If we had to make a list of our favourite things of all time, wine and travel would be pretty high up the list. And thanks to Wine Trails, a new book from Lonely Planet, it's never been easier to combine the two.
Whether you fancy learning about ancient wine-making traditions in wild eastern Georgia, sipping Rioja in southern Spain's "rock star region", or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through Argentinian vineyards, there's a trip for you. Drink it in...
Saddle up for some adventurous tasting in the mountainous capital of Argentina’s thriving wine scene, where old-world expertise meets new-world innovation.
You’ll know you’ve arrived at Tapiz when you spot the llamas. Dozens graze in the fields around the vineyards, controlling weeds, producing fertiliser and providing wool that local artisans use to make traditional blankets and ponchos, on sale to visitors in the winery’s boutique. The picturesque llama family is a pleasingly old-fashioned counterpoint to Tapiz's state-of-the-art (and sustainable) winemaking technology. For a particularly memorable experience, book a tour of the vineyard by horse-drawn carriage, followed by tasting wines straight from the barrels.
Located in the Uco Valley, the Bodega Salentein is as much an architectural landmark as a destination for wine enthusiasts. The main building was designed in the shape of a cross. Each of the four wings serve as a small winery, while the central chamber, or the crux of the cross, functions as a state-of-the-art amphitheatre modelled after the look and feel of a classical temple.
In addition to regular tastings, Salentein hosts a line-up of musical performances and art exhibitions in its barrel room and gallery. Make a weekend of it and check into the 16-room Posada Salentein. Don’t miss the fantastic Sunday asado criollo, a traditional Argentinian barbecue with a gourmet twist — the feast lasts for several hours.
Rioja is Spain’s rockstar region: moneyed, flamboyant, and fantastic fun for a wild weekend away.
López-Heredia Villa Tondoni
Lopez-Heredia Villa Tondonia's founder was a Basque who fought for the Spanish king - and lost. He was exiled to France, where he absorbed tips and techniques from French winemakers, before returning to Spain. After settling in Haro in 1877 he started making table wine, selling it fast and cheaply.
His namesake business still uses many of the old traditional methods. A tour begins in a modern annex designed by Zaha Hadid, but the real interest lies in the old winery, dating from 1890. Workers were given 4L of wine a day, two of which they could drink in the winery. The last stop is the tasting room to sample the Vina Bosconia and Vina Tondonia. As you’d expect, both are sublime.
Cradled in a loop of the River Ebro, Contino is a chateau-style, single-estate vineyard. The stone property, just outside Laserna, is very sheltered – ideal for sitting outside in the shade on old mill stones, listening to the birdsong with a glass of the white Rioja to catch your breath. Contino’s vineyards reach all the way down to the river Ebro, past ancient olive trees.
In most of Georgia, winemaking technology has changed little since 6000BC. Grapes are still harvested by hand, and foot-pressed in the hollowed-out trunks of ancient trees. The juice flows into underground clay containers, known as qvevri, where it ferments and matures. When the sealed qvevri is opened the following spring, its wine is clear, bright and uniquely pure.
If you had to nominate the estate that has had the greatest effect on the global perception of Georgian wine, it would be Pheasant’s Tears. Its owners have been immeasurably important in inspiring local growers to continue the work of centuries. Each of their wines, and their oak-aged chacha (brandy) bears the stamp of long tradition and ethical production methods. Not to be missed.
18 Baratashvili St, Sighnaghi. Tel +995 355 23 15 56; by appointment.
Twins Wine Cellar
This visit is vital not just for the wine; twins Gia and Gela Gamtkitsulashvili have also built guestrooms and a veritable museum devoted to the art of the qvevri. A real working installation, this is a walk-through experience, complete with illustrations and full-sized models to help the visitor fully understand the importance of the ageing vessel to the taste of the finished wine; nearly 110 qvevris here are currently in use.
A restaurant is also attached to the project – one can help bake bread, harvest grapes, participate in qvevri cleaning and maturation and observe distillation.
Napareuli. Tel +995 551 74 74 74
South Downs, England
It’s fizzy, refined and winning awards: English white wine sparkles in the summer, the perfect time to take a tour of Southern England’s vineyards.
As the twisted vines testify, this vineyard in Wickham, on the southwest tip of the South Downs National Park, is one of the oldest in England. But English vine-growing goes much further back; at the time of the Norman Conquest in the 11th century grapes were being made into wine.
Currently, Three Choirs is better known for its restaurant, serving locally sourced produce.
Cross the border into West Sussex to visit Nutbourne Vineyard. Nearby Nyetimber may have been in the vanguard of the English sparkling wine revolution – but it’s not open to the public. However, Nutbourne in Pulborough is open to all, and in 2015 its still white wine won a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirit Competition, the first English still wine to win. The sparkling wines are also sensational.
The family-owned winery is based in a 19th-century windmill midway along the Downs. The Jazz in the Vines concerts take place in August.
The Jura, France
Wine has been made in the mountainous Jura for well over a thousand years. But it is only recently that this corner of France, right on the Swiss border, has begun to make a name for itself in the world of wine, as a new generation of vignerons (winemakers) make their mark.
A tasting at this historic domaine is the perfect introduction to the Jura. Ask Marie-Florence Pignier, a seventh-generation vigneronne, to take you down for a tour of the astonishing 13th-century cellar. The vast, high, vaulted barrel-chamber resembles a cathedral, so it is not surprising to learn that this was originally a monastery founded in 1250 by vigneron-monks who planted the original vineyard.
The wines produced today are organic and highly contemporary. Certain cuvées are ‘naturel’, with no sulphite added, allowing for an explosion of fruit flavour.
Medieval Château-Chalon, classified as one of France’s most beautiful villages, looks down on a criss-cross patchwork of vineyards, including 12 acres cultivated by jovial vigneron, Jean-Pierre Salvadori. His rustic cellar-cum-museum is right on the main street. It is always open for visits, if you call first; Jean-Pierre’s wife prepares home-baked patisseries, the perfect pairing for his exquisite Vin Jaune.
10 Rue des Chevres, Château-Chalon. Tel +33 3 84 44 62 86