A holiday with sparkle: Get into the festive spirit with a visit to Europe's finest spots for fizz
It's easier than ever to cut straight to the source of Europe's wine regions
Wednesday 18 December 2013
Nothing indicates party time like a bottle of bubbly. Other than - you know - multiple bottles of bubbly, or bubbly everywhere you look.
Now, it's easier than ever to cut straight to the source, as Europe's wine regions get better at looking after tourists. Here are five places you can guzzle the fizzy stuff down with your breakfast, lunch or dinner and fill your suitcases for next Christmas - whatever your budget, whatever your tipple.
Prosecco - Italy
In the dark days of recession, prosecco has put the fizz back into the bubbly market; Majestic Wine recently reported a 39 per cent increase in sales in the past year. Italy's foremost sparkling wine is produced in the northern regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia; to head to the source, catch a Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flight to Venice Treviso, pick up a car and head for the hills of Veneto, 30 minutes away.
Up here, the wiggly Strada del Prosecco is a 25-mile road, laden with vines and dreamy lunches. At Trattoria alla Tripolitania, a spread of skewered meats, garlicky snails, saucy pasta and prosecco costs £20 a head (00 39 0438 894112; trattoria allatripolitania.com). For a DIY wine tour, the Strada's Association has a website - coneglianovaldobbiadene. it - that can point you in the direction of bubbles and beds.
But if time is tight, Veneto Tours has a daytrip out of Venice, with cellar tours and tastings, for €140pp (theothersideofvenice.com).
Cava - Spain
Fuller and drier than prosecco, the other affordable fizz, cava, hails from the sun-drenched fields of Catalonia, but comes into its own in the big city of Barcelona. In the beachy area of Barceloneta, Can Paixano (00 34 93 310 08 39;canpaix ano.com) is a cool, crammed sailors' tavern where €1.50 glasses of signature cava slip down best with jamon-filled bocadillos and croquetas.
There's a similar vibe at El Xampanyet (00 34 933 19 70 03) in the trendy El Born neighbourhood - no bookings, just a lovely, noisy kind of cava chaos, and a few delicious snacks on the side.
In Poble-Sec, just outside of the city, El Rincon del Cava (00 34 934 41 70 31; rincondelcava.es) has piles of calamari, chorizo and meatballs, and bottles of cava rosada (pink) for less than €5. If you do want to dig a little deeper, giant cava house Freixenet runs tours of its super-cool Catalonian caves in Sant Sadurní - you can book tickets for €5.50 via the tourist board (barcelonaturisme.com).
Champagne - France
Sparkle purists will settle for nothing less than the wines produced in the Champagne region, under the strict laws of the appellation, and France's watchful eye. In the most famous wine region on earth, tour operators step up to the mark. Arblaster & Clarke (01730 263 111; winetours.co.uk) offers a classic champagne weekend: over three days, you get to taste 25 champagnes from a crosssection of houses, and drink fizz with your scrambled eggs each morning; the trips cost from £499 with Eurotunnel crossings, but you can scale up with Michelin-star meals.
Or, try Grape Escapes (08456 430 860, grapeescapes.net), which will pour in a stay at a chateau. A twonight "Exclusive Reims" tour starts at £1,104 with accommodation at the five-star Château les Crayères, dinner at its Michelin-starred restaurants, plus tastings including a private tour of Dom Perignon. Travel not included.
Moscato d'Asti - Italy
The northern Italian region of Piedmont is beloved of big eaters everywhere; the white truffles are legendary, the hazelnuts incomparable (and often blended with smooth chocolate to form gianduja), and the tajarin - a type of ribbony pasta - is one of the yolkiest of them all. The sweet, gently uplifting sparkling wine from the town of Asti completes the feast.
La Villa is a gorgeous 17th-century palazzo 30 minutes from Asti; lofty double rooms cost from £160 (00 39 0141 793 890; lavillahotel.net). Or, let BK Wine Tours (00 33 680 453 570; bkwinetours.com) help you to work your way through the major foodstuffs - a five-day trip based in Asti, with vineyard visits, tastings and three lunches costs from €1,450pp.
English sparkling wine - UK
Our home-grown fizz is giving champagne a run for its money, so much so that the Duchess of Cornwall has called for a grander label than simply "English sparkling wine".
In Sussex, the English Wine Centre (01323 870164; englishwine.co.uk) runs monthly tutored tastings at its shop, which you can combine with a stay in a beautifully converted barn, for £135 per double. From here, it's a 30-minute drive to Bolney Wine Estate (01444 881 575; bolnetwine estate.com), where you can sip award winners with scones in the café, and take a guided tour from £16. And Ridgeview has reported a good 2013; it offers guided tours too, for £15 (0845 345 7292; ridgeview.co.uk).
There's also a self-guided wine trail you can follow (bit.ly/SEWINE-Tour), taking in such highlights as Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey and the Chapel Down Winery in Kent.
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