In need of some Valentine’s Day inspiration? Nigel Buxton picks ten top romantic spots in Europe’s wine regions to share a bottle with that special someone
Romantic destinations for wine lovers: Graach-Schaferei
Graach-Schaferei, The Mosel, Germany
Dare we talk about a romantic grape? If so, then it is Riesling that overwhelmingly justifies the flight of fancy: Riesling rules in Graach, neighbour to Bernkastel in an 8km stretch on the middle Mosel of what Hugh Johnson thinks ‘may well be the largest vineyard of sustained superlative quality in the world’.
At Graach-Schaferei, above the village of Graach, Philipps-Eckstein is not only a highly respected producer, but the proprietor of a few guest rooms and a modest but very agreeable bistro: exactly the sort of thing one wants when the location and the contents of the bottle may be more important than what is on one’s plate (though here that is invariably very good). There are geraniums in boxes on the balconies and a terrace with heart-lifting views which are somehow a perfect match for a light, floral, elegant Mosel – a coincidence of pleasure which will give extra meaning to ‘the wine of the house’.
Wein und Gästehaus Philipps-Eckstein
Panoramastraße 11, 54470 Graach-Schäferei/Mosel, Germany. Tel: + 49 6531 6542
Romantic destinations for wine lovers: Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
The Fattorie di Donatella Cinelli is a wine estate of medieval ancestry near the village of Trequanda in the Val d’Orcia (a World Heritage site) in charming Montalcino. As well as a traditional Brunello (which tends to need bottle age), the estate’s owner, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, also makes a more approachable Brunello Prime Donne, a softer wine claimed to have been ‘chosen by and for women’. All the winemakers here are female – a good start to qualifying for our romantic selection.
The estate also offers agreeable accommodation in the main villa (and other attractively restored farmhouses) with country cooking; a number of self-catering apartments; a central restaurant; and three swimming pools, all surrounded by countryside where the vine predominates but olive trees are not hard to find (the estate sells its own oil).
With Montepulciano – one of the most picturesque and captivating places in Italy – less than half an hour’s drive away, we are surely within hugging distance of an ideal trysting place far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife. Moments to treasure ought not to be hard to contrive in these parts.
Fattoria del Colle
I – 53020 Trequanda (Siena), Italy. Tel: +39 0577 662 108
Romantic destinations for wine lovers: The Douro
The Douro, Portugal
For the first and last time in this romantic round-up we might admit the term ‘breathtaking’. Connoisseurs contend that, once the city of Oporto has been left well behind, the Valley of the Douro more than rivals the Rheingau and the Mosel for spectacular wine country views.
Our appointment is up river in World Heritage territory, about 20 minutes’ boat ride away from Pinhão, at the Quinta do Panascal, in the Valley of the Tavora, a tributary of the Douro. Considered by Fonseca to be its number one winery, the quinta offers a flowered terrace, a prospect of the valley, and what the management (not to be outdone in descriptive enthusiasm) says is ‘un ambiente absolutamente paradisiaco’. Heavenly indeed to sit here with a companion and a well-chilled 10-year-old tawny before a picnic high among the vines. ‘Smooth, silky, mellow, voluptuous, nutty’ are all descriptors used by even the most down-to-earth experts (to apply to the port, one should qualify).
Quinta do Panascal
5120-496 Valença do Douro, Portugal. Tel: +351 254 732 321
Romantic destinations for wine lovers: Santorini
The Hotel Katakies clings to the cliffs high above the sea on the volcanic island of Santorini, in the Cyclades, its architecture a marriage of the traditional and the modern, its appointments verging on sybaritic, its views of the Aegean superb.
Not exceeding 16km long and mostly barely 5km wide, Santorini cannot offer much to distract you from the hotel’s irresistible sky-high pools, terraces and open-air restaurants. At sunset there are tastings of wines from all over Greece, where quality has improved greatly in the past few years. Writing of the local dry white, Tom Stevenson describes it as boasting ‘an intriguing combination of high natural alcohol and high natural acidity’. What more exciting recipe for an aperitif to a candlelit dinner with a view of the ‘wine-dark’ sea?
Oia, Santorini, 84702, Cyclades Islands, Greece.
Tel: +30 228 607 1401