5 Exquisite Wine Routes in France

As Europe’s peak travel season winds down and most people are returning to work and school refreshed from their summer vacation, the sleepy vineyards sweeping the French countryside awaken for the annual harvest. Foliage begins to turn, days and evenings become pleasantly cooler, and the picturesque back roads call out to be traversed, beckoning in one of the best times to visit France. There’s no better time than autumn to channel your inner wine connoisseur and rent a car in France. The following list is a compilation of five lovely wine regions and scenic routes fringed with vineyards that beg to be explored. Each of these destinations is sure to make for an unforgettable experience.

Alsace Wine Route

Alsace Wine Region

The Alsace region is situated along a narrow plain, which is bordered by the Rhine River to the east and the Vosges Mountains to the west. Why not rent something special for your trip, like a Mercedes SLK Roadster in Strasbourg? Put the top down and leisurely make your way south along the Route des Vins d’Alsace (Alsace Wine Route). This 170 km stretch of roadway begins in Marlenheim and ends in Thann. Take your time and discover the Alsace vineyards, castles, and charming villages that dot the way.

Bordeaux Wine Route

Bordeaux Wine Region

Six distinct wine producing territories branch out from the heart of the Bordeaux region. The beauty of visiting this location is that you can create a unique tour of the wineries based on your specific taste. Sample the fine red wines north of Bordeaux, and the sweet or dry white wines south of the city. Offering an excellent array of grape varietals, colors, and tastes, you won’t be disappointed when visiting this southwestern area of France.

Provence Wine Route

Provence Wine Route

South of the Alps and north of the cliff-lined Mediterranean Sea is the Provence region, a part of France that is celebrated for its rosé wine. Start your journey by driving west along the coast with your rental car in Nice and making frequent stops to appreciate the villages and scenery, follow the 200 km course to Camargue, a town just east of Montpellier. The Provence vineyards are divided into eight appellations, and there are about 350 winemakers along the way.

Burgundy Wine Route

Burgundy Wine Route

A two hour car-ride southwest of Paris leads into the rolling hills of France’s Burgundy region. Renowned for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the vineyards here yield some of the country’s finest wines. Burgundy has five territories, and Route des Grands Crus (road of great wines) takes you through Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. It is the area’s most popular drive and is close to 60 km. Clearly marked road signs make this itinerary very easy to follow.

Champagne Route

Champagne Wine Route

Only 160 km east of Paris, yet seemingly worlds away from the city of light, is the highly regarded Champagne region. Sparkling wine can’t claim the name Champagne unless it originates from here. There are five circuits that wind their way through each of the appellation territories. The Coast Bar route is the longest at 220 km, and the shortest courses are Montagne de Reims and Massif of Saint Thierry, each of these is 70 km.

Before setting off on any trip in France, it is important to note the country’s new driving law, which requires every vehicle to have a breathalyzer on hand. Avoid the possibility of needing to use one of these devices by staying at a lovely Chateau when choosing to indulge in a few glasses of regionally produced wine.

Enjoy the wine and enjoy France!

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The Italy Road Trip

The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in 2 weeks. So what do you see? And where do you start? Well right here.

The Italy Road Trip – Getting There

Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!

The Italy Road Trip – Venice

Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Walking along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes are a lot more interesting than the main streets. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and give into the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

Italy Road Trip - Venice

The Italy Road Trip – Prosecco

We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we manage to hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit and wines to drink. We are looking for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most wineries will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters);  Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road leading to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

Italy Road Trip - Prosecco Region

The Italy Road Trip – Tuscany

There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. The wine; the food; the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion. The area covers approximately 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other more well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400 year old winery is right next door to the well known Antinori. They provide an intimate tour and wine tasting for 10 Euro. Villa San Andrea’s Super Tuscan is far cheaper than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Italy Road Trip - Villa San Andrea, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Tuscany

Among the many towns/places to visit in Tuscany are – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands near the top. It’s an amazing, well preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants. My favourite restaurants “Le Vecchie Mura“. It has both an inside restaurant and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course local wine. Eating a Tuscan dinner overlooking Tuscany is pretty hard to beat.

Italy Road Trip - San Gimignano, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Pasta with Truffles

The Italy Road Trip – Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is all about the views. And getting to the coast just adds to the anticipation. Heading south, we drive along the highway through Naples, then onto the winding roads of  Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible coastal views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants down on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle – both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.

Italy Road Trip - Positano

Italy Road Trip - Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?

Sydney’s Culinary Trends in 2018

 

Sydney’s Culinary Trends in 2018

Sydney's Culinary Trends

With so many food trends popping up every day, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the things to try and satisfy your hedonistic need. If you happen to be a fan of Sydney’s culinary trends in particular, you’ll be glad to see some of the foods that will take over the internet in 2018. No matter if you’re a coffee junkie, vegetarian or lactose intolerant, you’ll find most of these food choices quite acceptable. Here are some of the most popular culinary choices that originated from Sydney.

The rise of mocktails

Sydney - Mocktails

With the rising number of individuals who prefer gluten-free, low-cholesterol and other healthier products, there is a notable rise of non-alcoholic beverages in Sydney bars. The whole point of a cocktail is to mix the “kick” of alcohol and refreshing effect of juices to create the ultimate refreshing adult beverage. However, the whole game changes when the majority of tourists don’t want even the slightest pinch of alcohol in their drink. So, what’s a bartender to do? It’s simple, make them a mocktail – a non-alcoholic version of the cocktail. Mocktails have all the features of a cocktail – unique look, amazing garnish, and colors – but they contain 0 percent of alcohol. So, what’s not to love?

Whole fish meal

Sydney - Whole Fish Meal

When it comes to food trends, there is one thing to keep in mind – they tend to change frequently. In most cases the lines are blurring between the conventional and unconventional method of preparing food. It’s time to accept that some of the dishes that will take over the culinary world in 2018 might be out of the ordinary.
Whole fish dining is quite familiar to those who fancy Japanese cuisine, but to us, it’s definitely something we’re not used to. At least not yet. By removing the entrails, and only that from a fish, the chef then seasons it while adding a couple of dressings and sauces to the mix of spices. Afterward, the fish is ready for the cooking process. Chefs from all around the world are serving some of the most expensive types of fish in their restaurants this way. And the customers love it! If you haven’t tried whole fish dining yet, you’ll have more than plenty of opportunities to do so, as this trend will stick in 2018.

The coffee culture

Sydney - Coffee

Starbucks coffee is great for one thing- to get your daily portion of caffeine when you don’t have the time for a real coffee break. Luckily for real coffee lovers, Australians aren’t too fond of Starbucks products.

Aussies love their coffee brewed every way possible, as long as it’s brewed right. There are a lot of quality coffee suppliers and one of the best is certainly Coffee Galleria with white label blends to suit every need. People in Sydney will never give up their cup of quality coffee. Many are familiar with different brewing methods from aeropress to Chemex, which are at home-friendly as well. This is what makes their coffee so popular.
And speaking of popular, did you know that you’ll be seeing more private coffee brands of premium quality in 2018? The trend of home brewing goes back to traditional methods of brewing coffee, and has inspired many coffee shops to change their menu. So, go ahead order your Macchiato, Mocha, Piccolo or the regular Flat White coffee and experience the real taste of coffee.

Seafood out of the ordinary

Seafood fans will love the fact that restaurants from all around the world will be adding fish to their menu. But why would they do that?
Because food trends dictate what we see in our favorite restaurant’s menu. With an increased demand for lobster, urchin and other seafood dishes in Sydney’s most prized restaurants, the rest of the world has no choice but to follow this trend. So, if you enjoy fish more than any other meat, you’ll be glad to hear that this trend of focusing on seafood dishes is yet to be popularized. Although not as rich in protein like beef or pork, fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids which are extremely beneficial to our health.

Every gourmet knows that food trends dictate what we see in the menu of popular restaurants in our vicinity. But we always have a choice to make and filter what we ingest to stay healthy. Luckily, this year has some promising food trends that will satisfy even the most demanding food lovers.