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ESCAPE BREXIT BLUES AND LOCKDOWN WITH THIS EUROPEAN VIRTUAL WINE TOUR

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Wine Tasting

 Everyone misses going on holiday or planning their next trip. So, to fill the gap Property Guides have created a virtual wine tour of Europe with recommendations for those banishing Dry January for some lockdown entertainment!

Property Guides have put together a virtual wine tour of the best vineyards in Europe, their most popular wine offering and information on each area for those dreaming of life abroad from the comfort of their sofa.

Can you imagine anything more perfect than settling down on your garden terrace in Tuscany, the Loire or the Algarve, and opening a cool white wine from the local vineyard? Or maybe a local red, or two, for an evening with friends in your new holiday home in the Canary Islands or Alicante?

Beautiful regions of Europe go hand in hand with wonderful wines. And, for those who appreciate the finer things in life and are seeking a holiday home or active retirement abroad, basing your searches around your favourite tipple makes the best of both worlds. Best of all, they’re all just a short flight from the UK.

Italian Wineries

Sicily

Sicily isn’t just one of the Mediterranean’s largest and sunniest islands, it’s also one of the friendliest. It has breath-taking vistas and coastlines, gorgeous cities with baroque squares and lively street markets, quality restaurants for eating al fresco and of course, wonderful wines. Around Mount Etna, on the eastern side of the island, you’ll find seaside resorts like Taormina that have attracted international residents for centuries, plus mountain villages with awesome views.

The vineyard

Frank Cornelissen opened his vineyard on the northern slopes of Mount Etna in 2001, with the aim of creating wine as nature intended it. The Belgian expat decided to avoid all treatments of the land, allowing the soil to dictate what the characteristics of the wine would be. The result has been a series of totally unique, world-class wines that capture the true taste of the incredibly fertile volcanic land of Sicily.

The wine

Frank Cornelissen’s Susucaru Rosato (rosé, £34.90 at Hedonism Wines) is one of the most sought-after Sicilian rosés and is produced using the same natural method the vineyard is famous for. It is a refreshing summer wine with a rich and fruity taste, made with a blend of Malvasia, Moscadella, Insolia and Nerello Mascalese grapes.

The lifestyle

Sicily is a relaxed sort of island, less touristy than many a Mediterranean hotspot. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring. Alongside the beaches, cultural and historical sites there are adventure activities too, based around Mount Etna, including skiing. Another benefit of Sicily compared to some islands is that you can get there easily all year.

The property

Compared to islands like Mallorca or Mykonos, property in Sicily is astoundingly affordable. Eastern Sicily, in the shadow of Mount Etna, includes the seaside city of Syracuse and its baroque outcrop Ortigia, where you can buy a two-bedroom apartment from €200,000.

Taormina, on the north-east side of Mount Etna — close to Frank Cornelissen’s winery — is a little more expensive and you’ll be spending €700,000-plus for a townhouse. More affordable are the villages among the wineries, such as Castiglione di Sicilia, where you can buy a farmhouse for as little as €100,000 and an apartment for less than €30,000.


Tuscany

History and natural beauty of the region, it’s easy to see why. Tuscany is a feast for the eyes, with its sweeping hillsides strung with vineyards, cypress trees dotting the horizon and dusty roads winding towards ancient castles.

While it’s easy to assume such a desirable location comes with a hefty price tag, there are plenty of pockets where property remains affordable. The cost of living in Italy drops dramatically outside the city limits too, making rural locations the way to go to keep costs low. In the countryside, taxes are lower, as are the prices of the local produce.

The vineyard

The Antinori family have been making wine since the 14th century, and their Antinori nel Chianti Clasico winery was opened in 2012 to celebrate their rich history. The building is an architectural marvel, and you could easily spend a whole day discovering what it has to offer visitors. It also serves as a hub for tasting their wide variety of award-winning wines.

The wine

Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva (£18.80 at Delivery Wines) is a red wine with a delicate, elegant taste. It’s made with a blend of sangiovese grapes along with other varieties to create a modern take on a Tuscan classic. It was produced to mark the opening of the new Antinori nel Chianti Classico winery.

The lifestyle

Tuscany is home to some of Italy’s most intoxicating cities. Florence is, of course, the main attraction, with its museums, galleries and architecture, but Lucca, Siena and Pisa all offer similar delights. As Tuscan cuisine demands to be enjoyed over long, relaxed lunches, dodge any guilt by working up an appetite beforehand with a hike or cycle in the countryside.

The property

Florence apartments start from €350,000. Head out to surrounding villages like Tavarnelle Val di Pesa to discover more spacious properties starting from €450,000. More affordable homes are in the north and north east of Tuscany, around Bagni di Lucca, Borgo a Mozzano e Pescaglia, where you can buy five-bedroom properties with multiple acres starting from €245,000, or a little village home for barely more than a Brighton beach hut. While Siena and Chianti are more expensive, if you direct your search towards nearby Volterra, prices drop.


Abruzzo

The Abruzzo region is the calf of Italy’s boot, just 70 miles from Rome but on the opposite coast, its mountains looking down on the glittering Adriatic Sea. Nicknamed the ‘Green Heart of Europe’, a third of Abruzzo is protected National Parks and reserves. It’s easy to reach, all year, yet has fewer international buyers – hence a more traditionally Italian way of life — and affordable property.

The vineyard

Masciarelli continues to be an important winemaker in the famous Abruzzo region of Italy. Established by Gianni Masciarelli in 1981, the winery has roots across four provinces, including its centre of operations at San Martino sulla Marrucina, in Chieti. With a focus on sustainability and new planting techniques, the winemaker’s vineyards led the way for the Abruzzo region as it emerged into the world stage.

The wine

Villa Gemma is Masciarelli’s flagship line and home to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva (red, £57.91 at Tannico), their classic wine made entirely with the region’s famous montepulciano grapes. This bold red offers a rich, long flavour with notes of blackcurrants and plums, as well as medium to full body. It strikes the ideal balance between masterful winemaking and regional personality.

The lifestyle

Enjoy Abruzzo’s many sandy, secluded beaches — it has one of the highest densities of Blue Flag beaches in the world. Head into the Apennine Mountains to hike or cycle — there are bears and wolves up there but they’re quite shy. Abruzzo also has a glacier, and in winter you can ski and snowboard at one of Abruzzo’s 18 ski resorts. If you fancy a day trip, head to Rome or you can be in Naples or Pompei in under two hours.

The property

For modern amenities and city comforts, Pescara is a good choice. Four-bed villas in the town complete with a pool and mountain views start from under €300,000. Abruzzo boasts many charming mountainside towns, like L’Aquila, Atri, Fossacesia and Penne, where you’ll discover substantial properties with land and mountain views starting from €100,000.


French Wineries

Bordeaux

Our vineyard pick, Château Margaux, is a little north of Bordeaux, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, on the west bank of the Garonne River. It’s all within the Gironde department, in south-west France, where the Dordogne and Garonne rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic. The Gironde’s mixture of enchanting towns and cities and the sandy beaches of Côte d’Argent make the area popular with visitors. Given the tourist footfall, this area is an excellent choice if you’re looking to buy an investment property, gîte or bed and breakfast business.

The vineyard

The Château Margaux vineyard is nicknamed the “Versailles of Médoc” for good reason. With beautiful architecture and scenic rows of vines, you’ll find it hard to find a more picturesque winery in the Bordeaux region. It also has a historic pedigree, having made outstanding wines since the 16th century, even becoming the favoured producer of French royalty. Modern additions to the process through the 20th century have only enhanced this reputation.

The wine

While Château Margaux’s Grand Vin is their first and most sought-after wine, their second, Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux (red, £125 at Wilkinson Vinters), has steadily increased in quality thanks to increasingly rigorous grape selection. This means that you can taste a very similar complexity and depth at a fraction of the price. Simply put, this wine is one that no Bordeaux aficionado can afford to miss out on.

The lifestyle

Spend sunny days exploring fortified hilltop towns and marvelling at the architecture of Romanesque churches, Renaissance citadels and medieval castles. Alternatively, enjoy the unspoilt beauty of seaside towns of Carcans, Hourtin and Montalivet.

The property

Gironde is a varied department where every buyer should be able to find their dream property. If you fancy your own vineyard, prices per hectare of vineyard (without a property) start from €20,000 but shoot up in the most desirable areas around Médoc, Pomerol and St Émilion. Vineyard properties start from €800,000 and châteaux from €850,000. The most affordable areas of Gironde are found inland, to the east of Bordeaux in towns like Monsegur, Sauveterre de Guyenne, Castillon-la-Bataille or Langon, where you can buy a seven-bedroom house with a pool from as little as €420,000.


Loire Valley

The Loire is the longest river in France, and along the 300 miles of the Loire Valley are some 300 châteaux, as well as vineyards, orchards and quaint riverside towns. So if you’re looking for the castle of your dreams, this is a great place to start your search. The area is known for its idyllic climate too, rarely too hot or too cold, and is easy to reach from the Channel ports in less than three hours.

The vineyard

In the Loire Valley, the small Savennières AC is considered a hidden gem that produces some of the world’s finest chenin blanc. Here, the Domaine du Closel vineyard, located in the historic Château de Vaults, quietly makes fantastic wine through organic and biodynamic cultivation to maintain the natural balance and processes of the local ecosystem. This hands-off approach results in fantastic wine that you won’t find elsewhere.

The wine

Les Caillardières (£25 at Lay & Wheeler) is a Savennières white wine made with the Loire Valley’s famous chenin blanc grapes. The winery chooses to harvest these grapes later in the season, giving the wine an aroma of baked apple, fruits, and almonds, while the terroir of the local area delivers a smooth and silky texture. This wine is a fantastic example of one of the region’s signature styles.

The lifestyle

As well as being a relaxed sort of country, where you can visit a chateau and read a book of poetry or philosophy in a beautiful garden, France is also super-sporty. So buy a kayak at your local Decathlon store and cruise along the river, or a bicycle and ride the country lanes and gentle hills.

The property

For upmarket properties close to the winery, Bouchemaine and Avrillé are sought-after locations. Incredible houses with period features start from €500,000.

Angers is a good choice for investment property. Apartments start from €285,000 and go into the multi millions. The small town of Saumur occupies a fabulous location on the banks of the Loire and is just two hours by train to Paris. You can buy a large, restored rural property from €360,000, and further south in Anjou sizeable farmhouses start from €250,000.


Carcassonne

Carcassonne, on a hillside that has made it a strategic target for at least 2,000 years, has a population of around 50,000. It’s at the heart of Occitanie, a region formed from the merger of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées in 2016. This magnificent corner of France, with its historical towns, villages and castles, has year-round appeal. Not only is it the world’s largest wine-growing area, with 280,000 hectares of vines, but you can hit the beach in summer and the ski slopes in winter.

The vineyard

Nowhere in the Languedoc region of France does hospitality quite like O’Vineyards. While very much a working vineyard, the winery also doubles up as a boutique hotel, where guests can stay right in the heart of this famous wine country. Founded in 2004 by Liz and Joe O’Connell — who are known as “les Americaines” by the locals — the winery is developing a reputation for unique vintages, as well as becoming an essential stop for wine tourists.

The wine

O’Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve (red, £39 at O’Vineyards) is made with a daring blend of merlot, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon grapes that deliver a powerful aroma of blackcurrant, black cherries, and raspberry, aided by its lengthy whole-berry fermentation process. It’s also backed with a little peppery spiciness. The wine has an intense yet balanced palate followed by a long, opulent finish.

The lifestyle

Some of the best beaches on the Mediterranean are under an hour away, including the sandy beaches of Narbonne, Gruissan and La Franqui. Occitanie is perfect for golfers or cycling fanatics, plus if you like rugby you’ll fit right in, with Toulouse just an hour away. The region is also known for its gastronomical delights, especially hearty stews like cassoulet.

The property

In Carcassonne, modest city centre apartments start from €80,000, but for something larger with a garden expect to pay closer to €450,000. The villages surrounding Carcassonne are home to stone farmhouses on good plots of land from €500,000. Villeneuve-Minervois is a lovely village, surrounded by vineyards, where you can buy 18th century stone properties from as little as €200,000. Lagrasse is widely regarded as one of the most attractive villages in France and has seduced artists and writers. You can buy good properties here from little over €100,000, or a seriously gorgeous four- or five-bedroom mansion from around €500,000.


Burgundy

France’s Côte d’Or (Golden Coast) is a department in the north east winemaking region of Burgundy. The eagle-eyed will have noticed that this isn’t a seaside coast — it’s named after the colour of Beaune’s vineyards in autumn. The 80km stretch between the historical cities of Dijon and Beaune, known for their enviable chateaux and astonishing architecture, is lush with award-winning vineyards. The region boasts the spectacular Morvan Regional National Park and is just an hour and a half from Lyon, or two hours from Geneva.

The vineyard

Château de Pommard has been producing wine since 1726, passing through a number of winemaking families over the years. In 2014, it was purchased by US businessman Michael Baum, who set out to create biodynamic wines by respecting the surrounding area and the natural processes within it. There was even a switch from motorised tractors to horse- drawn ploughs. The winery has seen great results, and many people have started to take note of the fantastic vintages that Château de Pommard has put out in recent years. In 2017, Château de Pommard’s Clos-Marey Monge site was declared a world heritage “Climat” by UNESCO, adding even more prestige to the winery’s signature vineyard.

The wine

Château de Pommard’s Clos Marey-Monge Monopole 2017 (red, £132 at Château de Pommard) is a flavourful, complex pinot noir that has an aroma of red fruits and some smokiness. The palate is fresh and is followed by an energetic finish. This is all possible thanks to the blend of seven cuvées that are handpicked from the protected environment and aged for 16 months in oak barrels.

The lifestyle

Burgundy’s canals are perfect for walking and cycling. The countryside is particularly striking during autumn when the leaves turn, and is ideal for hiking, horse-riding and mountain biking. For the best scenery head east to the Jura Mountains, or if you really want an adventure, hop across the border to Switzerland. It’s also worth noting that Burgundy has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other region in France!

The property

In Burgundy, you can buy an inexpensive barn conversion or an enormous manor house. Beaune is a desirable spot, known for elegant townhouses and converted apartments. In the town itself prices start from €200,000 or head into the surrounding villages for large stone houses with gardens starting from under €150,000. Dijon is a sensible place to invest and is a respectable 90-minutes from Paris. Apartment prices start from €170,000. For a chateau, prices around Beaune and Dijon begin at under €800,000.


Spanish Wineries 

Alicante

Drive north from Alicante Airport and you’ll soon be in Benidorm, with all the British bars, nightlife and bucket and spade fun you can imagine. Drive south and you’ll be in Torrevieja, perfect for a holiday home. But drive inland and you’ll be in a very different world. Here, in “real” Spain, not everyone speaks English (although in Spain you’re never far from a fellow expat) and the property prices drop rapidly. The countryside tends to be dry this far south, but there are plenty of natural parks and mountain ranges covered in pine forests and valleys with rushing rivers as well as workaday towns with industry.

The vineyard

Bodegas Primitivo Quiles is a well-respected vineyard in the Alicante area. It is still run by the Quiles family, as it has been for a century, and it’s their aim to uphold the unique vintological heritage of the region through the generations. Alongside their regular wines, they specialise in keeping alive the tradition of fondillon, a wine style that is unique to Alicante and well worth a try to get a small taste of history.

The wine

Primitivo Quiles’ Raspay Reserva 2012 (red, £8.02 at Licorea) is one of Primitivo Quiles signature wines. It is a red wine that was first enjoyed as the dinner wine when King Juan Carlos I of Spain visited Alicante in 1976 and it is named after the location of the first Quiles vineyard. Expect an intense, fruity aroma of jam, with a smooth, round taste that hints at old wood and spices.

The lifestyle

You can spend days being active – walking, cycling, climbing – in the Maigmó Massif and Arguenya Mountains, then enjoy the best of local Spanish food, wine and lifestyle. Whenever you want it, the fleshpots of the Costa Blanca are a short drive away. That includes the city of Alicante, which has every kind of cultural pleasure and, as Lonely Planet point out, “has more of a buzz than most” Spanish cities.

The property

This is the kind of area where you can buy a village apartment for less than €20,000 or a little country estate for under €200,000. Popular areas nearby include the Hondon Valley, or the city of Elche, a little close to the coast and hence more expensive.


Lanzarote

Sweeping vistas of grey, almost treeless, with volcanic craters rising out of the haze, the landscape of Lanzarote can take a bit of getting used to, but don’t worry, the quiet beauty of the island will soon beguile you. The country views are magnificent, all with the Atlantic Ocean sparkling in the distance.

Although once a byword for cheap package holidays, Lanzarote switched from mass tourism to a relaxed, rather classy and artistic vibe. Property-wise, Lanzarote fought off tourist overdevelopment led by a man you’ll hear much of, the late artist Cézar Manrique. He campaigned to protect traditional Lanzarote houses of white with green shutters, sitting low on the horizon in perfect keeping with the land.

The vineyard

El Grifo is the oldest winery in Lanzarote’s famous La Geria region and has been producing malvasía wines since the late 18th century. This also makes it one of the oldest vineyards in Spanish territory. The winery is situated among lunar-like hills that were once covered in volcanic ash from eruptions between 1730–36. While the stark contrast between the green vines and black soil is striking, perhaps more amazing is the quality of grapes that can be grown in the incredibly fertile earth. You simply can’t visit Lanzarote without a trip to El Grifo.

The wine

No visit to the La Geria area would be complete without a taste of the grapes grown in that volcanic soil, and this Malvasía Lías 2018 (white, £20.49 at All About Wine) is one of the best wines to try. You’ll notice its straw-yellow colour and deep, mature aroma first, before experiencing a full-bodied taste with a citrus finish. And, as this white wine has high alcohol and acidity, it can be stored for years, after which it will turn golden.

The lifestyle

Lanzarote is almost always warm, but rarely too hot. It’s just as beautiful and just as open for business in January as in July. Being just 60 kilometres long and 25 wide you can drive anywhere in an hour or two. Healthy activities like cycling, walking and surfing are popular here. This is a gentle island perfect for a healthy, active retirement or family holidays.

The property

For the best modern country villas with a pool, you’ll need at least €300,000, more for a sea view. A popular location near El Grifo winery is Màcher, just 10 minutes away by car. Not much further is the coast west of the capital Arrecife, with resorts like Puerto del Carmen where apartments start at under €100,000. Do check out the villages too, such as San Bartolomé, just 3km from El Grifo.


Portuguese Wineries

Algarve

The Algarve is a gorgeous region of southern Portugal, offering its visitors great access to the best of the Central Algarve, with its popular resorts, and the Western Algarve, which is wilder and characterised by rugged coastline, coves and fishing villages. The region of the Atlantic coast is popular with surfers too.

The vineyard

The Algarve, with its enclosure by the mountains and high levels of sunlight, is the perfect wine-growing environment. At Quinta dos Vales, they take advantage of this by cultivating a diverse selection of grapes, including native Portuguese varieties and those found internationally. This level of choice has given them room to produce beautiful wines with a unique taste. And, when paired with the winery’s quality-first approach, it’s easy to see how they have quickly established themselves as pioneers in the up-and-coming Algarve wine industry.

The wine

Grande Escolha Red 2015 (£22 at Quinta dos Valdes) is a red wine made with three noble grape varieties that create a deep ruby colour and a flavour that is both rich and intense. The aroma is spicy, with notes of dark fruits and fragrant herbs, while the palate is complex with high levels of tannins, some acidity, and a long finish.

The lifestyle

Get out on the water for fishing, or to hop between the secluded beaches and caves that dot the Algarve coast. There are plenty of golf courses, or you can enjoy a day out with the kids at Slide and Splash Water Park or Lagos Zoo.

The property

Carvoeiro is a lovely fishing village and beach town, complete with white-washed buildings and cobbled streets. Apartments in town start from €150,000 or head slightly out of town towards Lagoa for sizable villas on decent plots starting from €400,000. In Portimão, you can snap up holiday apartments from €85,000 or five-bedroom villas from €450,000. For something more rural, try Estômbar for country houses with ocean views from €450,000, or head to the Medieval town of Silves for everything from townhouses (€250,000+) to fancy villas (€350,000).

For more guidance on buying your dream home abroad, be sure to head over to Propertyguides.com who have in-depth advice for many popular countries where you can find out more about the best areas, step-by-step guides on how to buy a home, local laws, finding property professionals, and much more.

Please note: Wine prices (excluding delivery) were correct at the time of writing and are based on a 750ml bottle

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