Leiston Abbey

Uncorked – Sept 23

Food & Drink

Andy Newman visited four different regions on his summer holiday this year. Have a guess what they had in common…

If you are like me when you dream of the perfect holiday, factors such as sunshine, relaxation, leisurely lunches and bottles of pale rosé consumed under blue skies come to mind.

You can give me the greatest scenery, the most interesting historical sites and the most stunning architecture – but if I’m not going to eat and drink well, I don’t want to go there.

It won’t surprise you to learn that my trips often end up being to places around the globe which produce wine.  My summers are spent touring the Veneto in northern Italy, home to Soave and Valpolicella; heading inland from the gastronomic mecca of San Sebastian to explore Rioja; or visiting Napa Valley wineries.

I have just returned from a three week tour which took in Alsace, Provence and Burgundy, as well as Piedmont in Italy. 

The opportunity to visit producers and taste their ranges right there in the vineyard is a big factor in choosing these destinations, but it is only one.  Wine-producing regions make perfect holiday destinations for all sorts of reasons.

Let’s take climate first.  Pretty much all of the world’s wine is made between 30 and 50 degrees latitude.  In other words, growing vines requires just the sort of climate which most of us seek out on holiday: temperate, sunny and pleasant, without too many weather extremes.

Secondly, the kind of topography required to make wine is attractive: gentle, undulating hills and lush, green vegetation.  Sure, some people like climbing bleak mountains or exploring barren deserts, but that isn’t what I call a holiday.  Each to their own.

But mostly, the attraction of holidaying in wine regions is cultural.  These are places where the pace of life is slower, where the locals have learnt not to burden themselves with too much stress, and where the simple things in life are valued.

I have yet to visit a wine-producing region where there isn’t also a vibrant local food culture. Often the two have evolved alongside each other, providing the hungry and thirsty tourist with perfectly matched mealtimes.

But above all, what makes a holiday in a wine region is the people.  Winemakers – in fact, pretty much anyone involved in wine – are invariably generous, welcoming and happy to share their enthusiasm with anyone who shows an interest.  This exuberance seems to rub off on everyone living in a wine-producing area and it is that above all else which makes such regions so much fun to visit.

On my holiday this year I was wowed by the grand Savoy architecture of Turin, sampled the raffish delights of Marseille, and was exhilarated by an Alpine drive over the San Gotthard Pass.  But mostly I was enjoying everything which makes up a wine region, including, naturally, a glass or two of the local produce.  I am a wine writer, after all – it’s research.

Crémant de Bourgogne Bio, Veuve Ambal
£17.75, www.vinatis.co.uk

Traditional method crémant from Burgundy offers some of the best value fizz around, and this one from leading producer Veuve Ambal combines Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligoté grapes, all organically grown, to deliver rich notes of brioche and butter on the nose, and flavours of apricot and peach.

Château Henri Bonnaud
Palette Rosé, 2021
£26, www.davywine.co.uk

Palette is the oldest and smallest AOC in Provence, situated just to the east of Aix-en-Provence.  The organic Château Henri Bonnaud is one of just four producers in the appellation, and this rosé is made from Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsault, with 20% of the grapes aged in oak for eight months.  The result is a complex nose with red berry fruits, spicy notes and hints of citrus and rose petal – a wine for food.

Château Simone Palette Rouge, 2019,
£49, www.yapp.co.uk

Arguably the best wine from the Palette appellation, Château Simone is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and several other rare varieties such as Castet, Manosquin and Muscatel.  Aged in small casks for eight months and then larger barrels for a further year, this is a big wine, redolent of wild berries, herbs, black pepper and game.  Just coming to maturity now, it will keep for another ten years.