Some love the beach. Others head for the hills. Many like to explore new cities, others enjoying hiking in the countryside. What is your idea of a perfect holiday?
Me, I like doing all of the above, of course. But the ideal holiday for me is discovering a wine region. Driving around, discovering the countryside, the people, talking to the winemakers, absorbing some of their passion and listening to their stories. Above all, sipping on the wine. Each wine tells a story of the place it is from, the people who have made it, and what it means to them.
I am far from being a Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker or Antonio Galloni, famous names who are fortunate enough to make a lucrative career out of doing what they love. But I am very lucky nonetheless. Lucky to have several friends, acquaintances and business associates, not to mention family, who are on the same wavelength, who speak the same language, enjoy nothing better than that glass of wine straight from a winery’s cellar, or accompanied by the food of that region; notching up some of those perfect moments which go towards creating a memorable holiday.
I have been fortunate to have had several such perfect moments. Sitting in the room at Krug, tasting Clos du Mesnil 1998, with Joseph Krug’s diary in its glass case alongside. Or walking the corridors at Louis Roederer, absorbing his philosophy as I sipped on his Cristal. Standing under the trees at Hautvilliers, glass of Dom 1998 in hand, trying to feel what Dom Perignon might have done, centuries ago. Sitting in the wood-panelled tasting room of Il Poggone in Sant’Angello in Colle, falling in love with a superb Riserva Brunello di Montalcino. Surveying the pretty biodynamic vineyards of Querciabella, while sipping on Batar and Camartina. Drinking Etienne Hugel’s excellent Riesling at a most convivial lunch he hosted at a tiny restaurant in Riquewihr, with the aromas of choucroute wafting from the crockpot before us – and walking the hillside thereafter to digest it all. Getting locked out of our rooms at Château Giscours at Bordeaux one night, and chucking pebbles at the windows until an unamused neighbour let us in. Watching the sun set over the vineyards of Château Haut Bailly where we were staying overnight. Standing in fascinating between two rows of vines at Puligny Montrachet, marvelling at how that tiny space of soil could make its owners super rich for generations to come.
There is so much more. Each picture, smell and taste is embedded in my brain – yes, I might forget so much but rarely any of this. Wine creates relationships, feelings and wonderful memories. Which is why wine holidays remain my favourite holidays, always.
As I make my preparations to be off to Provence and Languedoc in a few weeks, that thrill of anticipation is back. What will I see, who will I meet and what discoveries will I make this time? Will I love the wines, the people, the places?
I can’t wait.