Winemaking is a craft that has been honed in Europe for centuries.
Some of the finest wines are bottled across the continent all year round, making it a playground for wine connoisseurs based all around the globe.
For those with an interest in the fermentation, processing and, of course – the taste of some of the world’s most authentic wines, European wine holidays are ideal.
From the Tuscan hills to the banks of the Mediterranean, you’ll find the vineyards you can visit on the off-chance or even as part of a more extensive wine tour – where you can map out your very own grape trail…
There are a few different locations in Europe where vineyards are commonplace.
Each destination has its own character and unique specialisms when it comes to wine production. Hopefully when you finish reading this you’ll have more of an idea about where you’re heading…
In a convenient location, just a stone’s throw away from the UK, lies a beautiful sight for a wine lover’s eyes. Bordeaux, in south west France, offers acres of vineyards, dotted with dreamy chateaux, and a wine-growing region with plenty to offer both the novice wine taster and connoisseur alike.
Book a visit at one of the wine schools of the region, such as L’Ecole du Vin, to learn about the delicious wines of the region. When you’re ready to take a break from drinking, explore the city of Bordeaux and its UNESCO-listed centre, before taking advantage of that world-class gastronomy the country is famous for.
Foodies unite under the Tuscan sun, where sumptuous vineyards and rustic Italian cuisine tempt travellers to the Italian south. From visiting wineries to walking tours through glorious countryside, dotted with seductive towns, holidaymakers can expect to sample some of the finest wines in Italy.
From Chianti to Vino Nobile to Brunello di Montalcino, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Plus, you can educate yourself in the cheeses of Tuscany, such as the hard ewe’s cheese, pecorino, alongside a few glasses of your favourite tipple.
Tuscan Wine Tours offer a selection of group and private tours that cater to a variety of interests. You’ll be well placed for exploring other, equally romantic Italian hotspots, such as the Renaissance cities of Florence and Lucca or Campo del Medici in Pisa.
The sparkling cerulean seas and sun-soaked shores of the Balearic Islands have enchanted travellers for many a year – wine is just one other excellent reason to visit. Wine Routes Mallorca can provide the perfect introduction to an authentic Mallorcan wine cellar, along with tastings, exploration of the wine-making process and a romantic vineyard sunset.
Or you could choose a three-hour trek in the Serra de Tramuntana or a boat tour along the coast, before quenching your thirst in one of the island’s famous wineries. There are over 70 local wines in Mallorca with quality improving year on year – as they aren’t typically exported, you’ll have to go straight to the source to enjoy. That’s one excuse for booking those flights, anyhow.
Besides the regions listed above, Europe is also home to some of the very best specialist wine hotels.
These hotels are ideal for wine enthusiasts sampling everything each region has to offer. These are also definitely worth checking out if you’d prefer an alternative wine route that takes you off the beaten track.
Although best known for its port production, northern Portugal’s Douro Valley has produced some exceptional, award-winning wines in the last few decades. Six Senses chose to open their first European outpost here, in a renovated 19th century manor house overlooking the Douro river, and liquid pleasures are a key component of a stay.
Young winemakers from the region hold tastings in the wine library, and it’s possible to get feet dirty in traditional wine stomping sessions at neighbouring wineries. The hotel also has exclusive access to vineyards not open to the public.
A former Medici villa and summer hunting lodge has been converted into this luxury hotel surrounded by plump vines, a winery and hiking trails. Part owned by multi-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, it’s a gourmand’s heaven.
Most of the 250-plus wines in the hotel’s cellar are local, and can be sipped on terraces looking out to the vineyards. The property is also within driving distance of Petra, a remarkable wine cellar with a hanging garden of olive trees; climb up high to view Elba and Corsica on a clear day.
If ever proof were needed to justify the health benefits of wine, it can be found here. Taking inspiration from the surrounding vineyards of Château Smith Haut Lafitte, the first Vinothérapie® Spa was launched on the premises in 1999.
Treatments are based on the beautifying properties of the popular French skincare line and include red wine baths in wooden barrels and a wrap made with grape seeds, pulps and stalks. Of course, it’s also possible to drink the stuff at two Michelin star restaurant La Grand'Vigne set in an 18th-century glasshouse.
Looks are everything at this modern, abstract property set amidst the crumbling Romanesque buildings of the Basque country.
The haphazard stack of blocks echoes a trend set by architect Frank Gehry at equally futuristic Hotel Marqués de Riscal, and both properties serve excellent La Rioja wines. As part of a special package, learn how to be a wine expert by visiting nearby vineyards and spending time in the hotel’s extensive cellar, followed by a dinner with pairings prepared by Viura’s sommelier.
Although it’s a stretch from any vineyards, this city hotel, built across the river from Unesco Heritage Centre Porto, offers a fully immersive wine experience.
Descend a spiralling staircase built within a giant barrel to sample the hotel’s Claudelie spa; book bedrooms dedicated to specific Portuguese winemakers; or swim in an outdoor decanter-shaped pool.
The hotel’s gastronomic restaurant holds the city’s only Michelin star, and more than 1,200 Portuguese wines are available on the menu. Twin with a stay in the Douro valley at sister property Vintage House.
Wherever you find yourself sipping wine over the coming months, be sure to travel with the right insurance policy for your needs. Medical Travel Compared can help you compare a wide range of insurers to find the best plan for your money.