From distilleries to vineyards: 8 destinations where the drinks are as good as the linens
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
As the coronavirus lockdown has given many a renewed interest in our own booze cabinets, it’s also made us curious about where and how the stuff is made. Turns out, depending on your preferred libation, you can not only visit, tour and sample but practically sleep in a variety of breweries, distilleries and wineries without travelling beyond Europe.
While we are monitoring when we can safely travel, if your dream is to dive deeper into the tipple, here are some booze-infused itineraries to consider for when we can start going on trips again.
1. Bubbles — Veneto, Italy
Outside of Italy, the U.K. is the largest consumer of prosecco, making it the favourite type of bubbly bought out of the £1.5 billion Brits spent on sparkling wine in 2018, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. So if prosecco floats your fancy, head to Villa Barberina, an 18th-century Venetian villa with a stunning outdoor pool at the foot of the Prealps in Valdobbiadene, the town most famous for prosecco production.
Stay in one of the six guestrooms overlooking the vineyards and spend your days touring the area’s wine routes — or stay on property to learn about the Nino Franco Estate wines which have been produced on-site for four generations by the Franco family. Nightly rates start at £198 in September.
How to get there
The closest airports are Treviso (TSF) and Venice (VCE), which are about an hour drive from Valdobbiadene.
2. Rosé wine — Provence, France
Is there any wine more summery than rosé? Enter Château de Berne, a five-star 27-room “farmhouse” (think: gorgeous mansion) in the heart of a 1,500-acre private wine estate in Provence, heralded for its sublime rosé.
The sunny south-facing vineyards were planted in the 18th century, so stay on the property where sommeliers share their passion with guests with visits to the wine cellars, guided tasting sessions and wine workshops — knowledge culled from three centuries of winemaking. To round off the wine-soaked experience, eat at the Michelin-starred restaurant and relax in the spa or by the outdoor pool. Prices start at £327 per night in September.
How to get there
The nearest airports are Nice (NCE), Marseille (MRS) and Toulon (TLN), all of which are about an hour drive to Château de Berne through the picturesque Provence countryside. Alternatively, you can drive from the U.K. via the Channel Tunnel or take the Eurostar.
Related reading: Off the beaten path: Tips on visiting and exploring France
3. Red wine — Tuscany, Italy
An Abbey since the 11th century, Badia a Coltibuono is now a working farm and agriturismo on 2,000 acres in the Tuscan hills, where it’s been producing wine and olive oil for 1,000 years. Badia a Coltibuono has managed to retain the charm and tranquillity of the original monastery — including the cloister, the corridors, the vast salons and frescoed rooms.
Guest accommodation options include comfortable restored apartments or individual bedrooms transformed from the former monks’ cells. This is really one for foodies and wine aficionados, and activities include touring the vineyard and wine tastings — you even get the chance to sample rare vintages of Chianti Classico Riserva Badia a Coltibuono. There’s also a range of cooking classes by local Florentine chef and cookbook author Benedetta Vitali, founder of two iconic Florentine restaurants: Cibreo and Zibibbo.
If not culinarily inclined, relax and let the experts prepare Tuscan fare for you. The in-house restaurant is known for handmade fresh pasta, traditional local meats, cheese and homemade cakes, all complemented with wines brought from the cellar to your table. Nightly rates start at £137 in September.
How to get there
The nearest airport is Florence (FLR), which is about an hour drive through the Tuscan hills.
4. White wine — Surrey, England
If you’re not ready to get on a plane quite yet, just outside London in the green Surrey hills is the 265-acre Denbies Estate, which last year not only opened a 17-room hotel overlooking the vineyards but also scooped up a number of awards for its white wine. The Denbies Estate has been family owned and run since 1984, becoming one of the largest wine producers in the U.K.
Recently, it’s been recognised for its white wines with the Ranmore Hill 2017 winning the WineGB McNie Trophy for Best Blended White Wine in 2019. But you can also sample its sparkling, rosé and reds. Whether you stay over or make a day trip, there’s loads to see and do at the winery — including seven miles of public footpath that trail throughout. Tours and tastings are available daily, there is an onsite restaurant and the charming town of Dorking is within walking distance of the estate. Prices start at £131 per night in September.
How to get there
Denbies Estate is a 45-minute drive from London on the A3 or off the M25. Alternatively, it’s easy to get there by train from either Waterloo or Victoria to Dorking Station. It is also possible to cycle from London in about two and a half hours.
5. Port — Duoro Valley, Portugal
Are you such a vinifile that you’d actually like to sleep in a wine barrel? At Quinta da Pacheca in Portugal’s Douro region, you can. Paulo Pereira and Maria do Céu Gonçalves, owners of this renowned estate where they’ve been making fabled ports and wines since 1903, have created 10 giant replica wine barrels overlooking the 140-acre vineyard.
Each pine barrel is about 30 square metres, fitted with all the mod cons including a large round bed beneath a skylight for stargazing, a spa-style bathroom with walk-in shower, a private terrace, Wi-Fi and air conditioning. If staying in a barrel is not for you, there’s the main hotel, too, but the vibe at Quinta da Pacheca is definitely to participate — you can get involved in the harvest (actually crushing grapes beneath your feet), winery tours, cooking classes and even wine-themed art courses. A Unesco World Heritage site since 2001, the Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, so you know it’s legit. Nightly rates start at £174 in September.
How to get there
Porto (OPO) airport is about an hour-and-a-half drive by car.
Related reading: Second cities: Destinations to add onto a trip to Lisbon
6. Gin — London, England
Gin lovers need to head to London for a thorough soaking. At The Distillery in Notting Hill you can learn about gin at The Ginstitute, an onsite education in gin where you blend your own bespoke bottle, see how to mix the perfect G&T, have your fill and head just upstairs to one of the four chic and eclectic guestrooms, equipped with turntables and a curated selection of vinyl albums, bar carts and windows overlooking Portobello Road.
There’s also The Resting Room restaurant with an ample bar and mix of Spanish and English cuisine, or venture out to enjoy the delights of west London — there’s Portobello Market, vintage boutiques, trendy restaurants, art galleries or roam further for some fresh air in Holland Park or the opulent Kensington Park Gardens. Prices start at £138 per night in September.
How to get there
Notting Hill in west London is easiest to reach from Heathrow (LHR), but also easily done from Gatwick (LGW) and City (LCY) and serviced by most major airlines. By train, the closest station is Paddington and then by Tube to Ladbroke Grove or Notting Hill stations.
7. Craft beer — Aberdeen, Scotland
If you’re a fan of craft beer, you may already know that Aberdeen is the holy ground for “punks” aka fans of BrewDog. But what you might not know is the new BrewDog Kennels hotel sits above the BrewDog Castlegate pub right in town.
With Fierce Beer around the corner and BrewDog’s other two beer bars just a few minutes away, the Kennels make an ideal start and finish to a local craft beer crawl. Lots of other BrewDog experiences are at your fingertips in Aberdeen and nearby Ellon, from a factory and Brewdog HQ office tour to Beer School, where you sample five craft beers paired with cheese with lots of beery chat. Nightly rates start at £85 in September.
For an English alternative steeped in history, check out the newly renovated 26-room inn and cottage, The Swan in Southwold, Suffolk — an annexe of the Adnams brewery, where beer has been brewed for nearly 700 years. The restaurant and bar take their names and decor from the old still and taprooms, and the cocktail bar showcases Adnams’ spirits. There are tours and tastings at the brewery and distillery next door, and the location right in town means your steps from local galleries and the sea, famous for its colourful beach huts and retro pier. Prices start at £189 per night in September.
How to get there
For Brewdog in Aberdeen, fly to Aberdeen (ABZ) — or get the overnight train from London on the Caledonian Sleeper. For Adnams in Southwold, drive about two and a half hours from London or the nearest train station is Lowestoft.
8. Whisky — Raasay, Scotland
Illegal distilling is said to have taken place on the Scottish isle of Raasay since 1850, a remote island to the east of the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides, a corner of the world known for its breathtaking natural beauty, rugged and exaggerated landscape.
Over 150 years later, whisky has returned to Raasay, with its unique geology, history and a community of just 161 residents, who’ve come together to reintroduce distilling — legally this time — and 2020 will mark the first release of Raasay Single Malt Scotch whisky. At the Isle of Raasay Distillery, you can learn about the distilling process, sample the goods and then sleep it off in one of six smartly appointed guest rooms with views of the neighbouring Isle of Skye or of the actual distillery.
The whisky is made 100% from local, mineral-rich water drawn from Tobar na Ba Bàine (Well of the Pale Cow) for use in every stage of the small-batch production — from distillation to dilution, and of course, tasting — along with locally grown barley. For Scottish whisky fans, a visit to Raasay would undoubtedly be a most unique experience. The only way to reach Raasay is via ferry from the Isle of Skye, which is also home to two highly regarded whiskey producers, Talisker and Torabhaig.
How to get there
A 25-minute ferry from the Isle of Skye is the only way to reach Raasay — there is ample parking at the ferry terminal. Glasgow is about a four-and-a-half-hour drive and Edinburgh is about five hours, depending on traffic. The closest airport is Inverness (INV), from there it is a two-and-a-half-hour drive to the Isle of Skye. Nightly rates start at £215 in September.
If the coronavirus lockdown has piqued your interest in a certain type of tipple, you can make it the excuse to do a boozy itinerary somewhere in the U.K. or Europe, and not only drench yourself in your beverage of choice but sleep there too.
Featured photo by Probuxtor/Getty Images.
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