News! All Wine Tour Content Now Free to View

October 30, 2009

We’ve made some major changes on the Wine Travel Guides website, which will benefit anyone planning a wine tour in France, Tuscany or Rioja and other regions we will add next year. All the contents of our 50 micro-region travel guides to wine regions can now be viewed free on the website.

There’s no catch here, but anyone who would like the convenience of downloading the guides as PDFs to plan their wine trip off-line and print pages as required, can purchase the guides at a very reasonable price of £5 (approximately US$8.50 or €5.50) with discounts for multiple guide purchases. A sample PDF guide can be downloaded on registration; for those of you who have already registered, do log in and take a look as we’ve changed the sample to the Southern Graves and Sauternes guide by Jane Anson.

We have also converted our former Gold Subscription to Gold Membership, which allows any of our guides to be downloaded for a full 12 months (meaning you get the latest, updated guide) including any we add in the future. The price has been reduced too – Gold Membership costs just £29 (approximately US$49 or €32). A package of member benefits is also planned, and these should include discounts on other valuable wine and travel related information.

In case you are not familiar with the content on our Guides, our micro-region guides are bite-sized chunks of major wine regions, for example, we have 8 guides to Bordeaux; 5 to the Rhône Valley; 2 to Tuscany (covering only central areas at present) and so on. Each guide (about 10 – 20 pages in PDF form) includes 8 – 12 recommended wine producers to visit; a few places to stay (ranging from top hotels to friendly Bed and Breakfasts); restaurants, shops and attractions, plus a useful aide-memoir of the regional wines including appellations, grape varieties and wine styles. A wealth of information in a small package.

Most importantly of all, our guides are written by a selection of top wine and travel writers, selected because they have the inside track on their regions – some you’ve already seen on this blog, others are also top-class, including three Masters of Wine and several published book authors. We also make a point of updating our guides regularly, once a year at a minimum with tweaks during the year as necessary.

There are no other travel guides to these wine regions which are as authoritative or comprehensive as ours available anywhere else on the web, so please visit the site and tell the rest of the world about our existence. The main idea of these changes is to open up our content to many more independent travellers who love wine. Increased visibility – and let’s be honest about it, revenue – will allow us to expand our guides to other countries and regions in the future.

Thank you for reading this blatant sales blog post.  I felt that it needed to be spelt out as going from 60 pages to over 1500 pages of quality content is pretty big news for a website! I hope you agree and look forward to your reactions to the changes. I promise you that interesting wine and travel posts will resume soon!

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Our Tuscany guides contributor wins big award!

April 7, 2009
Michèle Shah was presented with a silver vine leaf

Michèle Shah presented with silver vine leaf

Very proud to report that Michèle Shah who writes our travel guides to the wine regions of Tuscany has won ‘Best foreign journalist of the year’ awarded in the Grandi Cru d’Italia awards in Verona at the end of last week’s Vinitaly wine exhibition. Michèle was one of four shortlisted journalists working for UK, German and Austrian magazines – she won the award for her contributions to the wine magazines Decanter, Wine Spectator and Harpers.

The Grandi Cru d’Italia is a group of 130 Italian wineries, who, according to Michèle, represent the top wine producers in Italy in terms of quality and of market influence. Michèle spoke frankly about what the award means to her: “this was one of the most moving highlights of my working career as a wine critic. I got a tremendous warm cheer from the 130 producers at the award dinner and afterwards many came personally to congratulate me. More than merely receiving the award, it was really the individual messages from each of them that made it so special and meaningful.”

Many congratulations to Michèle who has been given proper recognition for her specialist writing on Italy’s wines and wine regions – you can see most of her published articles on her own website as well as a wealth of further information. You can also read more about Michèle on Wine Travel Guides.

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Win a PDF Wine Travel Guide – Twitter Quiz #11

March 18, 2009

Where does the week go? Have been updating the last of the Bordeaux guides, tackling some Burgundy updates too, planning a week away (no Twitter quiz next week, sorry!) and generally continuing to try to get the word out about our wonderful Wine Travel Guides website. Also, doing some minor corrections to our Tuscan guides following a brilliant ‘warts and all’ review from a very professional travel journalist. So, here we are again, offering you a chance to win a PDF travel guide to one of 50 wine regions (well, 49, because one of them you can get free simply by registering on the site).

Weekly Twitter Quiz #11 – Question
What eastern France town gives its name to a sausage and to a breed of cow?

You must follow me on twitter to compete. The first correct answer that is replied to @WineTravel wins the prize.

I will announce the answer and name the winner on Twitter first and then on a new post here with the answer and some extended explanation.

Discovering Super-Tuscans on a Visit to Bolgheri

February 23, 2009

Tuscany is divided into several wine zones and Wine Travel Guides currently has two guides to wine tours in the heart of the region including some of Tuscany’s finest reds. Below, Donna Jackson, who lives in Italy and spent four years in Tuscany, tells us about Bolgheri in the south west of the province of Livorno near the coast – another important area for fine reds.

Grattamacco in Castagni Carducci © Mick Rock/Cephas

Grattamacco in Castagneto Carducci © Mick Rock/Cephas

Bolgheri, a town located in the comune of Castagneto Carducci, on the edge of the Maremma area south-west of Florence, is the birthplace of Sassicaia, Tignanello and Solaia fine wines in the Super-Tuscan trend. In the last twenty years wine from Bolgheri has received attention for the quality of its wines, and also from traditional Chianti winegrowers who did not approve of the new blends being employed with the venerable Sangiovese. Some pioneering winemakers here began blending the grapes of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, producing a style of wine more in line with the Bordeaux tradition. This region was ruled out as an optimum region in the past because of its proximity to the sea – it was said to produce wines with a salty flavour.

In 1994 the classification of DOC Bolgheri Rosso and Rosso Superiore signified recognition of the use of these different grapes, and these appellations now incorporate ten estates. Rather ironically, pioneer, Satta’s Vigna a Cavaliere (100% Sangiovese) is not recognized by regulators, and only managed to achieve the IGT designation. One further category was created – that of DOC Sassicaia – the first and only single estate in Italy to achieve this. Quite a distinction which is reflected in the price, and because internationally and especially in the USA, people recognise them as fine Italian wines, but are often unaware of the origins in Bolgheri. The same is true of other Super-Tuscans: Ornellaia and Belvedere’s Guado al Tasso are more often associated with the famed Antinori family rather than with the land from where they are produced in Bolgheri.

I particularly like the wines from the Grattamacco estate of Colle Massari in Castagneto Carducci whose Bolgheri and Grattamacco wines are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese. I recently tasted the Bolgheri 2006 vintage which had a lovely intense ruby colour in the glass and on the nose; ripe fruits, plum and a hint of smokiness. On the palate: good mineral quality, plum with strong tannins and a long finish. The wine could be laid down for awhile to improve, but was a good match for the typical Tuscan fare we ate with it. I had pappardelle con porcini and my partner a huge saucepan of caciucco – a rich tomato seafood soup that Livorno is famous for. This wine would pair very well with game too.

The present-day name of Castagneto Carducci was given to the ancient fief in 1907, in honour of the poet Giosue’ Carducci who stayed there as an adolescent and who always remained tied to it – originally it was called Castagneto Marittimo. Dominated by the castle of the della Gherardesca counts, Castagneto Carducci has all the charm of a typical Tuscan village with steep streets. Today, only a section of the walls remain, facing the sea. The local Spar sells the makings of a good picnic to enjoy with the view.

In Via Carducci, there is the house where the poet lived in 1848 with the ‘Centro Carducciano’. A visit to Castagneto cannot end without a walk to Piazzale Belvedere, located in a panoramic position, from where there’s a great vista right to the coast. Giovanni Chiappini’s estate in the centre of Bolgheri is lovely for a walk among the cypress trees, accommodation is available there. We couldn’t resist the cypress road walk at Bolgheri and then reluctantly got back into our car to drive back to Livorno, to my parents-in-law who live just down the road. We’ll be back.

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The Weekly Twitter Quiz #7 – win a PDF Wine Travel Guide

February 18, 2009

Welcome, especially to any newcomers who’ve found this through the new Facebook page. Every week I give you a chance to win one of our micro-region guides (in addition to the sample guide which is available when your register on the site). We have  now reached a half-century … no less than 50 guides with 46 guides to France plus 2 guides to Tuscany and the latest additions, 2 guides to Rioja. Be the first to give the correct answer to this quiz on Twitter and you can choose any one of the guides them as your prize. Here goes:

Weekly Twitter Quiz #7 – Question
Name the pink wine made by an ancient method close to Bourg-en-Bresse.

You must follow me on twitter to compete. The first correct answer that is replied to @WineTravel wins the prize.

I will announce the answer and name the winner on Twitter first and then on a new post here with the answer and some extended explanation.

The Weekly Twitter Quiz #6 – Win a PDF Wine Travel Guide

February 11, 2009

It’s simple: enter our weekly quiz on Twitter by following me and sending a reply on Twitter with the answer to the question below. If you tweet the first correct answer, you win a choice of what will be – very soon I promise – one of 50, yes 50 travel guides to European wine regions. We have 46 guides to France (one of which, Inland Provence, you can view and download just by registering on the website), 2 guides to Tuscany, and in the next few days, 2 guides to Rioja in Spain. So scratch your heads – very quickly – tweet the answer and you will be in with a chance to win. If you don’t win, you could always subscribe

Weekly Twitter Quiz #6 – Question
Star-like fossils give their name to which wine appellation? Where?

You must follow me on twitter to compete. The first correct answer that is replied to @WineTravel wins the prize.

I will announce the answer and name the winner on Twitter first and then on a new post here with the answer and some extended explanation.

The Weekly Twitter Quiz #5 – San Gimignano

February 4, 2009
View from a tower to another tower

View from a tower to another tower

A UNESCO World Heritage site, San Gimignano is known for its many towers, which were built as status symbols in the Middle Ages. When I visited a couple of years ago, I found the town a delight to wander around, and when you climb up one of the towers, you get spectacular views of the landscape. Tuscan wine specialist Michèle Shah writes that it is also well worth visiting the Collegiata, located in Piazza Duomo, which houses a famous cycle of Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the only dry white wine of any real note in Tuscany made from the Vernaccia grape. On Michèle’s guide ‘Between San Gimignano and Siena’ she recommends a visit to the Sono Montenidoli winery “firstly because Elisabetta and Sergio who run and own the estate are both great characters – and secondly because Montenidoli produces San Gimignano’s quintessential Vernaccia.” They also have agriturismo accommodation.

Congratulations to Philadelphia-based photographer Christian Carollo who correctly identified San Gimignano in Tuscany as the answer to this week’s quiz. He wins a PDF guide of his choice so he can plan his own wine tours – @wisequeen and @WritingTravel were also very quick off the mark with the correct answer.

If you aren’t already following me on Twitter, come along for the ride – among other things I tweet new recommendations from new or updated Wine Travel Guides, links to wine or travel articles and sometimes a peep (tweet-peep?) at what wines I’m drinking.

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