It’s that time of year when travelers begin to think about their “next big adventure,” and if you have a deep love for wine like we do, then it’s time to plan your dream European wine tasting trip.
It’s easy to read all the wine books and attend all the wine tastings at your local wine shop, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing the magic of where it’s made. Europe is a great place to start when you begin tapping into your wine travel bug. It is a treasure trove of wine regions, each with its unique charm, history, and flavors waiting to be explored.
Select a destination
The first step to planning your European wine trip is to select your hub – a major city like Barcelona, Venice, Provence, or Paris, each boasting incredible wine regions in close proximity. In a recent interview, we had the pleasure of chatting with Jessica Battista, expert travel advisor and owner of Ultreia Travel, to gain insights into the process of planning wine-centric getaways.
Jessica starts by saying, “For the typical traveler, the wine aspect usually isn’t the primary focus of the trip; it’s an added bonus for food and wine enthusiasts.” She says that most people have a limited amount of vacation time, resulting in only 3-4 days reserved for wine exploration while the rest of the trip is spent exploring and sightseeing in the main city center.
After deciding what country to visit, and the city you’ll be spending the most amount of time in, you’ll then need to define your wine preferences. In the process of organizing travel experiences for her clients, Jessica engages in a series of informative questions to help her gauge their wine preferences, accommodation choices, and tour preferences, including whether they lean towards private or group tours.
If you are heading to Paris, you have a number of options for the ultimate wine getaway. Champagne, France is a quick one-hour train ride and there are an endless number of Champagne tours available for an easy day trip of bubbly bliss.
Red wine drinker? A three- or four-day trip to Bordeaux is a great option for travelers who enjoy big, bold reds. Bordeaux, known for its structured, age-worthy red wines, is a top destination for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot enthusiasts.
A two-hour train ride from Paris and you’ll find yourself in one of the most picturesque cities you’ll ever visit. From the food, the art, the people watching, and the emerging cocktail and natural wine bars, Downtown Bordeaux is officially one of the hottest cities in France to visit. Nearby this bustling city, you’ll discover some of the world’s most renowned and prestigious wineries. Most of the chateau visits are by appointment only, so outside of doing your own research, you can either use a travel advisor to assist in setting up your wine tastings, or a reputable tour booking company. Your hotel can also make recommendations and reservations for you.
Getting around Europe’s wine regions can be an adventure in itself. We always recommend hiring a driver for the days you are doing winery visits. While it is nice to have the freedom of having your own vehicle to explore the countryside and visit wineries at your own pace, it is imperative that someone in your group take turns being the designated driver. Jessica Battista always books a driver for her clients to ensure that they get the most out of their tastings.
Jessica also advises that you obtain an International Driver’s Permit which is required or highly recommended in many countries. The International Driver’s Permit is not necessary for the rental car companies, but this is required by law if you plan to operate a vehicle in Italy, for example. You can apply for this permit at the AAA office for only $20.
Joining guided wine tours that provide transportation, expert guides, and curated winery visits make for a very stress-free experience. Jessica frequently uses Florencetown, a private and small group provider for Italian winery tours and experiences. Whether you use a travel advisor or tour company, always plan your transportation in advance, as Uber, Bolt, and taxis are not as readily available when you are outside of the city centers.
Where to stay?
Choosing the right accommodations is essential for a memorable wine travel experience. Look for accommodations near the wineries or in wine regions themselves. Many vineyards offer charming guesthouses or bed-and-breakfast options where you can wake up surrounded by breathtaking vineyards.
Hotels in the area may offer an additional layer of convenience given they can book transportation, tastings, dinner reservations, and even laundry services.
Usually, villas or apartment flats come with longer stay requirements, but the benefit is having a kitchen available for preparing meals at your convenience. You can then explore the outdoor markets and shop for all the ingredients your heart desires!
While planning the ultimate wine adventure can be exciting, it can also get overwhelming. Where to start, how much to budget, where to go? Use the staff at your local wine shop to help in making some of these decisions. Many wine professionals have visited properties and can provide firsthand insights and experiences. There are also huge benefits of seeking guidance from a travel advisor.
So there you have it – a quick guide to planning your European wine tasting trip. Cheers to unforgettable experiences and creating memories that will last a lifetime. And don’t forget your Wine Skin! We can assure you that you’ll be bringing a few bottles of wine back with you.