Considering the year that 2020 has been, we are very much looking forward to a safe, healthy and prosperous 2021!

As soon as you are ready to travel again, join us on a private tour to Spain, Portugal, France and/or Italy, with the highest anti-Covid measures in place!

The type of tours we have offered for almost 25 years, now become even more private, so you can stay safely in your own bubble, attended to privately by our guides, chauffeurs, winery owners, chefs etc. Feel secure and relaxed with our carefully selected range of boutique hotels and private residences.

With all our affection, Season’s Greetings & Happy New Year!

The Gourmand Breaks Team

2021 Michelin Stars Spain & Portugal – see full list below

The Michelin Guide 2021 was presented last night in Madrid, in a virtual gala broadcast from the Royal Post Office. It has been a horrible year for the hospitality industry, but Michelin still has released its guide as a gesture of tribute and support to the sector. This time Michelin wanted to highlight the effort of their inspectors who carried out their work in a year with so many restaurants closed and numerous restrictions. In fact, on the pages of the guide, next to the name of some establishments, a phrase appears: «Temporarily closed by Covid». It is not known how many of them will manage to reopen next year, but rest assured that our private gourmet tours will take you to the best ones, of course all of them being Covid-safe.

 

2021 Michelin Stars Spain & Portugal – no new 3 Michelin stars in Spain nor Portugal

There have not been any new Michelin three stars, so the eleven that already had them since last year remain: Akelarre, Arzak, Azurmendi and Martín Berasategui in the Basque Country, Abac, Lasarte and El Celler de Can Roca in Catalonia, Diverxo in Madrid, Quique Dacosta in the Valencian Community, Aponiente in Andalusia, and Cenador de Amós in Cantabria. Sadly Covid restrictions took their toll on Zalacain, the first ever 3 Michelin stars restaurant in Spain, now closed.

 

2021 Michelin Stars Spain & Portugal  –  three new Michelin 2 star restaurants in Spain

The most significant turn of events last night is that three Spanish restaurants go from one up to two stars.

One is the Galician Culler de Pau, from O Grove (Pontevedra), where Javier Olleros has offered excellent cuisine for years, with a  personal touch and totally committed to the environment and local producers. The other two are in Catalonia: these are Cinc Sentits, one of the most interesting restaurants in Barcelona at the moment, with Jordi Artal at the helm, and Bo.Tic, in Corca, Gerona. In all three cases, as in many of those who achieve a star, the guide focuses on young chefs, perfectly trained, who value local or proximity products. There are no newly crowned Michelin two star restaurants in Portugal this year.

 

2021 Michelin Stars Spain & Portugal  –  15 new  Michelin 1 stars in Spain & 2 in Portugal

Congratulations are in order for Ljubomir Stanisic for his fantastical cuisine at 100 Maneiras. Stanisic’s menu called “The Story” traces his journey from being a teenage refugee leaving war-torn Yugoslavia to a master of the Portuguese kitchen. His cosy restaurant is a steady favourite of many of our clients, and always recommended!

 

New Michelin 1 Star Restaurants in Spain & Portugal 2021 – full list

  1. Ambivium (Peñafiel, Valladolid)
  2. Amelia (San Sebastián)
  3. Atempo (Sant Julia de Ramis. Girona)
  4. Baeza & Rufete (Alicante)
  5. Béns d’Avall (Sóller. Mallorca)
  6. Callizo (Ainsa. Huesca)
  7. DINS Santi Taura (Palma de Mallorca)
  8. Eirado (Pontevedra)
  9. Eneko Lisboa (Lisboa)
  10. En la Parra (Salamanca)
  11. Espacio N (Esquedas. Huesca)
  12. L’Aliança 1919 d’Anglés (Anglès. Girona)
  13. La Salita (Valencia)
  14. Miguel González (Pereiro de Aguilar. Ourense)
  15. Muna Ponferrada (León)
  16. Odiseo (Murcia)
  17. Quatre Molins (Cornudella de Montsant. Tarragona)
  18. Raíces-Carlos Maldonado (Talavera de la Reina. Toledo)
  19. Saddle (Madrid)
  20. Silabarrio (Vigo)
  21. 100 Maneiras (Lisboa)

Portugal Michelin 2 star restaurants 2021 – full list

  1. Alma / Henrique Sá Pessoa, Lisbon
  2. Belcanto / José Avillez, Lisbon
  3. Il Gallo d’Oro / Benoit Sinthon, Funchal (Madeira)
  4. Ocean / Hans Neuner, Alporcinhos (Algarve)
  5. The Yeatman / Ricardo Costa, Vila Nova de Gaia
  6. Vila Joya / Dieter Koschina, Albufeira (Algarve
  7. Casa de Chá da Boa Nova (new 2020)

 

Portugal Michelin 1 star restaurants 2021 – full list

  1. A Cozinha / António Loureiro, Guimarães
  2. Antiqvvm / Vitor Matos, Porto
  3. Bon Bon / Rui Silvestre, Carvoeiro (Algarve)
  4. Largo do Paço / Tiago Bonito, Amarante
  5. Eleven / Joachim Koerper, Lisbon
  6. Eneko Lisboa (Lisboa)
  7. Feitoria / João Rodrigues,  Lisbon
  8. Fortaleza do Guincho / Miguel Rocha Vieira, Cascais
  9. Gusto by Heinz Beck,  Quinta do Lago
  10. G Pousada / António and Óscar Gonçalves, Bragança
  11. Henrique Leis, Almancil (Algarve)
  12. L’And Vineyards / Miguel Laffan,  Montemor-o-Novo
  13. Lab by Sergi Arola, Sintra
  14. Loco / Alexandre Silva, Lisbon
  15. Midori / Pedro Almeida, Sintra
  16. Pedro Lemos, Porto
  17. São Gabriel / Leonel Pereira, Almancil (Algarve)
  18. Vista / João Oliveira, Portimão (Algarve)
  19. William / Luís Pestana, Funchal (Madeira)
  20. Willie’s / Willie Wurger, Vilamoura (Algarve)
  21. 100 Maneiras /Ljubomir Stanisic, Lisboa

This year saw the Michelin Giode Green Star awarded for the first time, to 21 restaurants for their dedication to sustainability and local produce.

 

 

If you’re a wine buff, then there are many French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese wines you will have tasted. Whether you have enjoyed the rich reds of Bordeaux wines, the tannins of a hearty Rioja or the crisp whites of a Veneto Soave, the buoyant wine regions of Southern Europe offer a vibrant array of wineries, the most well known in constant evolution, the up-and-coming offering the thrill of discovery. Have a look at our 10 favourite wine destinations in Spain, Portugal, France or Italy, perfect for your 2021 wine tour in Southern Europe. Relax at beautiful rural ‘Covid Clean Certified’ accommodations, enjoy private wine tours adapted to Covid restrictions or, if you prefer to wait until the Covid madness has calmed, get inspired for when you are ready to travel again :-)

 

Wine tours to go beyond the typical …. 

It goes without saying that some of the most revered and famous of Southern Europe’s wine regions are located in France and Italy, such as the Loire, Bordeaux and Chianti Classico appellations. If you are keen to learn more about wine, you will also want to try some of the lesser-known wines of southern Europe, which are still absolutely world-class. Our specialist private wine tours in Spain, Portugal, France & Italy will take you to the best (and most beautiful) wine producing regions in Europe, covering some of the most famous names in the wine-making world, as well as the more intimate and artisan wineries; all producing delicious drops!

 

Priorat wine tours – discovering (and tasting!) the small scale mind-blowing Spanish reds

An underrated and beautiful European wine destination is that of the Priorat wine region, famous for its exceptional cherry-like reds, mostly produced from Grenache & Carinena. Here in the 12th century, Carthusian Monks planted vines and gave birth to the heritage of Priorat wines. Recognizing a unique terroir, and a one thousand year old wine-making tradition, a wine revolution was born here in the early 1980s to re-awaken the spirit of Carthusian oenologists; rebuild the steep, slatey terraces and replant vines. Priorat wine region is known for producing highly concentrated, well-rounded reds, and yields in this DOC are incredibly small. Different to the well-versed reds produced in France or Italy, the complex flavours of Priorat wines are sure to please your palate and this Spanish wine region intrigue you with its history and landscape. We offer a fabulous wine getaway that allows you an insider’s look at the Priorat wine region, in our Priorat Grape Harvest Tour for Wine Lovers. This wine tour is an opportunity to get down and dirty with the delicious local grapes of Priorat!

 

 

Douro Valley – the most scenic wine destination 

One cannot talk about Portugal without thinking of its most famous drop, Port Wine. Port Wines are made from grapes picked by hand in the magnificent Douro Valley. This same area of Portugal also produces some fine and underrated reds well worth the journey, as well as viewing the spectacular Douro Valley scenery! Wine-making has existed along the Douro Valley river for 2000 years, so the locals certainly know a thing or two about producing good grapes! Touriga Nacional is the most used varietal for Douro Valley wines. Full-bodied with high tannins, this very same grape is experimentally also being grown in the Priorat wine region as the terroirs are similar. One of our most beloved wine tours takes in the sweeping landscapes of Spain and Portugal’s best wine regions, on our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain & Portugal. Starting just outside of Barcelona and ending in Portugal, this wine tour takes in some truly incredible southern European wine regions, many of which are unique and artisanal in quality.

 

 

Châteauneuf du Pape – the King of the Rhône wine region

Tiny and intimate, but producing some of France’s most prestigious wines, Châteauneuf du Pape is deep-seated in history. Its name refers to the era during the 13th century when the seat of the Roman Catholic church was based in Avignon (a mere 12km away). Much like the Priorat wine region, Châteauneuf  du Pape is small and has a 1000 year-long history of wine-making. It was only in 1936 that it was made France’s first wine appellation. Being such a small region, it is worth adding to a longer wine tour, incorporating either the Spanish Emporda, Priorat and Penedes wine regions across the border, or heading north to the Atlantic and tasting more incredible wines in Bordeaux! Our France & Spain Food, Wine & Cultural Tour includes stops in Avignon and the surrounding picturesque villages; so a day or two spent exploring the best of Châteauneuf du Pape wineries is always an easy detour!

 

 

Bordeaux – drinking some of France’s best wine

It would not be right to talk about Southern Europe’s stand-out wine regions without including the Queen region of Bordeaux, home of the most sought-after and expensive red wines in the world. The Bordeaux wine region has 57 appellations, with about 7,000 wine-producing chateaux and 13,000 wine growers! Bordeaux’s reputation as a great wine region rests on its most superb reds, legendary and long-lived wines made by historic French wine estates which improve for several decades. The Romans cultivated the first vines here, so the history of wine-making along the Garonne river is rich indeed! If you’re looking for further insight and inspiration, why not take a look at our Grand Wine Tour of Spain & France to see our carefully chosen Bordeaux wine routes.

 

 

La Rioja – the must see wine region of Spain

Located partly within the Basque country, la Rioja is known for its rich reds generally made from the native Tempranillo grape. This Spanish wine region is not only known for its sophisticated red wines, but also an array of surprising whites, including some fine barrel-fermented and oak-aged styles and roses. Along with the Priorat wine region, la Rioja also has DOC classification; the only two Spanish wine regions that have been granted this prestigious wine category. Much like the wine destination of Bordeaux, la Rioja has had vines growing on its landscape for 2000 years, thanks to the Romans. La Rioja wine destination is worth a visit on your next wine tour not only because of the delicious array of wines available, but also because the scenery is spectacular. The la Rioja landscape is a flat plain of thousands of vineyards, on either side of which rugged mountains overlook the valley and towns below. If you are fortunate enough to plan your wine tour here for fall, not only will you be greeted by grape harvest season, but the honey and auburn coloured vines are sure to lure you in for more wine tastings! See our Essential Wine Tour of Spain & France for ideas! 

 

Wine Lovers Tour of Portugal, Spain & France

Ribera del Duero – home of the most exclusive Spanish wineries

If you are a fan of the Tempranillo grape, then Ribera del Duero is another wine destination which should be on your list. Here you will taste the more modern, full-bodied and slightly more sophisticated of Spanish Tempranillo wines, as Ribera del Duero’s wine-makers love to experiment and push the envelope of wine-making tradition, defining their individual style. Part of Ribera del Duero wines’ uniqueness is due to Tinto Fino (the local name for Tempranillo), but other grapes are grown here, such as Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The most mythical and inaccessible Spanish wineries are here, laid along the flat expanse of Spain’s legendary Ribera del Duero Golden Mile. If you’re keen to explore more of Spain’s wine regions, why not take a look at our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain for ideas and inspiration?

 

 

Barolo & Barbaresco wine regions – amazing Italian red wines

Not as well-trod as Tuscany, but with scenery that is just as spectacular is the Italian wine region of Piedmont. Here, wine-making is an activity which dates back 2500 years! As far as wine is concerned, the Piedmont has more DOCGs and DOCs than any other Italian region, and is challenged only by Veneto and Tuscany for the top spot among Italian wine regions. Piedmont is a region which has identified its star grapes, while continuing to experiment with new varieties in the background. There are several areas within the region worth a visit, but the two top wine destinations would have to be Barolo and Barbaresco. Located a mere 20kms apart, these two towns produce some of the best and most sought-after wine in the world. But don’t be filled into thinking the wines produced taste similar! The star grape of these wines is Nebbiolo, prized for its rich anise aromas and mouth-drying tannins, but Barolo wines are much higher in tannins than the softer Barbaresco wines. Barolo’s colour is a pale garnet, but its bold flavours and high alcohol content can be compared to the wines of Bordeaux. Enjoying wine and food is synonymous with Italian culture, so if you want to delve deeper into Italian wine destinations, Barolo & Barbaresco, home to great truffle and other Piedmond delicacies, to be savoured in relaxing rural setting, away from Tuscan crowds, are both a perfect place to start. To continue with rural vibe, but with amazing sea views too, you could easily combine Piedmond with the nearby Cote d Azur and Provence villages, home to great wines, delicious food and amazing views. Take a look at our Food, Wine & Culture Tour of Italy and France for further inspiration. 

 

 

Valpolicella wine region – sip the best Amarone with friendly wine-makers 

Located in northeastern Italy’s Veneto wine region, Valpolicella is another ‘wow’ of a wine destination. This winemaking area is nestled against the low mountains of the spectacular Dolomites and a stone’s throw away from Italy’s biggest lake of Garda; which means the temperature for vines is kept more constant despite the nearby mountains.  It’s not hard to understand why this wine destination is beloved, given the easy-drinking appeal of Valpolicella’s reds, coupled with the prestige of its powerful and intensely flavored counterpart Amarone della Valpolicella. The valley also produces white wines – both dry and sweet – under the various Soave titles. The grape varieties used to make Valpolicella are Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara. Corvina is understood to be the finest of the four varietals, and is also the most traditional. Our Authentic Italy Bespoke Food & Wine Tour takes in the Valpolicella rural and picturesque wine destination, as well as the villages of Barolo and Barbaresco.

 

 

Alentejo – up-and-coming bold Portuguese wines

The Portuguese wine region of Alentejo is sun-drenched with low rolling hills of wheat, even hot temperatures, cork and olive groves, which covers ⅓ of Portugal.  There are many progressive and modern wineries here making red wines that offer generous fruit and mocha flavors with refined tannins from careful wood aging strategies. White wines from the Alentejo range are medium-bodied refreshers to full-bodied, similar to Chardonnay. Portugal is an often overlooked destination for a European vacation, but its depth of culture and varied landscapes, proximity to the sea and sunny weather make it an ideal country for exploration. Wines of Alentejo were born when (you guessed it!) the Romans settled here. (they really did love their wine) In recent years the Alentejo region has become a wine destination to those seeking a very authentic and pared-back wine vacation; as Portugal offers an idyll away from the typical hustle and bustle of holiday-seekers in France and Italy. Alentejo red wines are typically blends, often made with Tempranillo as well as native Portuguese grapes of Trincadeira, Castelão, Alfrocheiro and Alicante Bouschet. Our Independent Wine & Culture Tour of Portugal will inspire you with the wine destination of Alentejo as well as the other wine destinations that Portugal offers.

 

 

Montalcino & Montepulciano wine regions -the belowed not to be missed classics

Tuscany is home to Italy’s most scenic vineyards, verdant rolling hills and likely the country’s best known wine internationally, Chianti. But as I mentioned already, there is much more to southern European wine destinations than this one! Tuscany is Italy’s most ancient wine-producing region, starting with the Etruscans in the 8th century BC, and its wines are often blends that incorporate its native Sangiovese grape. Sangiovese produces tannic, acidic wines that span a range of flavors depending on the local terroir: from earthy to fruity. The towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino are separated by 30km at the edge of the Val d’Orcia, but both wine destinations are upheld for their wines made from the Sangiovese Grosso grape. 

Here in this majestic and sweeping rural landscape of Italy, you can roam from winery to wine bar; quaffing and tasting the intricacies of the local drops. Brunello di Montalcino is made with 100% Sangiovese grapes and has Italy’s highest DOCG classification.  Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, on the other hand, is made with 70% of Sangiovese grapes, Canaiolo Nero for up to 20% and the remaining part other locally grown varietals. Despite being regarded as ‘easy-drinking’, Sangiovese is a savoury wine which has elements of cherry and oftentimes, tomato. Both Montalcino and Montepulciano wine destinations are the perfect relaxing addition to your next Italian vacation, see our Wine Tour of Italy – Campania & Tuscany for more info to whet your palate!

 

So there you have it, the top 10 not-to-be-missed wine destinations in Southern Europe for your 2021 wine tour!

Our specialist wine lovers’ tours in Spain, Portugal, France & Italy  will take you to the best wine producing regions in Europe, covering some of the most famous names, as well as the incredible and lesser-known in the wine-making world! These spectacular wine regions take wine making very seriously, so you know you’re in great hands on your European wine tour with us! Take advantage of our extensive wine expertise and discover the most fascinating and delicious wines in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy on your private wine tour with us!

While many of the world’s top chefs are male, we can certainly agree that most of the cooking done on a daily basis is left to women. This is not the case in the Basque region of Spain, where Basque gastronomic societies play a large part of their food culture. In Basque gastronomic societies, also known as ‘txokos’, men use cooking as a way to get together; eat, drink and discuss – often without women around. This culinary tradition allows men to experiment in the kitchen on their own terms.

If you are planning a trip to the Basque Country and would like to experience some of the local food traditions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! We can happily help you create a tour of the Basque country which includes exceptional food experiences

 

Why do Basque gastronomic societies exist?

The very first Basque gastronomic societies were instigated by fishermen in the 1870s. The fishermen would catch their fish in the early morning, and then rather than return home; would use part of the day to cook a meal and get together freely, forgetting for a few hours their home duties. As the idea of Basque food societies gathered momentum, it passed around to various Basque cities and villages; where other members of society, such as craftsmen and intellectuals, also used Basque gastronomic societies as a forum for discussion and male camaraderie. This way these men could get together to cook, eat, drink and discuss ideas, without being annoyed or distracted by women; or told what to do! Over the past 150 years, over 1000 Basque txokos now exist, all over the region.

In the kitchen of a Basque gastronomic society

 

How do Basque food societies operate?

The very first seeds of Basque txokos were all about men preparing food and having time away from their families to discuss personal issues, culture, political views, etc. Today Basque gastronomic societies have an assumed code of conduct where there is strong mutual respect amongst all the members. In this way, freedom of opinion and ability to discuss whatever it is you want, is on the table. It is understood that this is always done in a respectful and considerate way. Even though some of the subjects discussed are controversial, club members feel that the mixture of good food and conviviality loosens the tension in the air!

As the culture of cooking in the Basque Country is incredibly strong (hence why there are so may exceptional restaurants), younger men are always looking to join established Basque food societies. Despite the number of Basque gastronomic societies numbering over 1000, the waiting lists to enter are long. On average, a typical Basque txoko has 80 members, but some have a member count of over 100 men. Having so many members means that men cook in groups, on differently allocated days of the week: this way, every member gets to cook, and every member is able to enjoy being cooked for as well. Women can be invited as guests, they just aren’t allowed in the kitchen! The kitchens are designated to men; as this is their free space to discuss openly, without having to act differently; as they probably would around women. 

 

Why men only?

In the Basque Country, women have always been highly regarded and respected, having opinions and a right to speak their own minds (different to many other places in the world!). This has meant that because society in the Basque country has been relatively equal, men decided to form their own exclusive places to discuss what they wished to; away from the women in their lives.

Though women are not allowed in the kitchen of Basque food societies, most members acknowledge that they have been inspired to cook, buy food and serve it from their mothers; so women still have a place in contributing to these gastronomic societies.

An evening at a Basque txoko – women have been invited!

Many men insist that because men and women are different and act differently, men can really relax and ‘be themselves’ in the company of a male-only kitchen. In a way very different to other cultures, men gather at these gastronomic societies to discuss personal issues and to generally let off steam, meaning that they return home in a more upbeat manner: better for both husbands and wives!

 

If you are intrigued to visit the Basque Country and want to gain insight into their gastronomic societies and food culture, do not hesitate to get in touch and see what kind of Spanish Gastronomy Tour we can create for you! You might like to include some Basque Michelin starred restaurants, or include a local cooking class, or visit artisan producers of cheese or olive oil, tasting directly on the farm. Whatever type of food tour you are after, we have got it covered for your next customized trip to Spain, Portugal, Italy or France!

The long period of self-isolating we are experiencing worldwide means that travelling is proving more difficult than ever at the moment, with most of us at home and trying to stay upbeat while our medical professionals are working so hard to support our communities. Better times will come, but in the meantime, here is our list of the best wine movies to inspire your future wine travels and contribute to a positive mindset; a glass a good red or white in hand!

Not only does good wine taste great, but it comes from some of the most scenic places on earth, many of them featured in our wine tours; imagine picture-postcard vineyards of Italy, Spain, France or Portugal; rolling hills set to the backdrop of beautiful sunsets, add the mystery of winemaking, the glamour of wine châteaux, the drama of winemakers, intense sommeliers and delicious wine tastings – watch some of the best wine movies ever for a perfect virtual wine getaway!

 

Best wine movies for the wine aficionado

Red Obsession is a wine documentary narrated by Russell Crowe, which delves into how the demand for France’s finest Bordeaux by the Chinese market has caused the price of these wonderful reds to skyrocket, forcing the ‘traditional’ buyers out of the market. This wine movie is not only an interesting story, perfect to learn about how France’s finest wine region operates, but also a good chance to discover which Bordeaux you may well want to try and taste yourself! A brief history of French and Chinese history is also covered. Compelling viewing.

The wine documentary Red Obsession

Somm is a wine documentary about four wine stewards who are attempting to learn everything about wine as they prepare for the master sommelier exam, one of the world’s most challenging tests, of which only 170 people in the world over the past forty years have passed. The information included in this wine movie is incredible, really delving into how to understand wine and how wine obsessives become sommeliers of this calibre. If you want to understand more about grape varietals, wine categories, wine regions, appellations, etc; this is one wine movie you cannot miss while self-isolating. Maybe grab a glass while you’re watching..?

 

 

Best wine movies to cheer you up

Sideways is a wine movie about two middle-aged men (one a wine lover, the other is soon-to-be-married) who take a road trip through the Santa Ynez wine region. What starts as a kind of bachelor party converts into a journey full of surprises and many laughs! Set amongst some beautiful vineyards as well as seeing the process behind wine tastings, and the difference between those who want to understand wine, and those who just want to drink it! 

Bottle Shock wine movie is the true story of how a British wine snob living in Paris, comes to understand that Californian wines are just as good as those from France. The brilliant Alan Rickman plays Spurrier, a Briton who owns a specialty wine shop and plans to show Parisians that the quality of wines from outside of France is also very high. Showcasing the difference in cultures between laidback and unpretentious Californians and the snobbish and elitist Europeans is priceless! Many beautiful wine regions are showcased here.

Corked is a mockumentary wine movie based on four distinctly different wineries vying for approval from international wine critics. If you  are after a good laugh, don’t miss this movie, which showcases the beautiful wine regions of California. A true spoof portraying the stereotypes we all think of when it comes to wine elitism.

 

Best wine movies for the romantic viewer

Conte d’automne (Autumn tale) is a wine movie set amidst the lush vineyards of France. This iconic Eric Rohmer’s wine movie is a celebratory tale of matchmaking and misunderstandings! If you want to dream about your next trip to France, indulge in viewing the sunkissed French wine regions, adorable villages and quintessentially French protagonists. Vive du vin!

The beautiful vineyards of the Rhône Valley wine region featured in Autumn Tale wine movie

French Kiss is the comedic story of a woman who goes to Paris to win back her fiancé who has run away with a beautiful Parisienne. The hilarious antics of Meg Ryan and Kevin Klein are the big claim to this wine movie if you want to have an entertaining time without pretentiousness. Wine and vineyards are present all the time in this romantic comedy.

The Strange Case of Angelica is a magical realism romance set in amongst the landscape of Portugal’s incredible Douro Valley. Manoel de Oliveira’s film is about a photographer haunted by a deceased bride, and the love that plays out between them, with hilarious consequences! As well as being a wonderful story, it is a fabulous excuse to be enticed by the beauty of this Portuguese wine region.

El Año y la viña (The Year and the Vineyard) is a gently whimsical time-travel yarn that starts with Andrea Pesce, a Sicilian member of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, falling through the sky and landing in a vineyard in a small village in contemporary Spain. Set amongst the vineyards in Salamanca province, the film is about coming to terms with loss, and making the best of what you have around you, even if it seems unlikely. The score is a reason to watch, in itself.

A Good Year is a wine movie starring the unlikely duo of Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard. Crowe plays a London-based investment banker who learns that his uncle has died and left him a chateau and vineyard in Provence. A little cheesy, but certainly warm and light-hearted! A love story about starting over, set amidst the glorious backdrop of Provence’s villages and vineyard landscapes.

 

A wine movie for the more serious viewer 

Tu seras mon fils (You will be my son) is a French film about the tension between a wine-making father and the son he has never accepted, who so desperately wants to follow in his father’s footsteps; run the vineyard and gain his father’s love. An intense wine film set amongst the magnificent vineyards of Bordeaux. 

The compelling wine movie of You Will Be My Son, set in the Bordeaux wine region

Blood & wine is another intense wine movie with the ever-superb Jack Nicholson, who plays the role of a well-to-do wine merchant. In reality, however, he is ruined and will attempt to steal a diamond necklace to save his family’s future. A fantastic cast which includes Jennifer Lopez and Michael Caine.

Please enjoy watching these wine movies while you are cuddled up at home during this period of self-isolating. Make sure to take notes of some of the wonderful wine regions you may wish to visit; and if you want some more inspiration, look no further than our wine experiences – you are sure to find a wine region you wish to visit on a private wine tour with us!

 

For a wine lover, a wine tour of Spain & Portugal  is an easy way to experience the best wine regions of both countries. For us, the ideal Iberian wine route starts in Barcelona and ends in Porto or Lisbon. The cava cellars of Penedes and mythical reds of the Priorat wine region are highly accessible from Barcelona. Then from Priorat head to the source of Spanish red wine, the famous la Rioja. Just 3 hours away is the most exclusive wine region of Spain, Ribera del Duero, where the Tempranillo grape is king. From here, one crosses the border from Spain into Portugal, and enjoys the scenic beauty of the Douro Valley,  the most iconic wine region of Portugal. If you end your Spain & Portugal wine tour in Porto a visit to one of the many historic lodges along the Douro river with Port tastings is a must! Continuing to Lisbon, the undiscovered Vinho Verde and authentic rural Alentejo wine regions are mandatory stops.

For those wishing to experience the best of Spanish and Portuguese wine regions, we have carefully crafted our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain & Portugal. This 10 day wine tour covers the best regions of Spain & Portugal, the most interesting wineries and the most beautiful scenery.

Vinyes del celler Clos Figures, DOQ Priorat, darrera, el poble del Lloar, Gratallops, Priorat, Tarragona

Fly to Barcelona and start your wine trip in the Penedes Wine Region of Spain, famed as Cava country. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine produced in the Traditional Method, just like Champagne. This Spanish bubbly was awarded it’s own D.O. (Wine Appellation) in 1986 and, although there are a few Spanish wine regions that produce Cava, the wine region of Penedes is the main area of production, over 90%. The Penedes wine region flagship grape variety is Xarel.lo making it the Penedes cava icon. Your visit to Penedes should include at least one of the spectacular modernist cava cellars as well as one of the emerging high- quality organic producers.

Your wine lovers tour continues to the Priorat Wine Region of Spain, where exceptional quality, red wines await you. These limited production reds are labelled DOC (Qualified Appellation of Origin) a denomination reserved to only Priorat and la Rioja. The Priorat wine region is famous for its mineral-rich soil and terraced hillsides of slate (called licorella by the locals), which create a unique humidity for the vines. Priorat wines blend the wine varietals of Garnacha and Cariñena and are substantial, inky wines of distinct character and reputation.

A not-to-be-missed stop is the Rioja Wine Region of Spain. Here we love to showcase the contrasts between historic and traditional wineries, some of them still making their own barrels and the sleek, modern cellars with amazing state-of -the-art wine-making techniques.  In the Rioja wine region there is a heavy use of oak for long ageing, which is the signature Rioja style, resulting in polished reds based mainly on Tempranillo but also Graciano and Garnacha blends. Bodegas Roda nave fermantación

Continuing west, you arrive to the Ribera del Duero Wine Region of Spain. Here you will taste the more modern, full-bodied and slightly more sophisticated single-vineyard wines at two of our favourite cellars. Part of Ribera del Duero wines’ uniqueness is due to Tinto Fino, the indigenous type of Tempranillo grape. The most mythical and inaccessible Spanish wineries are here, along the legendary Ribera del Duero Golden Mile and you will be lucky to visit one.

Crossing the border now you arrive to the beautiful Douro Valley wine region in Portugal, considered one the most spectacular wine regions of the world! Its characteristic terraced vineyards on the sloping hills meet the meandering river below. The in-vogue again Port wine is made here at various quintas (port wine cellars) along a narrow river gorge that winds 100 miles through the mountain ranges. Historically, Port wine was shipped downriver to the city of Porto for ageing, aboard sail-boats called Rabelos. Nowadays, the Douro Valley wine region of Portugal produces not only Port wines but also excellent reds mainly using the Touriga Nacional grape.

Douro Valley

 

Following the route of Port wine, as the grape juice once did from the Douro, you arrive to Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, famous for the Port Wine Lodges of historic port wine producers. Port houses have aged their wines in Vila Nova de Gaia for over three centuries and here, the ageing and blending of most of the world’s supply of Port wine takes place beneath a sea of red roofs emblazoned with some of the most famous names in wine-making.

If your Spain & Portugal wine tour is 10 days only, Porto is the perfect finale for this unique wine trip!  Take advantage of our expertise and let us take you to the very best wine regions and wineries of Spain and Portugal. We will ensure for you the best winery visits and wine tastings with expert in-house guides,  hand selected hotels and you will e able to make the most of your wine tastings as your chauffeur takes the driving strain!

You may like to include other wine regions of Spain and Portugal in your private wine tour, for example the up and coming Vinho Verde in northern Portugal and the rural, quaint and very authentic Alentejo wine region, half way between Andalucia and Lisbon. Just let us know and we can happily custom build your perfect wine tour based on your preferences. If you are looking for an ideal for the best route, have a look at our sample itinerary  Wine Lovers Tour of Spain & Portugal . Contact us for pricing or to start custom building your perfect wine tour of Spain and Portugal!

While on a wine tour in Spain, the beautiful Priorat wine region is a must of any serious wine lover! The Priorat red wines are world famous for their unique personality, attributed to the extreme climate and unique and breathtaking geography. Priorat experiences sharp temperature fluctuations between night and day, caused by the proximity of the Montsant mountain range. These spectacular mountains help create mist and moisture in the vineyard valleys, which dissipate to leave warm grape-ripening sun during the days. This slate-soiled land is full of majestic cliffs and steep hillsides where terraces have to be built in order to grow further vineyards.

The name, Priorat has been linked to wine since ancient times. A great place to start any Priorat wine tour is the birthplace of the Priorat wine,  the Carthusian Priory (or Priorat) of Scala Dei, the first carthusian monastery on the Iberian Peninsula, founded in the 12th century. This picturesque site, situated at the foot of the Montsant mountain range, is where the Priorat wine making tradition originated. The monastery thrived until 1835, when the church shut the operations down. Today the ruins of Scala Dei can still be explored on foot, the immensity of the Montsant range truly apparent.

 

The ruins of the Carthusian Monastery of Scala Dei

 

With the sale of Scala Dei’s lands and vineyards and the phylloxera outbreak at the turn of the century,  the Priorat wine region went through economically hard times up until the wine-making revival of the 1980s.

One of the families whom we can thank for the revival of Priorat wine making is the Barbier-Meyer. Rene Barbier bought his first vines in Priorat in 1979, after many years of experience in Bordeaux and Borgogne. Returning to the area close to his birthplace of Tarragona, he and his family have grown up amongst the vineyards, loving the terroir and tending carefully to the earth which creates these incredible wines. His emblematic winery, Clos Mogador, is named after the single vineyard that Rene started to cultivate in the 1970’s in the now-famous wine village of Gratallops, heart of the Priorat wine making activity. Robert Parker was one of the first international critics to praise his incredible wines, which are nearly elixirs. The Priorat wines in general are already highly concentrated and “normal” yields are incredibly small, but Rene goes even further – at Clos Mogador winery they press the grapes using an olive press, which means they extract only half of the amount of juice that a typical wine press would, making the wine 50% more concentrated!

His wall by wall wine cellar neighbour, Carles Pastrana, is together with Rene  of the founders of the Priorat wine revolution. At his family owned and run winery, Clos d Obac, he produces some of the most iconic Priorat wines, Clos de l’ObacMisere and Kyrie.  A visit to both Clos Mogador and Clos d Obac cellars is a must for any Spanish wine lover!

Another not to be missed winery is Clos Figueres, in the village centre, where the charming owners not only show our clients their unusual barrel room but also treat them to a great meal at their fantastic restaurant. Clos Figueres owns 18 hectares of some of the best Priorat vineyards, planted with Grenache, Carignan (some over 60 years old), Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell, Viognier and Chenin Blanc.

 

Clos Figures vineyards in DOQ Priorat wine region

As for the Priorat wine region most typical grape varieties, the native red grapes of Carinyena (Carignan) and Garnatxa (Grenache) are the absolute stars, in coupage and also in some incredible mono varietal single vineyard wines.

All the permitted grape varieties of the DOQ Priorat Wine Region are:

  • Red Priorat Grape Varieties: Grenache, Carignan, Hairy Grenache, Tempranillo, Piquepoul, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah
  • White Priorat Grape Varieties: Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximinez, Chenin Blanc, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Xarello, Piquepoul

While visiting the Priorat wine region, aside from refining your wine-palate, you may also want to taste Priorat world-class olive oils, which are also classified into DOs.

One of the best Priorat olive groves are in the area of the fairly tale hamlet of Siurana, which is set upon a cliff, surrounded by mountains, with views fit for an eagle! Set 1000m high atop a cliff, Siurana was the last Moorish stronghold in Catalonia, and the legend is that, wanting to evade capture by the Christians, the Moorish queen Abdelazia drove herself and her horse off the cliff into the valley below… Today this charming rural stone village is worth a slow wander, taking in the spectacular views and the marks of hundreds of years of history.

Priorat extra virgin olive oil

So, if you love fine red wines, aromatic olive oils and enjoy spectacular scenery; you can’t miss the Priorat wine region!

Join us on a private Wine Lovers Tour of Spain to explore the Priorat wine region, as well as other incredible Spanish wine regions of Ribera del Duero, La Rioja, Emporda and Penedes. We always want to show our clients the most scenic areas, with expert guided visits to fantastic wineries as well as great local restaurants and boutique accommodations. 

Mas Estela set amongst the incredible scenery of the Cap de Creus

The up and coming Empordà wine region in Catalonia, northern Spain is known for it’s high-quality wines, olive oil and beautiful scenery. The windswept Emporda landscape between the Costa Brava and Girona, does not only offer bucolic vineyards and olive trees vistas,  but fascinating medieval hamlets and gorgeous seaside villages as well. If you are a wine lover and like to discover exciting new wines, the Empordà wine region is a perfect wine travel destination.  Still undiscovered, but with great food, lovely rural hotels and charming vintners,  who are always ready for a chat with fellow wine buffs and of course, an Emporda wine tasting!

More and more local Emporda wine makers prefer to grow their grapes in a way which is in harmony with the local environment. One such Emporda winery is Terra Remota lying at the base of the mountains, close to the border of Spain with France.  This ecologically run vineyard is one of the best wineries in Catalonia and their fine organic Emporda wines have gained a fabulous reputation by being included on the wine lists of many Michelin 3 starred restaurants! Not only does this Catalan cellar produce organic wines, but they also aim for minimal impact on the surrounding nature. Their raw concrete “bodega” designed by architects Pépe Cortés & Nacho Ferrer is recently built, but in time will surely hide itself entirely in its natural surroundings, as  it is perfectly integrated in a side of a hill, lying long and low with the mauve Pyrenees high above, with its roofs covered with vegetation.  On our Spanish wine tours, covering the Emporda wine region, our guests also enjoy a picnic at this special winery!  It is lovely to relax and unwind, surrounded by vineyards,  where you can put your feet up and lounge in the shade of the tall trees on the sun beds provided. With the sun filtering through the tree tops, take time out to breathe in the fresh mountain air.

Close by, another Emporda winery, Mas Estela,  is tucked within the Cap de Creus natural park and only 3 kms from the Mediterranean sea; its moderating influence protecting the valley of vines. Another of the best wineries in Catalonia, here not only do they produce highly-regarded wines but the location of the winery is sublime. The family came here in 1988 and bought a large ruin with some 20 hectares of valley and scrub land with steep slopes on either side. Having rebuilt their house, they planted the terraces with varieties like syrah, monastrell and garnatxa gris to complement the garnatxa, cariñena and muscat which already existed.  This Emporda winery is organic as well and applies biodynamic principles that obey the cycles of the moon in order to interact with the soil or when to work on the vines. Their use of natural fertilizer only, means that the environment is not polluted by any type of chemical which ensures that the biodiversity remains strong and creates a truly healthy environment.

 

 

Another of the best wineries in Catalonia is La Vinyeta, in the heart of the Empordà wine D.O region. A young winery, it was purchased in 2002 by an enthusiastic Catalan wine making couple and is the fruit of much effort and ambition. From that moment on, more and more vines were planted, up to the present 30 hectares. The project was consolidated in 2006 with the construction of the winery and the making of the first wines. In 2009, La Vinyeta became one of the first Spanish wineries to adopt Integrated Production, an environmentally-friendly cultivation system. Their signature Emporda wines are not only delicious but structured as if they were part of a unique story. From the starting “Once upon a time” for the Heus label, the freshest and youngest of their wines; which is produced in red, white and rosé varieties. Passing on to the Llavors (it can be translated as “then”), which signals an evolution after spending six months in oak casks. This Emporda wine story is completed with the distinct Punt i Apart (which translates to “new paragraph”); La Vinyeta’s flagship wine, and our definite favorite, which stays 13 months in oak casks.  

Our carefully designed Wine Lovers Tour of Spain covers not only the beautiful-up-and-coming Emporda wine region, but also many of our other favorite Spanish vineyards, some well known, others hidden gems waiting to be discovered. If you have just a few days, our Emporda Wine Region & Costa Brava Tour is a perfect opportunity to indulge in local wine, food and culture! Combining a few days of pure relaxation in medieval villages with a customized tour of the area including Emporda wine tastings, fine food and the best privately guided tours. Just drop us a line with your dates and budget and we will take it from there!

We all wish you Happy Holidays and a very healthy and prosperous 2020!

Travel with us this new year to Spain, Portugal, France and/or Italy on a fabulous private tour, to make 2020 even more special!

 

Just to let you know, our office will be closed over the holiday season from Monday December 23rd until Friday January 3rd, both included.  

 

Christmas cakes and biscuits which contain an array of dried fruits, nuts and spices are the focus when it comes to celebrating the festive season in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.

For Christmas in the Catholic countries of the Mediterranean, from Portugal to Spain, France to Italy, the patisseries and bakeries adorn their luminous windows with a display of traditional delicacies such as the Bolo Rei and Rosco de Reyes, Polvorones and Rousquilles, as well as the more famous Panettone. The use of flour is strong here, with a variety of fruit breads, biscuits and cakes to be found.

 

If your Portuguese private food and wine tour with us coincides with Christmas, be warned that you will not leave without tasting the delicious Bolo Rei, Bolo Rainha and sonho!  In Portugal, there are many cakes and pastries using seasonal vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin or sweet potatoes to enhance their flavour and add moisture. An Alentejo favourite is the sonho which is a ball of dough deep fried, then rolled in sugar and cinnamon – perfect for warming cold hands! The variations of this sweet include the use of pumpkin or carrot through the dough for a deeper flavour and a denser texture. Then there are rice and milk-based sweets, with the Portuguese pudim being a type of flan and the rice pudding of arroz doce being a family favourite. Then comes the Portuguese Christmas cake, of which there are two varieties: Bolo Rei and Bolo Rainha. These breadier cakes, similar to the Italian Panettone or Spanish Rosco de Reyes are filled and topped with dried and candied fruits and nuts. 

 

Those venturing on a Christmas custom tour of Spain will be sure to encounter the fabulous array of nut and cinnamon-based biscuits and cakes. The Spanish Christmas cake of Rosco de Reyes always has a ‘treasure’ stored inside its bready walls, and whomever receives the piece of cake in which it is contained, is given the title of ‘king or queen for the day’! In the lead-up to Christmas day, various biscuits and turrons (a sweet made of ground almonds with added flavours or whole nuts throughout, as well as nougat) are enjoyed at the family and work get-togethers. Polvorones are a typical Spanish Christmas biscuit whose heritage is Moorish, again made with almond meal to which various warm spices and butter are added to create a delicious, perfect-with-coffee treat.

Rousquilles – French Christmas tradition in a biscuit!

 

In the Occitane region of France which borders Spain, the array of biscuits at Christmas time is immense! Should you be on a French Christmas Voyage in this south-western region, you will no doubt encounter the delicate French biscuits sablés des Pyrénées and Rousquilles. Sablés des Pyrénées are famous in the mountainous border between Spain and France, shortbread-like in consistency the dough is flavoured with cinnamon, walnuts and sometimes chocolate chips. Rousquilles du Roussillon on the other hand, are a simple vanilla biscuit, flavoured with anise and iced with a sugar-meringue coating taking the shape of a ring. These are the perfect adult treat, as they are not too sweet and ideal with a glass of vermouth, armagnac or port on a cold winter’s night…

 

The Italians being a country of sweet-lovers, also enjoy a variety of baked Christmas goodies! In Tuscany Ricciarelli are a short-bread made with almond meal, cinnamon and dusted with icing sugar, similar in flavour to Spanish Polvorones. Probably the most famous Italian Christmas cake is the Panettone, originating in Milan 500 years ago, a type of sponge cake made with eggs, yeast, milk and flour, containing dried fruit within. It is very light and has a simple bread-like flavour, again ideal when consumed with liquors such as the Italian vin santo or grappa.

 

On a Gourmet Tour of Italy over the festive period,  you will have the benefit of our knowledgeable guides escorting you to the variety of delicious regional Christmas cakes such as Panettone or the moreish Ricciarelli biscuits.

The warm spices and dried fruits and nuts used in these biscuits and bready cakes are sure to warm your palate as well as your heart when you visit southern Europe for Christmas time. If you are tempted by the idea of fireplaces, a smattering of snow and wonderful Mediterranean hospitality; do not hesitate to contact us and we can create the ideal customised tour for your European Christmas!