A nose for the good life

A vineyard tour is a great way to learn the difference between Bull's Blood and Bordeaux, says Jeremy Atiyah

Have you ever wondered why the picnic wine you drank from a plastic bottle with manchego curado and jamon serrano in that orange grove in southern Spain last summer tasted so much better then than it did after you had brought a couple of dozen boxes of the stuff back to England?

If this has happened to you (and you have spent the rest of the winter languishing in a warm-beer-induced depression) I suggest a wine tour: not cheap but a hell of a way to learn about wines. Tours revolve around tastings and multi-course gourmet dinners accompanied by large numbers of wines.

The number of countries on the standard wine-tour itineraries has rocketed in recent years. Alongside the old stalwarts, France, Italy and Spain, tours and tastings of the best wines of Switzerland, Portugal, Hungary, Bulgaria, Chile, South Africa, California, New Zealand and Australia are all possible.

Two specialist operators who can provide wine tours of all or most of the above destinations include Arblaster and Clarke (tel: 01730 893344) Alternative Travel (tel: 01865 315678) and Wine Trails (tel: 01306 712111). Holidays on offer include group tours with expert guides, walking tours of vineyards, as well as virtually any kind of tailor-made package. Many wine tours take place during the harvest season, which means early October for the European wineries. In fact, tastings and vineyard walking tours can take place at any time of year.

A (somewhat subjective) list of the best wine-destinations might begin with Rioja in northern Spain. The wine is fantastic, the scenery divine, and the prices are not as high as in France: a nine-night tour with Wine Trails costs pounds 1,095, not including flights.

"Chiantishire" tours of Tuscany are also fairly irresistible: five nights in Umbria and Tuscany in October cost pounds 999 with Arblaster and Clarke. If that still sounds expensive, try Jerez in Andalusia; Wine Trails can put together a package of five nights to that area, including lots of sherry, several gourmet dinners and visits to at least one bodega each day for about pounds 450 (not including flights).

The Eastern European destinations may not sound terribly promising by contrast but the vineyards look just as nice in the sunshine. And in Hungary there are ancient traditions of wine-making: visits to the Tokaj region, from the beautiful Baroque city of Eger, are an excuse to experience the famous Bull's Blood wine, once known as the "Wine of Kings". A five- night trip next October costs pounds 699 with Arblaster and Clarke.

The more traditional wine areas of France, such as Bordeaux, can work out expensive. Another Arblaster and Clarke trip where you stay as "private guests" of Chateau Lascombes and enjoy entertainments such as visiting the First Growth of Chateau Latour, amounts to no less than pounds 1,500 for four nights and five days (with outstanding food and wine).

Do-it-yourself wine tours are perfectly feasible as long as you are in a place which has a tradition of wine-tasting. Oporto in northern Portugal is one such place: a vast number of different Port wines can be sampled by simply walking from one warehouse to the next. This sublimely pleasant experience is free.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?