In August Sideways took a road trip through Europe to explore some of the vineyards and cellars of the old world and meet some winemakers along the way. Our itinerary was jam packed with wine tastings, vineyard tours, meeting up with old friends and exploring new wine regions.
Our first stop was Chardonne, a little village on the steep northern banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Here we explored vineyards that are planted in rocky, sandy soil supported by ancient terraces, the walls of which are over 700 years old. The predominant varietal is Chasselas, a light, fruity dry white wine. We explored the cellar of an old friend who recently took part in a harvest in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, near Hermanus (where we go on the Whale Watching & Wine Tour during the Whale season). She showed us around her family winery that has the most beautiful tanks and world class modern facilities. We also tasted through a range of interesting and delicious local wines in the cellar made by her parents, one of a handful of family run wineries in the region. That evening we were treated to the most swiss cuisine there is: a delicious cheese fondue complete with lots of Chasselas to wash it down all that cheesy goodness.
After our glorious time in Switzerland we headed to Burgundy passing through Jura, a small region with really funky but delicious wine, also home to Vin Jaune (yellow wine so called because of the yellow colour cause by extreme oxidation). The region is a bit like the Swartland in South Africa because it is rather unassuming but totally trending on the global wine scene right now. After the Jura we were headed to the Holy of Holy’s, Burgundy, to indulge in things like Pinot noir, Chardonnay, snails and foie gras.
The Rhone Valley is one of our favourite wine regions. The wine here is intense and brooding, like a huge man that has a thunderous expression on his face but is keeping his mood in check, bottling it up only for it to be released with the pop of a cork. Here we tasted wine until our teeth were purple and our lips were stained black from the tannin of the Syrah that grows so beautifully in this hot, dry, rocky terrain.
After the intensity and blasting heat of the Rhone Valley it was time to cool off in the pools of Provence, sipping rosé in the bright summer sun. We explored the bustling alleys of the markets, thronging with tourists and locals alike, the sound of the stall owners extolling the virtues of their wares giving the whole scene a particularly French atmosphere.
So that rounds off our journey through some of the most celebrated and beautiful wine regions of Europe. Our time spent exploring the vineyards and cellars, meeting the wine makers and catching up with old friends was quite a whirlwind and something that we hope to do again. It’s our way of discovering new regions and learning about different cultures and all the while Exploring Sideways.