Village in Alsace, France | Ewen Bell
Discover Italy’s prosecco-producing vineyards, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list earlier this year, plus six more active breaks in the continent for oenophiles. From Rioja to Alsace, experience the grape harvest and indulge in your favourite wine.
ITALY | Prosecco
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the vineyards producing prosecco span nine provinces across the Veneto and its surrounding regions. Named after the Italian village of the same name, it is available as either ‘frizzante’ (lightly sparkling) or ‘spumante’ (fully sparkling). Approximately 150 million bottles of Italian Prosecco are produced annually, with Britain its largest export market.
- RAISE A GLASS: On the Cycle the Dolomites to the Adriatic Sea trip, after cycling from the Dolomites, you descend onto the Venetian plain where the mountains give way to rolling vineyards. Opportunities to sample the famous sparkling Prosecco in the town of Valdobbiadene await you... This 8 day self guided cycle is not one to miss.
SPAIN | Rioja
A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging. Rioja is made from grapes grown in three regions in northern Spain (the Autonomous Community of La Rioja but also in parts of Navarre and Álava), with many wines traditionally blending fruit from all three regions. Around 85% of La Rioja wine is ‘tinto’ (red), mostly from grapes of the tempranillo variety.
- RAISE A GLASS: Cross grapevine-covered rolling landscapes as you take in the Highlights of the Rioja by Bike (8 days) and meet local oenologists, see up close the Frank Gehry-designed Marques de Riscal Estate or visit Vivanco winery’s private collection; self-guided departures.
PORTUGAL | Douro Valley
The first demarcated wine region in the world was officially established in 1756 when the Port industry developed. Today it has the country’s highest wine classification as a ‘denominação de origem controlada’, while the viticultural zone, which covers the steep slopes along the banks of the lower reaches of the Douro River, is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
- RAISE A GLASS: There are plenty of opportunities for scenic boat trips, wine tasting tours and visits to port lodges on the Douro Rambler tour (7 days), which takes you deep into small working wine estates of vine-laced terraces; self-guided departures.
FRANCE | Alsace
The geography of the wine-growing area in Alsace is determined by the Vosges Mountains in the west and the Rhine River in the east, with the vineyards concentrated in a narrow strip on the lower eastern slopes of the Vosges. Wine here is all about aromas, with Pinot d’Alsace widely considered as one of the most uniquely flavoured white wines in the world. An abundance of cellar doors awaits for you on this trip, while the local cuisine includes specialties such as tarte flambé.
- RAISE A GLASS: Walk through the heart of the Alsatian vineyards and sample some of the Alsace’s finest gastronomic delights on our Alsace Mountains & Vineyards.
FRANCE | Médoc
Just north of Bordeaux, the wine-growing region of Médoc has a long history of producing full-bodied red wines (with very few exceptions, no white wine can be labelled Médoc), including the so-called ‘dean of red grapes’: Cabernet Sauvignon. Yields are kept low by government limits, with many wineries still picking grapes manually in order to keep quality high.
- RAISE A GLASS: Visit the impressive wine chateaux of Médoc and sample wines at famous vineyards and prestigious cellars on the Médoc Vineyard Cycle (6 days) with self-guided departures.
FRANCE | Burgundy
Burgundy has the highest number of ‘appellations d’origine contrôlée’ in France. Chardonnay, one of the world’s most planted grape varieties today, originated here and it remains the most commonly grown white grape. Its ability to adapt to different weather conditions makes it one of the ‘easiest’ grapes to cultivate and today there are more than 30 clonal varieties in France alone.
- RAISE A GLASS: Starting in the walled city of Beaune, the region’s wine capital and home to the Hospices de Beaune, where the primary wine auction in France takes place each year, explore Burgundy Canals and Vineyards by bike; self-guided departures.
FRANCE | Champagne Trails
EU law reserves the term ‘champagne’ exclusively for wines that come from this region, located about 100 miles east of Paris. The high altitude and average annual temperature of 10°C create a difficult environment for wine grapes to fully ripen, however it is these cool temperatures that produce the high levels of acidity in the resulting grape, which make it ideal for sparkling wine.
- RAISE A GLASS: Highlights of Champagne Trails (6 days) include visiting Hautvillers, the village of the famous monk Dom Perignon, and cycling through the ‘Côte des Blancs’ vineyards, which yield popular champagnes known for their light, delicate aromas; self-guided departures.