Wine & Travel

Snooth User: esol

One Day in Europe for Wine Tasting - Where???

Posted by esol, Jan 4, 2016.

I'll be in Germany next week, and once I arrive I plan to drag my jet-lagged self to Alsace, France to tour a few wineries there (a couple hours from Frankfurt). BUT- I'm not really into white wines as much as reds, though I don't mind Gewurtzraminer and Dry Riesling.

But I am thinking of taking a day off toward the end of the week. I can get pretty much anywhere in Europe from Frankfurt for not too much money. I've never done a winery tour in Europe.

If you had one day to spend in a region, where would you go? Any recommendations for regions or wineries would be much appreciated! I could go to Bordeaux, or to Spain, or Italy... Literally anywhere and I'll have a full day but thats it. It will also be mid-week (Thursday) and unfortunately the middle of winter.

I've been finding myself partial to the darkest of dark red, full body reds. Bobal, Touriga, Tannat, Sagrantino, Malbec, Petite Sirah etc. But I'd also never pass up a perfected Bordeaux or Rhone blend.

For those who have been to some of the best wine regions in Europe, where would you go back if you wanted to make the most of exactly one day? I plan to bring a case or two home with me.

Thanks for the tips!

Eric

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Replies

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Reply by GregT, Jan 4, 2016.

It's going to be kind of a waste if you just show up somewhere random without knowing anyone. First, most places in Europe aren't like Napa - made for tourists with dedicated staff just to handle visitors. Second, your airport is not necessarily going to be close to where you want to be. You don't want to land, spend six hours driving somewhere, and then find that most of what you were interested in isn't available for visiting.

Therefore, I'd go somewhere that

  1) has an airport nearby;and

  2) has numerous wineries; and

  3) is used to receiving tourists.

I'd suggest somewhere like Bordeaux. They're used to visitors, there are many wineries within a reasonable distance of each other, and you can get there easily. There are wineries right outside of Vienna and they're also used to tourists, but you don't like whites.

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Reply by esol, Jan 4, 2016.

Thanks GREGT- yeah maybe I'll even do a tour that I can book online- several of them are available in Bordeaux. Thanks for the advice.

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 5, 2016.

Greg's comments are spot-on, but for the sake of argument I'll suggest also considering that you base your visit in either Lyon & Dijon (for Burgundy), or Barcelona (for a couple of possible regions, including Priorat). So you have Bordeaux's blends from big famous chateaux, Burgundy's Pinot Noir and some of the best food on earth, or Barcelona's garnacha and ditto the food to choose among. Tough job, but looks like you've willing to take on the task!

The main thing is you're talking about a lot of travel by plane/TGV/car, and if it were me I'd choose the place and wine I was most empassioned about at moment to compensate for the upcoming travel hassle and fatigue. Essential that you contact local folks ahead of time, even in the worst case if just a concierge at the hotel you plan to stay in, to lay groundwork for your winery/tasting room/restaurant/liquor store visits. Usually I like to take it loose and easy when visiting wine regions, but with your ridiculously strict timeframe you'll need to plan the logistics like a military campaign.

Revisit when you decide which location you wish to target and we'll be able to offer more focused advice. I've been to all four locations (Alsace, too), and Greg and others here have more specifics to offer, as well.

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Reply by Mike Madaio, Jan 5, 2016.

The above suggestions are solid, but I'll also add that if you can find your way to Florence you'll be quite close to Chianti, which seems to meet all of Greg's guidelines.

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Reply by esol, Jan 5, 2016.

Gosh... decisions... Dijon sounds good- I haven't been there. I've been to both Florence & Barcelona and love both (oh the food...) but perhaps seeing a new place would also add to the value. Dijon or Bordeaux would fit that actually. I'll plan to take a cheap EasyJet or RyanAir flight Wednesday night (or perhaps an overnight train with a sleeper car). Then I'll take an early flight back to Frankfurt Friday to catch my flight home with an extra suitcase (or 2) full of wine. (I've got WineSkin bags and cardboard boxes coming from Amazon)

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Reply by esol, Jan 5, 2016.

As for the variety that currently has my interest most... I'd have to say its Bobal. I just looked that up, and it seems to be from the Spanish Utiel-Requena DO in the province of Valencia. I'm not sure about airports or public-friendly wineries there, but its something to investigate. Seems they also produce Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cab Sauv and Syrah. Sounds splendid to me. I'll also look at Dijon and Bordeaux!

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Reply by esol, Jan 5, 2016.

Any thoughts on these?

http://www.valenciancellars.com/Requena_Wineries_Full_Day_Tour.php

http://winetourvalencia.com/

http://travel.intothevineyard.com/multi-day-spain-wine-travel/

 

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Reply by esol, Jan 5, 2016.

So I've put together two workable (perhaps a little crazy) itineraries:

Dijon-

  • Wed afternoon, Drive to Strasbourg, get a hotel & leave my car there
  • Thursday early morning, take an SNCF train to Dijon
  • Packaged Burgundy tour, followed by dinner
  • Thursday PM take train back to Strasbourg, stay in same hotel
  • Friday AM drive to Frankfurt & head home

Valencia-

  • Wed afternoon, return my car then fly EuroAir to Madrid (this flight is very cheap)
  • Stay in hotel next to Madrid airport
  • Early Thursday AM, taxi to Atocha train station, take Renfe train to Valencia
  • Packaged Valencia / Requena tour, followed by dinner
  • Late train back to Madrid, stay at same hotel
  • Friday Early flight to Frankfurt, in time to make my flight home

Of course, if any connections get mixed up I'm screwed- but I'm fine with the risk.

If only I could take two days I'd figure out how to do both haha.

Time to decide...

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Reply by EMark, Jan 5, 2016.

I have never been to Europe, Esol, and, so, I have no advice for you.  However, your itinerary looks like fun and I look forward to your report of your adventure.  Have a great trip.

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 5, 2016.

Good that you've clarified what wine excites you now and are focusing towards it. I like the Spanish connection better because of that. Your quick in-and-out strike seems even more a crime in Burgundy, which you should spend more time in when you do it somewhere down the line. Not even spending a night there, hmmm, though Strasbourg certainly has excellent food if you're basically not just staggering into your hotel room and collapsing onto the bed. Doing those two nights in Madrid allows you to discover some interesting tapas/pinchos and wine bars/restaurants and even a liquor store or two, which would attract me more than Strasbourg, if it's one or the other. Plus your two cases (or more) of wine out of Valencia/Madrid should cost you what only one would out of Burgundy!

I have less experience with train timing and reliability in Spain than in France. That's the wildcard, in my view, since you are trying to do so much in a single day and have no cushion in your schedule. More of my experience there has been in cars, or trains where I didn't care so much about delays or general tardiness. Get the reasonably earliest (and latest) possible trains to (and from) Valencia, I would think.

Mike's recco of Florence & Tuscany is also a good one. Not sure why I wasn't thinking of that one, too, unless it was because I've never flown into that town. But again, Spain seems to be the answer, and Valencia is a lovely area. My daughter was just there over the holidays, because her boyfriend is from a local family and though he's based in NYC these days, Valencia wins out on the holiday desirability index. If you had a couple more days you could even take the ferry over to the Balearics! They make enough wine in Mallorca these days to justify a visit, if any justification is needed.   ;-)

Will go over and look at the following options later, which I'm hotlinking for you here:

  1. http://www.valenciancellars.com/Requena_Wineries_Full_Day_Tour.php
  2. http://winetourvalencia.com/
  3. http://travel.intothevineyard.com/multi-day-spain-wine-travel/

Greg, any experience with wineries near Valencia? Mine has been in (several) other parts of Spain...

 

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Reply by esol, Jan 5, 2016.

Jumilla, Alicante, Rioja and Ribera del Duero are all within reach of Madrid as well- though Valencia may work better with regards to transportation timing.

They seem to all have wine tourism web sites up, with lists of wineries that can be visited. Perhaps that would be better than a packaged tour that stops at 2 wineries.

Narrowing it down.

Thanks everyone for the excellent insight!

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Reply by JonDerry, Jan 5, 2016.

ESOL,

I very much like the Spain, Utiel-Requena idea. Have had some very nice wines from there myself, and while I love the Dijon-Burgundy idea for myself, it does really help to know some people in that area, and the Spain idea figures to be at least 1/3 the price, maybe far less for what's considered to be "good wines" for the region/s.

Have fun and hope you can report back.

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 5, 2016.

Didn't bother mentioning Madrid as a base because a) that's talking more tempranillo and you've targeted Bobal, and b) you will need some real logistical magic (and local connections) to hit those areas in a day. A *very* fast Italian car with driver (and trunk space, to boot)?? Not hardly. I was worried that Priorat would be a hard single-day roundtrip when I was first thinking of Barcelona, but Rioja from Madrid? Forgettabout it. Ribera del Duero is much closer but Valencia still seems the smaller, more accessible area and easier to cope with. And it'll likely be warmer, too. 

I'd start talking first with #3 (intothevineyard) and see how customizable a visit could be made for you, at what price. Then I'd go in reverse order (winetourvalencia, then valenciancellars) to hear their responses, too. More (up to four) rather than fewer wineries, with specific targeting of better ones, of course. Good to find out now what the better wineries in the area are, to facilitate that targeting.

Of course what I'd really want to do would be to drive from Madrid to Valencia, hitting wineries when close to Valencia right off that highway, then overnight in Valencia, hit some more in the area next day, overnight again, then take the car on the ferry to Mallorca and continue for several more days, tooling around the island. Haven't done something like that in awhile...  ;-)

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 5, 2016.

I was going to recommend Chianti or Montalcino--friends went there recently and didn't have too much trouble getting into wineries to taste, Montalcino has tasting rooms right downtown.  My other recommendations was going to be flying to somewhere close to Avignon and going to Chateauneuf du Pape.  David Sharp at WineMine recently was there and had no trouble getting into some wineries.  Of course he's in the business, but he's a one-shop guy, doesn't do any importing, etc.  Not talking Chambers Street or traveling with Greg dal Piaz.  If you can wait another day or so, I'll have my review copy of Wine Trails by Lonely Planet, and I'll let you know what they recommend.  (Yep, they agreed to let me have a copy to review.)

Piemonte is not that easy to get to in the time you have, although you could go the Ghemme and Gattinara regions by taking the train north from Milan--it's not quite as hard as Barolo, etc.  If you could fly into Asti or Alba, that would change things, but they don't have airports that I am aware of. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 5, 2016.

Oh, crap, did we all miss one potentially obvious choice?  I know our OP likes red, but it's a one hour fifteen minute train ride from Paris to Epernay.  There's another quick ride into Reims if you like.  The bigger champagne houses are easy to walk into.  Somewhere around here I've mentioned my own experience there a couple decades ago, and they have to be even more tourist friendly now.  And, I mean, it's CHAMPAGNE.

Downside is that it can be pretty dang cold in Champagne. 

Although any of those itineraries, and MIke's idea of going to Florence appeal to me, too.  I'm going offline and making plans to go there soon, I think.  Maybe I can talk Mike into a meet up in Montalcino.  All he needs to do is win another trip. 

ESOL, what has you in Europe?  Where are you lugging your wine back to?  And have you considered that you may have to pay duty?  True that you will get things you couldn't and at prices that can be pretty favorable, but having more to lug around and paying duties (one liter is exempt) can make it seem less appealing. With the Euro so weak right now, Euro wine is already pretty cheap here. 

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Reply by esol, Jan 5, 2016.

Hi Richard,

I have some meetings in Germany, near Frankfurt. I've only been into wine for the last couple of years, so even though I've been through much of Europe- I've never been there as a wine enthusiast. My understanding (from a quick google search) is that the duties are pretty light for a case of wine. I will admit, I'm not known for being practical haha.

Eric

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Reply by esol, Jan 5, 2016.

DMCKER- thanks for the info. You are probably right about Rioja. It looks like I'll use Madrid as a base- just because there are flight options there that work (and are cheap to boot). It seems there are fewer & more expensive flights directly to Valencia. But the hotel is cheap in Madrid, and the train ride to Requena-Utiel looks to be 1.5 hours and are running both early in the morning and late at night. I do like pretty much all of the Spanish grapes- it does seems Spain is my best bet in that regard. 

Thanks again everyone for the sage advice- I'll be sure to update the thread with my experience!

Eric

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Reply by esol, Jan 5, 2016.

So I got the ball rolling... I just paid $230 for a round trip flight Frankfurt<->Madrid and a decent hotel with good ratings next to the airport for two nights. I'm sure they'll extract another 100 euros out of me before I'm done, but this is still pretty cheap!

I may just rent a car, rather than trying to take trains to Requena. I've driven in Italy, Spain can't be any worse right?

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 5, 2016.

I've driven in Italy, Spain can't be any worse right?

Outside Rome, I didn't see that much bad driving.  In any case, bon voyage--sounds like a great choice, and good for you for committing.

Somehow, even when I go to Europe NOT intending it to be a wine trip, it still turns out that way.

Report back, please--someone might want to replicate your experience.

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Reply by GregT, Jan 5, 2016.

So some of those places are near Madrid but it's pretty exhausting getting from Madrid to somewhere else, whether you rent a car or take a train. I've been to Spain a lot and usually don't spend the first day tasting. Also, Utiel Requena is really off the beaten track as it were - it's a pretty new region for serious wines and there aren't a lot of great places. Most are pretty bad actually. Priorat isn't a tourist place so much either, and frankly, neither are the wine regions of Valencia, Jumilla, etc. However, it's worth going there anyway. In fact, almost all of the places mentioned are worth seeing just for themselves.

In Lyon for example, you can reach Beaujolais quickly and it's friendly and cheap. And Lyon itself is home to fantastic restaurants- traditionally the best chefs from France came from the region where they learned to cook in the little kitchens of their mothers - there are or were many tiny places called Chez Mere AAA or Chez Mere BBB, etc. And it was a city in use by the Romans.

In Valencia, or rather outside of the city itself, are wine making ruins dating back to the Phoenicians.

A lot of the wine produced by Bobal, or many of those newer places, is pretty rough. There are people waking up and making good stuff, but the majority of it is really bad. That said, it will be an interesting trip any way you go, so good luck.

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