Wine holidays are FABULOUS!
First up, there’s the wine and it only gets better from there. Wine goes hand-in-glass with good food, so there are likely to be lots of good restaurants and local produce. Wine-producing regions also tend to be picturesque, relaxing and, well… full of wine!
Really, it’s the perfect holiday for a group of friends. The relaxed pace and dedicated focus allow you all to mellow out and enjoy quality time together.
Along with the good food, vistas of vineyards and slowing down of your day to focus on which drop to try next, wine holidays are the best place to learn about wine itself.
Producing good wine is one of those mysterious alchemical processes understood and perfected by a lucky few. It really isn’t as simple as pick grapes – leave for a long time – strain – drink. Visiting cellar doors and talking to the people behind the counter – often the wine-makers themselves if you’re lucky – is the best way to learn more about the process, what makes a good wine and how to pick a good bottle.
Basically, there is nothing bad about wine holidays. I’d rather like to be planning one right now.
If you are keen to organise a wine-region holiday for a group of friends, here’s how you go about it:
1. Pick your region
Australia makes outstanding wines and we have a score of wine regions for you to choose from, each with their own charms. You can go to Margaret River, Pemberton (WA) McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Connawarra, Eden Valley (SA), Hunter Valley, Riverina (NSW) Stanthorpe (Qld), Yarra Valley, Strathbogie Ranges, Gippsland (Vic) or Tasmania. If you were a super-keen Aussie wine drinker, you should get this map to adorn your walls and perhaps slowly visit your way around the country.
2. Decide if you are going to have a designated driver or pay for a mini-van service
Most wine-regions will have locals drivers who drive small groups around either on organised tours or to a selection of vineyards of your choice. If you can afford it, this is a great option as it allows everyone to enjoy themselves. Driving yourself isn’t the worst thing however, you just have to take turns each day and make sure the driver of the day gets an extra glass of the best vino that is opened that night. If you are driving, remember to drink responsibly.
You will generally have two basic choices for accommodation- in a town or out among the vineyards. In town has the advantage that if you’re too pickled at the end of the day, you can all walk to the pub for dinner. Out in the vineyards you’ll have to plan ahead for your evening meals but the views and/or situation will make up for that.
Oh and remember – wine regions tend to get cold in winter. Fireplaces and red wine go so well together when it’s chilly outside, don’t you think?
4. Pick your vineyards
Chances are you will have a couple of friends who feel strongly about wine and a few who are happy to just take advice and enjoy the reds. Get a couple of people to pick the places you’ll go, with input from others. If you have a wine-lover or two with you, chances are they’ll make good guesses as to which spots will house the best drops.
It’s important to not just go to the big cellars. Pick some you’ve never heard of, some that grow lesser-known varietals and do some interesting things with their wines. There is no point in going on a wine holiday and only trying wines you can buy in your local bottle shop. Experiment and you’ll likely find something new you’ll fall in love with.
5. What’s on?
Wine regions rely on tourism as much as the wines they produce. The local tourist office will not only be able to furnish you with some good maps of the local cellar doors, but also tell you if some places have Sunday sessions with local bands, special dinners or events on while you’re there.
A lot of places will have festivals – Margaret River Wine Festival, Crush, A Taste of Good Things, Hunter Valley Wine Festival to name just a few. Obviously, the cellar doors will be busier during this time and accommodation may be at a premium. But wine festivals are the very definition of fun. You cannot have a wine region without good food and then there is entertainment and wines by the dozen. If you want to have a party as well as a relax, time your holiday to coincide with the local festival.
So what are you waiting for?