Flights of Fancy
Tatler Hong Kong|September 2021
Borders are slowly reopening and overseas holidays are becoming increasingly viable, so our resident wine expert recommends how best to plan your wine travel and get the most out of your trip
Sarah Heller MW

As many of us prepare to board our first international flight in months, a trip to a wine region may not be top of the list; but for gourmets, it certainly ranks high. However much we may have enjoyed drinking at home during the lockdown, wine, the pinnacle of site-specific comestibles, is taken to new heights when imbibed in context.

There is a right way to do wine travel and a wrong way. The latter involves too much travel time, too many stops, and too much drinking. What’s more, on a practical level, there are still likely to be restrictions on winery visits for some time to come. Even where visitors are welcome, you may not feel comfortable crowding into a bus or barrel room just yet. This may, though, be a blessing in disguise: no more having to pretend to admire tanks and bottling lines before getting to the good stuff—the vineyard walks, library tastings, and so on.

In the immediate future, destinations are admittedly limited: that dream trip to South Africa or Argentina may have to remain a dream a little longer; Europe and the US are not out of the woods, and some other destinations, notably Australia and New Zealand, are not yet open for business. However, with travel packages being booked for 2022, 2023 and beyond, there’s no harm in sketching the outlines of a future trip. The planning is half the fun anyway.

Here are the top tips I’ve accumulated over a dozen years of extensive wine travel to help ensure your first trip back to wine country is the joyous experience we’re all hoping for.

WHERE TO GO?

When your planned destination is far from home, particularly if it is your first visit and you don’t intend to be a regular, it can be tempting to try to check everything off in one go: California’s Napa, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara, say. Setting aside the fact that you’ll spend half your trip in transit, “checklist” travel leaves you without time to absorb the experience. This sounds obvious, yet countless people continue to ask me for wine travel advice with itineraries spanning hundreds of kilometers.

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