Wine is more than your typical product; it's an experience. When we buy soap for our dishwasher, or shoe polish, or RAM for a computer, there's a very simple transaction; it does what we need it to for a very specific role and that's why we bought it. Wine is different; there's no 'job' to do as such, and every bottle of wine tastes different to the last. Wine is usually found shared in company, at the dinner table, at parties and with friends. It eases social environments, makes dishes taste better and has been drank like this for thousands of years! Does it come as any surprise to find that most peoples lasting memories of wine aren't just the wine itself, but the overall experience of drinking it?
We're exceptionally luck to work in an industry where these sorts of events come around often. With our commitment to helping wine lovers travel around the world with their wine, we've had the pleasure of visiting countries all around the world, tasting wine and enjoying some wonderful experiences. Here are 10 of our most memorable experiences of the last few years, which we often then turn into guides to help wine lovers discover the same. What are your most memorable wine experiences?
Discovering Italian wine in Florence
Our trip to Florence was a huge moment for us. We've loved Italian wine for a long time, but there was something about drinking it here, along with a few wine trips, that really opened our eyes to the culture of Italy. Surrounded by the rolling countryside of Tuscany and home to some truly great wine bars, it really is a great spot for wine lovers to launch their own adventures from! If we had to choose a single moment there, it was probably visiting Biondi Santi and drinking in the incredible story and history of Brunello di Montalcino. We wrote a whole article about our experience here so be sure to follow our guide if you're considering a trip yourself!
Drinking Port in the Douro Valley
Port is a gorgeous city; small in scale but big in character. However, nothing could have prepared us for the sheer majesty of the Douro Valley waiting outside the city limits. The Douro Valley is truly one of the worlds greatest vineyard areas, breath-taking to see in person and an absolute must for any wine lover. It's been years since we've visited but Quinta Nova is still fresh in our memory, an estate that's been here since 1725! With views of the valley to die for, and stunning wine, both still and fortified, we haven't yet experienced a better way to discover the Douro Valley. There's plenty going on here and in the city itself, so be sure to read our guide to visiting!
Learning about Malbec in Mendoza
You could spend a lifetime discovering wine in Europe and never cover even half of what's on offer, but there's so much more than that! On a rare trip to South America, we had the opportunity to dig into one of the world's most popular grape varieties; Malbec. Full of soft, luscious tannins and bold black fruits, it's little surprise that Malbec has become such a star, but there's nothing quite like drinking it in Argentina itself, and that means Mendoza! Sat on the terraces of affordable barbecue spots, eating perfectly cooked meat and washing it down with lots of quality Malbec.... life could be a lot worse! We've only had the pleasure of visiting once but here's a list of our favourite spots in the city, as well as venturing out into wine country!
Eating, Drinking and Shopping in Lyon
Did you know that Lyon is the favourite holiday destination for French people holidaying at home? We didn't but having visited, we can certainly see why. Sandwiched between Rhone, Burgundy and Beaujolais, there aren't too many wine locations that can compete with Lyon and when you consider that some of the very best French food in the country is made here... well... sold! One of the very best elements of Lyon is the wealth of wine shops here, and with locations like Antic and L'Ange du Vin, you'll find yourself gazing at the sort of wine you normally have to fight for an allocation of at home! A day out in the granitic vineyards of Morgon followed by an evening at Chez Thomas back in Lyon.... we can't recommend Lyon more highly! Make sure to do some research before you go, and what better place to start than our own guide?
Enjoying a World of Wine in London
It always feels odd to say but it remains the truth; London is one of the very best wine destinations in the entire world! A wealthy city with a small, local production means that wines from every corner of the globe find their way here, and it makes for a paradise for wine lovers. With wine stores like Hedonism, catering for absolutely any taste in the world, particularly at the higher end, The Sampler which allows you to taste literally hundreds of wines at a go, and restaurants like Noble Rot, Sager and Wilde.... there's no city quite like it. We put together 10 of our favourite spots for you to visit and we highly recommend that you do!
Summer Festivals Across Europe
Did you know that we have several, famous wine festivals that take place every summer? We haven't visited them all yet, but the few we've been to suggested that the rest will definitely be worth exploring! It'd be hard to choose a single one but the Medoc Marathon must surely be the most famous, though, we should note, it's one we haven't attempted yet! A full marathon, usually in fancy dress, through some of the most famous vineyards in the world and, you guessed it, there are wine stops all along the route.... it's something quite impressive to make it the whole way in any marathon, just to do it whilst drinking wine?! Here are some other festivals to check out throughout the year if you don't fancy such a slog!
Read, Read and Read Some More
It may sound like a pretty mundane experience, but have you ever read a wine book that changed your perspective completely? For us, 'Adventures on the Wine Route' by Kermit Lynch was one such, as well as Therry Theise's 'Through the Vines', both looking askance at the world of wine and telling stories around it. Nothing has been quite so useful as the Oxford Companion to Wine from a studying and learning point of view, but there's simply so many out there. So many, in fact, that we put together a list for you to check out!
Learning to Blind Taste
Being able to smell, taste and analyse a wine to the point where you can trace it back to its production methods, grape variety, region, vintage.... it must be quite the sensation to manage that and to be right about it! We say 'must be' because we're relative beginners when it comes to the art of blind tasting, but it's already opened up the world of wine to us in a very new way. The first time you sit there confidently, knowing what a wine is and it turns out to be true.... justification for all those hours spent studying, tasting and learning! We highly recommend getting into a blind tasting group and for those of you who've never tried it before and want to learn the basics, check out this article covering the broader points.
Ok, guilty as charged; we love Champagne! Realistically, though, who doesn't?! Learning and exploring Champagne was a huge part of our own introduction to the world of wine, having spent years in the region, it gave us the confidence to venture out and start trying wines from the rest of the world. A good, chilled bottle of Blanc de Blanc Champagne and lightly fried fish? Or a heavier, toastier Champagne, perhaps with a strong Pinot Noir or Meunier component, to pair with roast chicken and vegetables? Absolute heaven. Here's our guide to understanding Champagne!
Portuguese Food and Wine Pairing
Portugal is a special country, and has a place close to our hearts. Choosing between Lisbon and Porto as the two major cities is like picking a favourite child, so we're not even going to try! What we found though, universally, is that the quality of the food is superb and that there's so much good wine to go with it! Our days in Portugal were always punctuated by these short, tasty flavour explosions and the wine combinations.... just wow. Our favourite dishes were invariably those served without fanfare or aplomb: fresh fish and rice with Alvarinho, Porto Preco and Baga.... ah, we're hungry just thinking about it!
Here's to a whole host of wonderful wine experiences; may there be many more!
For more on our specially designed wine luggage and more detailed information on how to travel with alcohol, check out the links below:
Budapest is a real jewel of central Europe; an ancient city full of incredible architecture, museums and restaurants. Did you also know that it's home to some excellent wine bars and shops, as well as so centrally located as to be within 2 hours of several Hungarian wine regions? Needless to say, we did the work for you and dug deep into the wine culture! Want to drink Hungarian wine in Budapest? Read on!
Harvest time is upon us! 2019 looks to be an excellent vintage across many European wine regions and we thought a good way to celebrate would be to look at some of the practical realities of running a harvest, and what it truly entails. If you've ever considered working a harvest before, or if you're curious as to what goes on, keep reading!
Harvest is just around the corner for European wineries, if they haven't started already, so before it does we thought it prudent to look at what goes on throughout the whole year leading up to it! If you've ever wondered what it might be like to work in a winery, read on!