Porto and the Douro Valley
Portugal may not be your first port of call for a wine holiday, but it should be. Spain’s lush and undulating neighbour, and the birthplace of port, has a rich boozy history and an impressive wine pedigree.
To drink in the whole experience, we stayed at luxury wine hotel The Yeatman, in Porto, with its award-winning decanter-shaped infinity pool and Vinotherapie spa, which boasts treatments both inspired by, and incorporating, wine. Each room is named after a Portuguese wine and the master suites are where gimmickry and style sit comfortably side by side; like the barrel-shaped bed of the 007 ADF Suite.
Its wine credentials are well deserved. The hotel holds the largest collection of Portuguese wine in the world – and these vintages are fully utilised in its countless wine tastings and dinners. Having been delightfully destroyed by the two-Michelin starred tasting menu with wine pairings, I can attest to the astounding quality on offer.
A roughly three-hour train ride away from Porto is the wine region of the Douro Valley, where visited The Yeatman’s sister property, Vintage House Hotel. Rustic, luxurious and achingly romantic, it sits snugly in the Douro Valley’s spectacular landscape, a short drive from the Quinta da Roêda, where Croft Port (one of the oldest in the world) is produced. The drink is enjoying a renaissance of late and every step of our stay in Portugal was a reminder of this. No longer the heavy, stuffy drink of stupefied after-dinner musings in a leather armchair, it’s now cropping up as a cooler, lighter beverage even at the Quinta, where we were greeted with a refreshing port and tonic cocktail. We finished our tour with a tasting – ruby, tawny and the new rosé variety, added in 2008 – overlooking the hillside vineyards. With views of the valley this beautiful, we reasoned they deserved a drink (or six) in their honour.
It’s not an obvious choice for wine tourism, but the Balearic Island’s hidden wine scene is worth discovering. We stayed in Port Adriano, a peaceful marina 30 minutes from historic Palma and miles away from the island’s more raucous resorts. Our hotel, Pure Salt, Port Adriano, hugged a clifftop overlooking the bay and is a five star, adults only idyll of chic rooms with jacuzzi baths and infinity pools with impressive vistas.
The hotel has just secured a partnership with local family-run winery Finca Binigual. The mountainous isle is replete with vineyards and this particular area has been an agricultural hot spot for 700 years, with a history of wine-making dating back to the beginning of the 18th century. After phylloxera plague destroyed the vines in the early 20th century it was bought in 1968 by its current owner and has experienced an astonishing rebirth. Indeed, the quaint nearby village of Biniagual is literally a village built by wine.
We arrived a week after the harvest, in the late September sun, and were treated to a tour of the whole Finca-tracing the bottle’s journey from grape to glass, culminating in a tasting of the Finca’s award-winning outputs that have made them the only Mallorcan winery present at the Salon of Spain’s Best Wines later this month in Madrid.
Later that evening we talk with our hotel’s sommelier over a delicious spread at the Adriana restaurant. He says he initially refused to stock native wine when he moved to the island a few years ago, but was so taken aback by the quality that he now lists many at the hotel.
We drink Mallorcan wine for the entirety of our stay, at his recommendation, and are not disappointed. Strides are currently being made to export more and more of the island’s wine so now may be the perfect time to go and try it in situ. That way you can say you got there first, before the craze truly began.
This north-eastern region of France boasts the most Michelin stars in the country outside of Paris. It’s little surprise then, that one of the finest wine cellars in Europe can also be found there. Enter stage left, Villa René Lalique, the former home of the legendary designer, where there is top-quality wine on (Lalique crystal) tap.
Opened in 2015, it is the first of two luxury hotels in Wingen-sur-Moder, in the Vosges national park. Both were created by Lalique CEO Silvio Denz and benefit from the brands decorative flourishes and Denz’s vast personal wine collection.
We stay at the newest of the two hotels; the neighbouring Château Hochberg which opened its doors this summer. The Château is walking distance from the fascinating Lalique museum and factory, and is set in 1.7 hectares of lush parkland. The hotel is a fresher, sleeker take on the more ornate Villa, but it suffers nothing for it and can now bear the impressive accolade of possessing the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.
We go for dinner at Villa René Lalique in its two-Michelin starred, Mario Botta-designed restaurant. Nestled below is its vast treasure trove of booze; the fabled wine cellar with 12,000 of the villa’s 60,000 bottles on display, 1,000 of which have received scores of 90-100 from the acclaimed wine critic Robert Parker and which notably features some century-old Sauternes. The personal collection has been amplified by hotel sommelier Romain Iltis, who was Meilleur Sommelier de France 2012 and Meilleur Ouvrier de France 2015. During a tasting menu by head chef Jean-George Klein we are given a talk by Iltis whose expertise are awe-inspiringly impressive.
This is a luxurious wine trip for the true connoisseur, for whom this almost unrivalled wine list will be an unbridled joy. It is little wonder that Denz’s next hotel venture comes complete with its own vineyard. Watch this space…