A Good Time to Plan a Wine Tour in the Euro Zone

June 14, 2010

It’s high time to plan that wine tour, and also high time that we gave you an update on what’s happening on our main Wine Travel Guides website. With the Euro sliding against the US dollar and to an extent against the UK pound  as well as several other currencies, travel in France, Italy, Spain and the rest of the Euro zone is suddenly less expensive than it was a few months ago.

Châteauneuf du Pape pebbles

Vines in the famous pebbles of Châteauneuf du Pape ©Mick Rock/Cephas

Our biggest news is the recent launch of tailor-made wine tour itineraries aimed at those who are time poor and in need of an extra helping hand with planning a few days or more in the wine regions. The itineraries are based on the information in our on-line travel guides, but are truly tailor-made after we’ve emailed and/or called you to discuss what help you need to make the most of your wine tour. We provide an Excel spreadsheet including distances, timings and map links along with a Word document highlighting how best to secure appointments and get the most out of each day.

Patrimonio in Corsica from Cephas

Patrimonio in Northern Corsica ©Mick Rock/Cephas

Corsica to complete our French Wine Region coverage
Our 50 on-line travel guides are soon to become 52. We already boast that our guides cover all the major French wine regions, but one region has not yet been included… and that’s off-shore, namely Corsica. I’m really excited to share with you that Tom Fiorina of The Vine Route, who has been visiting the island for many years, is currently writing two guides to address this gap and they should be live sometime next month – personally I can’t wait to visit Corsica as their wines are improving dramatically, in keeping with the dramatic landscape.

Media Recognition for Wine Travel Guides
Back in April, we were selected by the UK’s Daily Mail as Website of the Week; we were also mentioned in an article on best new travel technology in the UK Telegraph’s Travel section and appeared in several regional papers, notably by wine writer Liz Sagues in the Ham & High covering North-West London. Importantly, we’ve received some lovely comments from users of our guides and the new tailor-made itinerary service too.

Kaysersberg in Alsace

Kaysersberg in Alsace ©Mick Rock/Cephas

Keeping the on-line information accurate
The huge advantage of on-line guides is the ability to keep information up-to-date relatively simply, though I confess it’s time-consuming with 50 guides equating to over 1,500 recommendations (wineries to visit, places to stay, eat and shop plus attractions) and 400,000 words when you add in the general wine and tourism information. If you spot any errors in our guides, please do let us know.

The good news is that two-thirds of our micro-region guides have been updated in the past 6 months and we try to update each guide thoroughly every 12 – 16 months. The ‘last updated’ date you see on each of our guides relates to the last time we did a thorough update adding several new or replacement recommendations. By the way, at least one well-known guide book series I know that’s available to access on-line is an exact replica of the books, so no more up-to-date than the printed guide books are.

Saint Emilion

The town of St-Emilion ©Mick Rock/Cephas

Other Interesting Travel Planning Resources
Earlier this year NileGuide licensed some of our content as part of their travel planning resources they are building to help you plan your travels worldwide. Do take a look at their website: they have a tool to create your own travel guides which could be useful to link up your wine tours with the other destinations on your holiday itinerary.

Recently I became a Tripbod, one of a team of over 100 local experts who advise travellers through calls and emails on their forthcoming trips. Sometimes, an on-line travel guide or a guide book is simply not enough; on the other hand, our itinerary planning service may be too in depth for you. If you simply want some help with a few ideas of where to visit in the world of wine, especially France, or even some help in my part-time home area in the French Alps, then take a look at Tripbod. Direct access to a person with the inside track can be invaluable.

Vineyards near Cahors

Sunset near Cahors ©Mick Rock/Cephas

Following us on Facebook, Twitter and here on the Blog
Our Facebook Page is gaining a great following which encourages me to update it with interesting links and thoughts. Currently we are highlighting the Facebook pages of wineries listed in our guides in order to give them some support – it’s interesting how some of the most traditional European wineries are responding to the social media opportunity. On Twitter, I tweet about all things wine and travel, with plenty of links to interesting articles in these two related worlds. The next few posts we have planned for the Wine Travel Guides blog are from beyond the scope of our Guides …. out of Europe for once! I look forward to hearing your comments and thank you so much for following.

All the pictures in this post were taken by one of the world’s great wine landscape photographers, Mick Rock, who owns Cephas picture library, one of the major sources for high quality photos of wine, food and travel.

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Twitter Quiz No. 12 – Ysios in Rioja

April 22, 2009

The most famous wine region in Spain – Rioja – has become recognized in recent years not just for the quality of its wines, but for the number of architecturally spectacular wineries in the region – almost certainly more of note than in other wine regions of Europe. The region is dominated by fairly large wineries, typically more New World size, rather than the boutique, family-owned wineries characteristic of most French and Italian wine regions, so these larger companies are more able to fund these fantastical structures by famous architects.

Ysios winery in Rioja

Ysios winery and vineyards in Rioja with the Cantabrian mountains behind.

The best-known architect-designed project in Rioja is Marqués de Riscal’s new winery building and hotel, designed by Frank Gehry, who also designed Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum just a couple of hours up the road. But, before that was opened, an extraordinary building could not fail to catch your eye driving through the vineyards of Rioja, the winery of Ysios, near Laguardia and owned by the giant Domecq wine group.

Tom Perry, an American resident of Rioja, who writes our two detailed micro-region travel guides to the Rioja wine region explains about Ysios:

The inspiration for the name of this winery was Isis, the Egyptian goddess of magic, and it is truly magical when you see the place for the first time, with its undulating aluminium roof against the stark backdrop of the Cantabrian mountain range. When you approach the winery, the roof reflected in a pool looks like a row of casks. Inside, architect Santiago Calatrava has created a simple yet functional design to make winemaking as easy as possible, with the movement of wine directly from one end of the winery to the other.

Congratulations to Katie of Chicago who magically came up with the right answer and wins a PDF guide of her choice.

Do follow me on Twitter for random notes about wines I’ve tasted, places I’ve been and updates to the Wine Travel Guides website. You might also want to check out our Facebook page – especially if you haven’ t yet participated in our poll as to which country we should focus on for our next guides. Please do make a comment on this blog or join in the conversation on Twitter or on Facebook  to discuss anything about travel in wine regions. A bonus: all Facebook fans and Twitter followers are eligible for discounts on subscriptions to the guides. We’ll do another twitter quiz soon.

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Win a Wine Travel Guide – Twitter Quiz No. 12

April 22, 2009

The twitter quiz returns after a month’s absence during which time I sincerely hope you have all been studying wine and travel facts. Reading up about wine regions is one thing, but there is nothing to beat visiting a wine region to really learn about what is behind a wine label. The great thing with learning about wine, and why those of us with connections to wine education dedicate many years to the quest, is that the subject of wine covers everything from history to microbiology, touching on geology, climatology, agriculture, chemistry and more in-between. If you add in a sense of place, which is where travel comes in, then there’s even more to discover. Our twitter quizzes are designed to make you think a little about some aspect of wine and/or travel in wine regions … today’s answer should be pretty easy to discover and the answer will be elaborated on in a post after the winner has been declared. Read carefully to win:

Weekly Twitter Quiz No. 12 – Question
Which new wave architect-designed winery in Spain has magical connections?

You must follow me on twitter to compete. The first correct answer that is replied to @WineTravel wins the prize of your choice of PDF from the 50 guides to wine regions in France, Italy and Spain.

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

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.

The Weekly Twitter Quiz #10 – Château de La Brède, Graves

March 11, 2009

Travelling in wine regions is not all about wine; certainly in Europe, it’s easy to add in some cultural elements to a wine tour. Many wine regions have interesting ecclesiastical relics, old forts and art museums as well as châteaux with stories that may be nothing to do with wine. This week’s answer to the Twitter quiz is one of the latter.

Château de la Brède, south of Bordeaux

Château de la Brède, south of Bordeaux

Jane Anson, who lives in Bordeaux, selected Château de La Brède, as one of the key non-wine attractions in her guide on the southern Graves and Sauternes. For many centuries owned by the family of the philosopher Montesquieu she describes it as follows:

One of the few moated castles in the area, and extraordinarily well preserved, the château is also surrounded by English-style gardens. Expect plenty of proud displays of Montesquieu’s musings.

My Twitter followers are a clever bunch. Richard who was last week’s winner got the correct answer right away but reveals he studied philosophy – Doug of AbleGrape was there too but then he always finds the answer on his very own specialist search engine. So, my first real congratulations and choice of PDF guide must go to Dave Mcallister of Redwood, California who was very persistent and came up with an equally right answer – Château Peyredoulle in Blaye, which it seems belonged to the family of Italian philosopher and humanist Pic de la Mirandole. Further congratulations are also due to Mark Manning of Seattle who was convinced the answer must be the illustrious Château d’Yquem in Sauternes due to its links with the French writer and philosopher Montaigne. The French love philosophy – ever heard them discussing the philosophy of wine? So, no surprise there are plenty of connections.

Jane Anson keeps everyone up-to-date on what’s happening in the region with her new Bordeaux blog and has just updated the eight micro-region guides to Bordeaux for Wine Travel Guides. Why do we have eight? Well, it’s a huge region and if you are just planning a visit for a couple of days, you might only want one or two guides – that’s the great thing about on-line guides, you can just print a few pages of just what you need, and what’s more, being on-line they should be bang up to date. Move over guide books, on-line guides are here to stay.

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Twitter Quiz #10 – Win a Wine Travel Guide PDF

March 11, 2009

Into double figures, where does the year go? Have you planned your next wine tour yet? Here’s your chance to win a micro-region guide from our choice of 45 wine regions in France (46 if you include the free guide available when you register), 2 in Tuscany and 2 in Rioja (see this independent review from a Rioja fan). I am trying to alternate the quiz questions between those that are resolutely for wine geeks (last week’s perhaps) and those that require sleuthing wearing more of a travel hat. Inspiration often comes from the guides, sometimes from my own experiences. So, read on for today’s little challenge.

Weekly Twitter Quiz #10 – Question
At which Bordeaux château would you likely have a philosophical discussion?

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 #9 – Satigny in Geneva

March 5, 2009
Vineyards near Geneva with the Jura mountains

Vineyards near Geneva on the foothills of the Jura mountains

If you’ve ever flown in or out of Geneva airport in Switzerland, you will have most likely flown over the gentle, rolling vineyards of the village Satigny, which has the largest vineyard area of any Swiss village, around 480 hectares or just over 1,000 acres. The French-speaking canton of Geneva is the third largest in Switzerland for vineyards after Valais and Vaud and there are some increasingly interesting wines to be found there from a vast range of grape varieties.

On my last visit there, we visited the wonderfully-named Domaine du Paradis, a producer growing over 20 different grape varieties in 40 hectares of vineyards in Satigny and the surrounding villages.

Roger Burgdorfer of Domaine du Paradis

Roger Burgdorfer of Domaine du Paradis

Owner of Domaine du Paradis Roger Burgdorfer and his partner-winemaker Didier Cornut share a wacky sense of humour which is reflected in their highly decorated tasting room and on their wine labels. The wines, though, show a serious level of quality and originality, with an eminently drinkable Pinot Blanc, an outstanding oak-aged Viognier named Le Pont de Soupirs Blanc; and in reds not only a good example from the local curiosities Garanoir and Gamaret blended with Merlot called Le Noir Divin, but also a surprising star from Zinfandel.

You can easily do a wine tour in Satigny and neighbouring villages directly from the city of Geneva as it’s only 20 minutes drive away. The village has good choices for eating with the large decent quality village restaurant named Auberge de Satigny and just down the road in the hamlet of Peney, the rather upmarket Auberge de Châteauvieux. On our visit, we met up with friends who were actually staying at Châteauvieux and they enjoyed an excellent evening meal in the restaurant.

Café de Peney

Café de Peney

For lunch on our visit we went to the Café de Peney under the same management. Being summer we could sit outside and enjoyed a relaxed meal with outstandingly presented food from good seasonal ingredients. The wine list too included a careful choice from the canton of Geneva and further afield in Switzerland and beyond.

Congratulations to Richard from Massachusetts who first guessed Sion in Valais, then Lavaux in Vaud (both major wine-growing areas, yes) and on the third attempt correctly guessed Satigny in Geneva, not an easy one.

Now, I can go and open a bottle of Le Noir Divin purchased on our visit. Follow me on Twitter for some more detailed impressions on the wine later this evening. And, if you are reading this on another day, you’ll find that my tweets include a wide range of comments on wine and travel related themes plus a few more snippets.

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