These days, more and more of us are looking to do something more with their holidays than just lie on a beach. The choice of activity holidays can be bewildering and sometimes it can seem as if everything is geared towards people looking for energetic adventure trips or dare-devil thrill seeking. So, if like me, you like more gentle pursuits, a wine holiday is one of the holiday ideas you might like to consider.
For me, enjoying a glass of wine is one of life's great pleasures, so it's no surprise that holidays involving wine would be high on my list of things to experience.
Over the years, we have enjoyed many holidays in wine producing regions in France, where we have organised our own wine tours, staying in gites or hotels. Clutching our much thumbed copy of Hugh Johnson, travelling from one producer to the next (usually on our bikes) we have sampled the delights of Côtes du Rhône, Bergerac, Cahors, Fitou, Madiran and Minervois to name but a few. The French countryside is beautiful in all of these regions and the roads are quiet, which makes cycling a pleasure. And after all that sampling, if you can still remember which wines you liked best, you can go back with the car and make your purchases. The wine Co-ops are a good place to start and it's fun to see the locals filling their plastic containers from a contraption akin to a petrol pump - no wine snobbery there! France also benefits from having some of the world's best food to complement its wines. What could be better than a picnic of baguette, cheese and a great bottle of the local wine, truly a taste to savour.
Three years ago, we spent the winter in New Zealand and managed to take in wine tours in three of the main wine growing regions - Martinborough and Hawkes Bay on the North Island and Marlborough on the South Island. In Martinborough we had Christmas Eve lunch at the Murdoch James vineyard and were lucky enough to attend a winemaker's dinner at Winslow where a fantastic selection of wines accompanied each mouth-watering course - definitely an experience to be repeated.
Hawkes Bay is blessed with wonderful scenery and a great Mediterranean climate. We based ourselves in Napier, a town which was flattened by an earthquake in 1931. It was rebuilt in the Art Deco style which was popular at the time and is recognised as one of the best preserved Art Deco towns in the world. After taking the compulsory Earth Quake Tour, we visited Craggy Road, a very prestigious winery and had a great sampling session, bought some wine and had a picnic in their grounds. We also visited New Zealand's oldest winery Mission Estate and Kim Crawford where you can actually stay at the vineyard.
In Marlborough, we tried 2 different tour options - the first was a locally organised, mini bus tour with a guide. We visited 6 different vineyards, including one of my favourites - Cloudy Bay, as well as Allan Scott and Villa Maria. Our second tour was by bike, again organised locally, the price included hire of bikes, a map of the vineyards and suggested routes. The surrounding countryside is pretty flat and the wineries are quite close to one another so it's not too arduous getting from one to another. For me, the highlight of this tour was our tasting at Mud House. We carried a couple of bottles of their most excellent Black Swan Reserve Pinot Noir 2003 back to the UK and savoured them - reminders of a great visit to New Zealand.
Copyright: Mandy Moore Something Active Ltd
Mandy Moore is a keen traveller, skier and wine enthusiast. She is a founder of Something Active, a web-based business providing activity holiday inspiration for people looking for more than a beach holiday.