Wine tasting holidays can be an enjoyable way to get a short break away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. You can choose to go for a weekend or longer to experience great wine, fine food and gorgeous scenery.
No matter how much of a wine expert you are or how small your budget is, there is a huge variety of wine breaks available across the world. What if you want to plan your own holiday though? Here are some tips on where to go, when to go and what to look for.
When people think of wine they often think of European countries and - in particular - France, but in fact countries all over the world produce fantastic wine. Places such as South Africa, California and Australia can all be great places to go on a wine holiday. However, if you're only planning a short weekend break away, it's likely you won't want to travel that far and the most popular places to go on a wine break are still the big three: France, Italy and Spain. These locations are all conveniently close by, offer fantastic scenery and, of course, produce great wine.
When choosing on what wine cellars and vineyards to visit, try to focus on the smaller places as they provide a more intimate experience because they'll be less busy. Huge vineyards with lots of staff can be intimidating for some and they don't give you as much of a chance to really talk to the people who make the wine and you probably won't get to ask as many questions as you'd like to as a result.
The best time of year to go can really depend on the location but as a general rule, September and October are the harvest months and therefore mark the peak season for wine tasting holidays. Although this is a great time to go, consider that it will be very busy and expensive to travel to wine regions at this time of year. This also means the winemakers will be busy and won't have much time to talk to you, which isn't ideal.
Instead you might want to consider travelling during May or June, as these months have the best weather in Europe. Remember that you can take a wine break at any time during the year - but you probably won't want to go during the cold winter months, as the vineyards will be bare and you might find it difficult to book wine tours.
Things to remember
Once you've decided on when you're going and where you're going, there are some other things to consider when booking and planning your journey. It is advised that you hire a rental car, as this will allow you to travel further to vineyards that are quite some distance away from where you're staying or the main town. You'll need to assign a designated driver of course, but remember that on a wine tasting holiday, you won't actually be drinking too much - you'll be tasting instead. Still, it's best to designate a non-drinker as your driver.
When heading out on wine tours or visiting vineyards, try to go as early in the day as possible - especially if you're going on a weekend or during high season, as tasting rooms will be packed come midday. In addition, try to only visit three or four wineries a day at most, otherwise you'll find yourself rushing round to get to the next one, which isn't enjoyable for anyone.
Remember that wine breaks are meant to be fun, relaxing experiences, so don't stress yourself out by travelling at busy times or trying to see too many places in one day. Pick a location, pick a handful of wineries to visit and just relax. More seasoned wine country travellers may travel at peak season but that doesn't mean you have to. Take things are your own pace and remember to ask lots of questions if you can, as wine breaks can be a great educational experience for wine lovers too.