Portuguese vineyard
Portuguese vineyard

Wine tours: Explore Europe's vineyards by bike, boat or hot-air balloon

Explore vineyards and wineries as the grapes ripen

Lucy Gillmore
Thursday 27 August 2015 14:36
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As summer turns to autumn, harvest time comes around. And across Europe that means grapes. There are plenty of ways to combine travel and viticulture. Wine tour specialist Arblaster & Clarke (01730 263111; winetours.co.uk) offers everything from champagne weekends to holidays exploring off-the-beaten track wine destinations such as Georgia and Turkey.

Alternatively, go it alone, bedding down in luxury wine hotels and chateaux along the way. In Spain's Rioja region, Hotel Viura (00 34 945 60 90 00; hotelviura.com) is a collection of higgledy piggledy glass and concrete blocks designed to resemble a bunch of grapes, offering two-hour quad-bike tours of some of the area's 700 bodegas for €170pp (£124). And in France, just outside Bordeaux you can visit the Smith Haut Lafitte winery before indulging in a vinotherapy treatment at the luxurious Les Sources des Caudalie (00 33 5 57 83 83 83; sources-caudalie.com) hotel next door; rooms from €224 excluding breakfast.

Wine-themed cycle tour of Italy

Pedal power

In the hills of Mont Ventoux, near Avignon, Hotel Crillon le Brave (00 33 4 90 65 61 61; crillonlebrave.com) has launched a new series of scenic vineyard cycling routes that take you through the vineyards of Château Valcombe and Château Pesquie on electric bikes – or a tandem. Double rooms start from €364 including two half-days' bike rental.

Saddle Skedaddle (0191 2651110; skedaddle.co.uk) has two new trips this year cycling through the vineyards of Italy and Portugal. The eight-day guided trip to Piedmont (19-26 September) through medieval hamlets and the rolling landscape of this Unesco World Heritage-listed region pedals through the village of Barolo to visit Italy's innovative wine museum, WiMu. From £1,210pp, including half-board accommodation, transfers and bike hire but excluding flights.

High flier

The Grand Hotel Continental (00 39 0577 56011; niquesahotels.com), a 17th-century converted palazzo in Siena, has a hot air balloon ride over Tuscany's vine-carpeted hills, plus a private wine tasting in the hotel's Enoteca Sapor diVino, a wine cellar carved out of the rock in the old medieval tower. The experience costs €366, while a double room in September or October costs from €375, B&B, based on a three-night stay.

Journey to the source

Travel from the bustling capital of the port wine trade, Porto, to the vineyards of the Douro Valley via the Quinta de la Rosa, where they still tread the grapes by foot, with Inntravel's (01653 617000; inntravel.co.uk) self-guided walking holiday. In late September the harvest is in full swing and workers sing late into the night as they pick the grapes. It costs from £478pp including four nights' B&B, two dinners and walking notes, but excluding flights.

Bottle of Britain's finest

At the Three Choirs Vineyards (01531 890223; three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk) in Gloucestershire you can bed down among the vines. A wine-tasting break for two costs from £240 per night, based on a two-night stay and includes a bottle of sparkling wine, two tickets for a winery tour and tasting, dinner each night in the Vineyard restaurant and breakfast.

Messing about in boats

Voyages Jules Verne (0845 166 7035; vjv.com) has a seven-night cruise along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and Gironde estuary in Bordeaux, including vineyard visits and tastings from £1,445pp. Includes flights from Gatwick, transfers, full-board, excursions and guides; departures on 16 and 23 September and 1 October.

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