Crisp whites poolside in the scorching sun, spicy mulled reds at European Christmas markets and bubbly sparklings at milestone celebrations – the criteria for most getaways normally factor in a glass of wine or three.
But for the oenophiles and eager sommeliers out there, simply sampling the best pour your all-inclusive hotel has to offer might not quench your thirst for full-bodied, earthy and smooth fine wines.
Heading on a trip into the heart of the world’s most renowned wine regions such as Portugal’s Douro Valley and Chile’s Casablanca is the best way to get to know new grapes, and, even better, on a wine-centric holiday, it's always five o’clock somewhere.
From cruising to try vintage grüners on the Danube to cycling Champagne for flutes of the famous fizz, here are the best wine tour holidays, tied in with tastings, tours and vineyard train rides.
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The Cotswolds, UK
English Wine Tour, Smooth Red
Best for: English sparkling
For a long weekend of quintessentially English villages and award-winning wines, Smooth Red promises a privately chauffeured and historic wine holiday across sleepy hamlets, such as Blockley, and two local vineyards in Chipping Camden and the south Cotswolds. There’ll be time for relaxing in a country house spa, exploring cobbled market towns and admiring the Cotswold’s honey-coloured stone cottages between sips of sparkling wine.
Three nights’ B&B accommodation, bespoke wine tours and tastings from £859pp; smoothred.com
Casablanca Valley, Chile
Classic Chile, Abercrombie & Kent
Best for: Chardonnay
The top wine-growing region in Chile, Casablanca Valley, is famed for its green landscape, climate and crisp white wines. With Abercrombie & Kent’s “Classic Chile” tour, a busy itinerary of personal wine tasting sessions, horseback vineyard visit and poolside lazing by the La Casona at Matetic wine lodge blends the trendy cities of Santiago and San Pedro de Atacama with a taste of chardonnay.
From £9,425pp for 12 nights between September and March, including flights, accommodation and most meals; abercrombiekent.co.uk
A Taste of Champagne, Cycling for Softies
Best for: Champagne
If you’re in the mood to celebrate or longing for a chilled glass of fizz, then sampling champagne in its namesake region on a leisurely two-wheel tour with Cycling for Softies could be the dream wine holiday for you. A route weaving through Epernay, Conde-sur Marne and Reims offers ample opportunities to pop a bottle in charming champagne houses along the way.
Three nights’ B&B accommodation with three evening meals, flights, serviced bikes and luggage transfers between April and September from £1,900pp; cycling-for-softies.co.uk
Napa Valley, USA
San Francisco & Wine Country Discovery, Trailfinders
Best for: Merlot
Trailfinders takes oenophiles to California’s famed wine valleys of Sonoma and Napa for wine tastings, tours and vino-fuelled train rides. Starting with a city break in San Fransisco, merlot and cabernet sauvignon enthusiasts will head through the patchwork vineyards to Santa Rosa’s historic wineries and cruise to Napa in style on the iconic Napa Valley Wine Train.
Seven nights’ accommodation, five days car hire and the Napa Valley Wine Train with lunch from £1,436pp (excluding flights); trailfinders.com
Douro Valley, Portugal
Walking & Wine, Exodus
Best for: Port
With Exodus, the sprawling vineyards of the Douro Valley are readily available for walking from your base in buzzing Porto. Wine lovers will explore Portugal’s Unesco-listed region on foot, led by expert guides through the lush heart of the valley to ancient cellars and some of the best wineries.
Eight days B&B accommodation from £2,499pp, including three wine tastings, transport, flights and airport transfers; exodus.co.uk
Cape Town, South Africa
The Grape Escape: Cape Town & Winelands, Audley Travel
Best for: Cabernet sauvignon
A getaway to South Africa’s vineyards meets historic lessons of apartheid on Audley Travel’s self-drive tour of Cape Town’s Winelands. Highlights of the “grape escape” trip include a cable car up to the top of Table Mountain and a visit to Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned – plus fine food and wine pairings in Franschhoek.
From £2,995pp for 11 days’ accommodation, vehicle hire, flights and private airport transfers; audleytravel.com
Walking and wine tasting, Responsible Travel
Best for: Chianti
For a Italian adventure among the vines join Responsible Travel on a walking and wine tasting tour of Tuscany through urban Siena and Florence and the medieval towns of Greve and Montefioralle. Those with a thirst for chianti are in luck, a visit to the Tuscan Wine School in Siena, stroll around the Fonterutoli estate and wine tasting at Villa Il Palagetto are all fine ways to savour sips between steps.
Eight days accommodation, UK return flights, three wine tastings and a visit to the Tuscan Wine School from £2,075pp; responsibletravel.com
The Danube River, Eastern Europe
Magna on the Danube, Ama Waterways
Best for: Grüner
How does a week cruising the Danube, from Budapest in Hungary to Germany’s Vilshofen, sound? Savour every last drop in the vineyard-rich Wachau Valley in Austria, taking tours of the historic Burg Clam village, on Ama Waterways’ “Magna on the Danube” wine cruise. There’ll be a wine festival in Spitz to take advantage of the region’s famed whites, spicy and complex pours in the cliffs of Burg Clam, and even Oktoberfest beer celebrations in Vilshofen to round off all things booze.
Seven nights’ onboard AmaMagna, including wine tours, festivals and tastings, from £3,007pp; amawaterways.co.uk
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