This year’s Champagne harvest is now underway across villages in the region

With the nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, it’s finally wine harvest time across Northern Europe. And the Champagne region has already announced its start dates for this year’s harvest.

Villages across the Champagne region in France are now harvesting grapes. The start date varies for each variety of grape and each village. This is to make sure the precious Champagne grapes are harvested at their peak ripeness.

 

What makes the Champagne harvest special?

Each year, all grapes harvested in the Champagne region are carefully hand-picked. This adds to the special atmosphere that always surrounds the Champagne’s region’s strict regulations. It’s all part of the steps necessary to produce the high-quality, unique sparkling Champagne that is loved all around the world.

The rules state that only grapes from delineated, specific plots across the appellation are used to make Champagne. The region is around 90 miles north-east of Paris and covers an area of less than 80,000 acres. From how the grapes are planted, grown and harvested, to the winemaking process itself, every step is carefully regulated. There is a carefully controlled system of adjustments and refinements that all come together to make Champagne, including how it is blended.

 

Champagne is fighting back against climate change

The growing season in 2019 has had to deal with various challenges from climate changes. This includes extremely high temperatures throughout the summer. And, as with many traditional growing regions, Champagne is developing innovative solutions to adapt for the future.

From growers to suppliers, the Champagne region’s industry is united in working together to combat the changes taking place due to climate change. They are also focusing on maintaining the high quality which is Champagne’s traditional strength.

Jennifer Hall is director of the Champagne Bureau in the United States. She says that climate change is a growing problem for the Champagne industry: “The region is committed to sustainable development and seeks to do its part to reduce its environmental impact and protect the unique terroir of Champagne.”

 

Reducing carbon footprint is a priority for wine makers in Champagne

 Champagne is one of the most progressive regions in terms of reducing its emissions. Back in 2013, it was the first wine region in the world to initiate an audit of its carbon footprint. This led to a campaign focusing on reducing the carbon footprint of the Champagne region by 25% by 2020, and by 75% by 2050. During the last 15 years, Champagne has reduced the carbon footprint per bottle of wine by 20%, which is close to target.

It has also reduced the use of nitrogen fertilisers by 50%, and now recycles 90% of all industrial waste and 100% of all wine by-products and effluents. To boost the motivation of the region, the Comité Champagne introduced a certification standard in 2015 for wine growers in the region to prove their environmental commitment. Between 2015 and 2019, more than 20% of the wine growers in Champagne have been certified, and from this 15% are certified “Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne”.

 

For a full and detailed list of all of the harvest dates across villages and by grape in Champagne, click here.

3 places that make the perfect wine holiday destination

Wine tourism is coming of age. More people are choosing holiday destinations based on their proximity to vineyards and wineries. And while it used to be more ad hoc, with people selecting their own regions, today it’s much more organised.

All around the world, across all kinds of wine regions, vineyard owners have recognised that wine tourism is big business. Whether it’s a stay at a fancy hotel and guided wine tours, or a campsite in the heart of a big wine-loving region, there are lots of options.

Where is the ideal wine holiday destination?

The very first list of the world’s 50 best vineyards is now available. This demonstrates just how far wineries have come from places of business to tourist attractions.

This list is packed with vineyards and wineries from around the world. However, it tends to stick to the bigger producers. Number one on the list is the Zuccardi vineyard, which is nestled in Argentina’s Uco Valley. Complete with beautifully designed wine cellars and the fine-dining experience to go with the wine, it’s spectacular.

And while these big producers are great to visit, they’re not the only options for a wine holiday. Smaller wine producers can be more intimate and welcoming. They often offer different options for accommodation and can guide tourists around the general area with plenty of local knowledge.

Great examples of wine regions with plenty of small producers include the easiest to access wine route in France in Alsace. This is so simple to navigate and is set-up for cyclists and motor tours. Other destinations worth visiting include the Valais region in Switzerland, which is perfect for walkers, or the wine routes of California.

Here are three of the best

 

1. Zuccardi Valle de Uco, Argentina

Now the number one vineyard in the world, this winery complex is elevated by its location with beautiful views of the Andes mountain range. It also has an architecturally sophisticated complex of buildings and cellars. Winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi produces wines that are recognisable from the terroir driven flavours.

2. Alsace wine route, France

Alsace was one of the first wine regions to understand the potential of wine tourism. The vineyards along the Alsace route offer a wide range of delicious wines. The landscape is stunning and rich with history. For cyclists, this could be the holiday of a lifetime.

The vineyards in Alsace are protected by a barrier formed by the Vosges mountains. This creates a unique climate, which produces many extremely rich and aromatic wines.

The Alsace wine route crosses lots of wine districts within the wider region. There is more than 170km to follow, dotted with wine makers of all types and sizes. Depending on the season, the wine route also offers specific events. Throughout the summer, from April to October, many local villages celebrate the wine harvest. At Christmas, there are markets to visit. It offers something for everyone.

3. La Rioja wine region, Spain

At the very centre of this popular wine region is Haro, a town boasting some of the biggest and oldest wineries in the area. There are many wineries to visit throughout the wider Rioja region, and at least 12 in Haro itself that aren’t to be missed. Wine-lovers will enjoy learning about Rioja wine and tasting some of the best vintages available.

You don’t need to get a formal tour in Haro, as it’s simple to find the big wineries yourself. Many are close enough to walk between them, and each winery has its own expert to talk you through production and vintages. Head to the middle of Faro and find your tour from there.

These are just three regions that make fantastic holidays for wine-lovers. With more wineries opening their doors than ever before, wine tourism is definitely here to stay.

 

Why Bordeaux offers the ideal holiday for wine lovers

For wine lovers looking for an adventure, Bordeaux is up there with the best destinations in the world. Bordeaux is located in the south western region of France and is the perfect city to visit for vineyard visits, wine tasting tours and to buy wine.

 

The 18th century part of Bordeaux itself is listed by UNESCO World Heritage as ‘an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble’ and is worth visiting for its cultural offerings as well as its wine.

 

Ideal holiday for wine lovers and non-wine lovers

 

Entertainment in the city is varied and wide ranging. The National Opera of Bordeaux in the fabulous Grand Theatre located in the main square of the city is a great place to start. The theatre dates back to the 18th century and is a stunningly beautiful building, covered in ornate sculptures. More laid-back evening entertainment can be found at the many jazz and blues clubs in the city.

 

Visitors to Bordeaux should all take a trip to at least one vineyard, even if they are not all wine lovers. And for wine aficionados, the city and region form the ideal holiday destination.

 

Combining art and wine at historic vineyard

 

Next door to Bordeaux, in a city called Pauillac, there’s a vineyard that is definitely worth visiting. Chateaux Mouton Rothschild has been making high quality wine since the middle of the 19th century, and today hosts tastings, tours and has a wine museum on site. This vineyard combines art and wine for a cultural treat and offers plenty of wine tastings throughout the year.

 

After the sightseeing and vineyard visiting, it’s a must to visit one of the high-end restaurants in Bordeaux. Try Le Pressoir d’Argent, which is at the Le Grand Hotel. With two Michelin stars and a menu designed by super chef Gordon Ramsay, it’s the ideal way to finish off a trip to this historical and fascinating wine region.

 

Food options for every budget

 

If your budget doesn’t stretch quite that far, then you could take a train ride out of the centre of Bordeaux to Les Halles de Bacalan. This undercover food market boasts loads of delicious food options and has a very relaxed vibe. Just across the road from the market you can find La Cite du Vin museum, where you’ll find all sorts of information and fascinating displays about the region’s most famous export.

 

Bordeaux is easy to get to, with flights every day from London Gatwick run by Ryanair. Easyjet and British Airways. If you can afford five-star luxury, make sure you stay at Le Grand Hotel, which is right in the middle of the beautiful old part of the city. It’s located on the Place de la Comedie, and from the balcony of your room you’ll be able to see the Opera House across the square. The perfect place to enjoy a bottle of delicious wine from Bordeaux itself.

Why the Rhineland is a must-visit for wine lovers

Whether used to buying wine online or tasting different vintages at events, wine lovers will love exploring the Rhine.

The Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany produces more than two-thirds of the country’s wines. It covers six of the 13 wine regions in Germany and covers a massive 159,000 acres of vineyards. All of which make it the ideal choice for wine aficionados.

Beautiful Middle Rhine

For the most visually stunning option, choose the Middle Rhine. This runs through a valley liberally lined with castles among Unesco listed countryside. Most of the wines from here are white, with varieties including Rieslings made from the Silvaners grape. This is known as the ‘queen of grapes’ thanks to its delicacy. Among popular reds from the region are the deep red Portugiesers and the drier Dornfelders.

Most cruises down the Rhine sail between Amsterdam and Basel, with loads of stops on the way. A popular highlight is the town of Rüdesheim, which makes its own wine. It’s home to one of the best-known streets in Germany, the Drosselgasse, which is crammed with taverns serving up local specialities.

When you’ve tasted enough of the wines, you can take in a panoramic view of the region’s vineyards via a cable car trip up the Niederwald Monument.

Wagner vineyard

The largest vineyard in the Middle Rhine is the family-run Wagner. You can try wines from the vineyard at the Weinhaus Wagner, which is in Koblenz. This beautiful city sits at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers.

Further down the Moselle river, you will find Bernkastel-Kues. This has an interactive Wine Museum, which offers virtual flights over the vineyards to interested visitors. You can also taste wine in its old cellars. The Cologne Wine Museum is also worth a visit. It’s difficult to miss, as it has its own vineyard on the roof. It’s packed with more than 40 different varieties of grape and inside, the museum follows the history of wine from the Romans all the way up until the present day.

Wine festivals and events

There are loads of wine festivals along the Rhine, particularly between spring and autumn. The peak season for wine-orientated events is August and September. A highlight is the Bernkastle-Kues festival during the final weekend of August. It’s famous for crowning a wine queen and hosting a spectacular vintners’ parade.

The main festival is called Rhine in Flames, which marks the beginning of the harvest season. Held over five weekends between May and September, it boasts massive firework displays lighting up the river at different locations. Various historic buildings and castles are lit up at night, making for stunning views along the river.

Most organised cruises include regional wines served with dinner, and you can always buy your own and bring back on board along the way. Many cruise providers cater for wine lovers with cruises including talks by experts, guided tastings and loads of visits to cellars and vineyards.

Three-quarters of Brits know very little about wine

If you’ve ever felt baffled by the array of wines on offer, you’re not alone. While people in the UK famously love their wine, many have very little understanding of the nuances of the subject. In fact, a recent report says that 75% of British people are foxed by wine and 73% admitted being confused by wine lists in restaurants.

Not confident

Six in ten people (58%) reported feeling that they don’t know enough about wine to feel confident when ordering and more than a third (36%) have no idea what they’re doing when invited to taste a wine at the table.

Typically, people in the UK spend around £25 for a bottle perfect for a dinner party, but a tenth regularly stump up £100. Despite being willing to pay a bit more, most don’t know what to choose in store, with 29% simply opting for anything on offer and 23% always sticking to wines from the same region or country. Only 18% bother to try and match the wine to food they’re eating.

Food and wine

The survey took in the wine-based opinions of 2,000 people in Britain for a Californian winery. In response to the results, wine expert Joe Wadsack from the BBC’s Food & Drink show said: “It’s amazing how far a little useful information can take you. Knowing what food tastes good with what sort of wine, and more importantly why, is very useful information to have.”

Understanding basic food and wine pairings will ensure that you will get the most enjoyment out of your dinner but will also help to avoid matches that just don’t work. Some wine and food combos clash and can make food taste strange.

Correct glasses

Some tips for wine novices include using the right glass. For examples, red wines taste smoother and breathe more easily in big bowl glasses with tall stems, while whites work better in glasses with a narrower rim and smaller bowl as they stay cool longer.

Red wine should always be served at just below room temperature to help appreciate its flavours and savour the subtle aromas. If it’s served too warm, reds can taste ‘jammy’, and not as nuanced as they should.

Don’t be put off by wines with screw tops, which are commonly assumed to be of a lesser quality, and don’t be fooled by prices going up. This doesn’t necessarily mean a better wine, it could mean it was a poorer harvest leading to fewer bottles.

Follow these simple tips and learn some basic food and wine pairings, and you’ll be able to enjoy wine to the full.