The best wineries to visit and the reasons why.
I have been to many wineries in my time in the wine trade and some stick out in my mind and are thought of with fond memories. Whenever people ask me where to visit I always recommend these superb places. So what categorises the top 5 of the best wineries to visit and stay at in my opinion?
It has to start with the history of the vineyard and the family who care and tend the vines. If you have a massive area of vines and make a mass produced wine then there is little or no LOVE put into the wine. This sounds like a crazy factor to begin with but it’s when you meet the growers, their families and the people who put their life into making superb wine that you really appreciate this factor.
Then you move onto the surroundings and the place where the winery is situated. This can be an obscure area like the Costieres de Nimes region of France where Chateau de Campuget are located. Here the family of Franck Lin Dalle regularly host eager visitors to their charming house to drink amazing value for money wines and eat the superb cuisine prepared by Franck Lin. If you are looking for rustic French charm at it’s best and want to relax completely then I recommend visiting Chateau Campuget first.
Once you have soaked in the tranquility of this region I recommend you take the drive to the Languedoc Rousillon Region of the South of France and specifically to Narbonne. It is here that you can stay with Gerard Bertrand in the amazing Chateau l’Hospitalet. This venue boasts a range of apartments which are all located within the Chateau. There are a small selection of boutique shops that specialise in local gifts and goods. But for me the best thing about this winery is the amazing restaurant. It is here that you can try samples or glasses of many of the wines of Gerard Bertrand. I have some superb memories associated with these wines and look back fondly to the many meals and delightful wines that I have shared with this iconic winemaker.
A quick flight to Italy will bring you to the Emilia Romagna Region and the home of Umberto Cesari. Umberto Cesari wines are some of my personal favourites when ti comes to Italian wines. The town of Emilia Romagna is a delightful mash up of streets, universities and churches which all seem to come together beautifully. There is a good reason that this area is considered the culinary capital of Italy as the food is sublime. When I stayed with this delightful family we had some food that blew me away and the wines were mind blowing. The whole family is involved with the production, marketing and sales of this wine and you can see it runs in their veins as the proudly show you each wine. Umberto Cesari Wines are not the cheapest in the market but they are more than worth the money spent.
As you are in Italy you might as well pop over to Tuscany to the home of John Matta and Castello Vicchiomaggio. John has won Italian Wine Maker of the Year numerous times and is consistently rated as one of the finest wineries in Italy. So you would think that with winning all these awards and promoting his wines around the world that he wouldn’t have time to look after guests too! Yet the rooms, apartments and restaurant in Castello Vicchiomaggio are superb. You will need to book well in advance as they sell out so quickly. Castello Vicchiomaggio wines are some of the finest examples of Sangiovese I have ever tried and the La Prima Chianti is one that has to be experienced to be believed.
My final recommendation has to go to one of my oldest friends Jane Phillips and her amazing Epicurious in Tuscany. Jane went to Italy when she was only 18 to ride horses and tend the race horses of a major stable. She couldn’t speak Italian and didn’t have a clue what she was letting herself in for. Since then she has learnt fluent Italian and is as much at home with the food and wine of Italy as she is with her love of horses. Jane will ensure you get to visit the best wineries, restaurants and attractions within the Tuscany area. She may not have a vineyard of her own but you can be assured that her local knowledge will more than make up for this.
So there you have my 5 best recommendations for places to visit in Europe when it comes to wines and food. Of course there are millions more places to go to and I will update this as I discover them and think they are worthy of being classed as an 80/20 winner. Remember only the vest best get included in any of my 80/20 recommendations!