countless chemical reactions, pitfalls and opportunities to be navigated and controlled in order to create a good bottle of wine. The vast majority of these is, fortunately, taken care of by the time we actually buy a bottle of wine, as the vigneron has spent the entire year wrestling against nature, ensuring the right balance of sugars, acids and flavour compounds, before handing over the baton to the wine-maker. This is where the grapes will be converted into wine through the magical process of fermentation, possibly aged and then bottled with care being taken to ensure biological stability. Then depending on where the wine is to be sold, it will go through a long or short supply route, potentially crossing oceans, continents and all sorts of checks before it finally appears on a shop shelf or restaurant list somewhere in the world.
Enter us; the consumer. We purchase the wine with the intention of one day drinking it, whether that be within minutes of the purchase, or 20 years down the line, after extended storage to allow for it to evolve within the bottle. Assuming the bottle has been purchased close to home and you intend to drink it in the near future, this is all well and good as any issues of storage are very much the responsibility of the retailer/restaurant and bottles can be returned for a refund. However, if you're buying the wine far from home, possibly, abroad, we run into some potential issues quite quickly.
Having just come back from a two week trip to the Mount Etna region of eastern Sicily we thought we'd share some of the best wine stores we came across travelling in the region. I must say I love the "enoteca" concept in Italy, where you can come for an aperitivo, taste local wines by the glass with some food, and then purchase bottles that you've tasted and liked. We loved visiting and tasting wines directly at the wineries of course, but the experience of tasting different producers side by side, and the ability to try older vintages can only be done at an enoteca.