Sample a range of beverages with these quick European trips, from vintage wines in the Med to craft beers in Prague and whiskies in Scotland.
Whether you're looking for a fine wine-tasting getaway in Burgundy or fancy sampling the modern craft ales of Prague, we've got a great list of places where you can enjoy sipping the best of local beverages, paired with some equally delectable cuisine. So sit back, relax and raise a glass of your favourite drink to a great holiday...
Best for... craft beers & budget-pleasing menus
Prague is one of the world’s greatest beer cities and its cosy old pubs and hearty food are now joined by the best modern craft brews and menus demonstrating that Czech cuisine is much more than just meat and dumplings.
Head to Lokál on Dlouhá Street for perfect glasses of Pilsner Urquell and home-cooked food (beers from £1.60 per half-litre; mains from £4). For the best craft beers, go to Kulový Blesk and choose between the courtyard or basement where there are different beers on tap (from £1.50 per half-litre). For exceptional Czech cuisine with a mix of lagers and craft beers, then U Šumavy, is a wonderful option.
How to do it
Bed down in a brewery at the venerable U Medvídků, founded in 1466, where doubles cost from £50 a night.
Review by Mark Dredge
Best for... venerable Spanish vintages & cool contemporary food
Stepping into your room at the Echaurren Hotel Gastronómico in the village of Ezcaray, La Rioja is a little bit magic. Raise remote-controlled blinds to reveal views of historic stone buildings, flocks of birds fluttering over golden terracotta roof tiles – it’s fairy tale film territory. There are two restaurants on-site (plus an additional casual dining room). Both are overseen by chef Francis Paniego, but are very different in style.
Modern, creative two Michelin-starred El Portal has tasting menus from £111, while Echaurren Tradición focuses on classic dishes inspired by Paniego’s mother’s cooking. In the latter, the £59 set menu came with classic croquettes, expertly-cooked hake, and an elegant dessert of apple crisps, Los Cameros cheese and honey ice cream. Breakfast in the morning greets you with a little fruit smoothie and gathers pace through fruit, cold meats and cheeses, finishing with a deep-fried poached egg and mushrooms.
Even with just a passing interest in wine, it’s well worth visiting Marqués de Riscal, famous wine producers a 30-minute drive from Ezcaray. A guided tour (£10.50 per person), includes tasting two wines. At the restaurant, you will again find modern menus from Francis Paniego. His 14 ideas menu (£89) came with standout red prawn carpaccio, black ‘olives’ (made from soft cheese), and ‘fresh grass,’ which is exactly as you’d imagine eating a mountain meadow.
How to do it
Doubles at Echaurren Hotel Gastronómico, from £338 per night, including breakfast. The closest airport, Bilbao, is a 90-minute drive.
Review by Miriam Nice
Ashdown Forest, Sussex
Best for... medal-winning English wines & fairy tale forest
You don’t need to travel to France to find fine wine. Brilliant bubbly and a grand spa hotel in the heart of Ashdown Forest, with its thousands of acres of bluebell woods (this is Winnie the Pooh country), make for a relaxing escape in the countryside. English wine is winning international awards, and Bluebell Vineyard produces top English sparkling.
Wine tours are relaxed and fun: one of the team will show you around the estate, and you’ll probably be joined by the owners’ four sweet Labradors too. Set on a former pig farm, it’s now home to 70 acres of champagne-blend grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – which are all hand-harvested. Kevin will explain the wine-making process and you’ll try four of their award-winning Hindleap English sparkling wines, including the zesty Sevyal Blanc, and peachy Blanc de Blancs.
Stay at Ashdown Park, just a 10-minute drive from Bluebell Vineyard. Acres of woodland and lakes surround this 19th-century country house hotel, with rabbits hopping around the grounds. Take a dip in the pool or squeeze in a spa treatment before dinner in the Anderida Restaurant, where cheffy takes on classic British fare are on the menu – try the fillet of beef with truffle potatoes, goose liver butter and cauliflower purée.
Unsurprisingly, the hotel makes the most of its proximity to Bluebell Vineyard, with Hindleap’s Seyval Blanc and Brut Rose on the wine list. Indulge with a Bloody Mary and a full English breakfast in the morning then ride it off on one of the cycling routes in the grounds, or go further beyond in the forest (you can hire bikes from the hotel). If you haven’t got the energy, step back in time and enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a steam train on the Bluebell Railway, from the ancient market town of East Grinstead, just a 15-minute drive away, which runs to Sheffield Park with its landscaped National Trust gardens.
How to do it
Review by Fiona Forman
Best for... sunny South of France eats & treats
Imagine St Tropez 20 years ago and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Cassis is like today. A picturesque harbour surrounded by pastel-coloured buildings marks the centre, the most beautiful limestone cliff inlets make up the coastline, and the food and drink options are endless. It’s a great destination for a heart-warming, mid-winter Med break. Contrary to popular belief, Crème de Cassis is not actually made in Cassis, but comes from the Burgundy region of France. However not indulging in at least one Kir Royale while in Cassis would be criminal, so head to La Villa Madie, for lunchtime drinking and a seriously wow view of the azure blue bay.
A glass of Ricard Pastis, from neighbouring Marseille, is a pre-dinner drink that warms you up when it’s sunny but fresh outside. The anise and liquorice flavoured aperitif is not to everyone’s taste, but you can’t get more French, and it’s cheap to drink; any decent bar in town will be able to serve you a glass after a day of hiking among the spectacular white cliffs of Cassis’ surrounding Calanques National Park.
Restaurants around the harbour can be overpriced so it’s worth taking a side street and finding Le Romarin (Rue du Docteur Séverin Icard, +33 442010993). The langoustine and garlic spaghetti is superb and you can’t beat the local house wines for flavour and price. To aid digestion, sip a glass of Marc de Provence, a pomace brandy made from the leftovers of the winemaking process. Get a glass at Le Chai Cassidain (6 rue Dr Severin Icard, +33 442019980) and don’t forget to cheers – à votre santé! Craving something sweet? Amorino (4 avenue Victor Hugo, +33 4204 6594) is the perfect place for an after-dinner fix. Choose from delicious sorbets in seasonal flavours or, of course, a crêpe.
How to do it
Review by Lydia Swinscoe
Best for... dram drinkers & spectacular seafood
Head to Oban on the west coast of Scotland to experience the finest Scottish salmon, a bounty of shellfish and one of the oldest Scottish single malt distilleries. Known as the gateway to the islands, this little bay is full of fresh catches and a characteristic sea-salt-and-citrus-tinged whisky to enjoy alongside. Planning for a special occasion? Treat yourself to the five-course tasting menu at the Isle of Eriska hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant (£75 per person). Ingredients foraged from around the island, such as seaweed, chanterelles, mussels, and organic veg from the garden, form the basis of a vibrant seasonal menu.
For no-frills fare, don’t leave Oban without a trip to the distinctive green shack, the Oban Seafood Hut (at the Railway Pier), for some hearty scallops or a generous portion of mussels for around £5, straight from the bay. For something sweet, head to the Oban Chocolate Company Café, for a warming hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows or the ultimate fondue, complete with golden shortbread for dipping.
Not to be missed: take a tour of the Oban Distillery, in the heart of town. With just two stills, it’s one of the smallest producers in Scotland. Your tour, (£10 per person) will take you through the entire process from grain to barrel, including a taster of the classic malt. Try the tasting menu of four drams for £20.
How to do it
For a luxurious foodie option, stay at the Isle of Eriska hotel, a 20-minute drive from the centre of Oban for £350 per night.
Review by Georgina Kiely
Best for... big French wines & hearty food
Surrounded by vineyards, Domaine de Cromey, a converted farmhouse in the heart of Burgundy, is the ideal base for a culinary break. A stay at this luxury manor house, owned by couple Dennis and Ellie, includes meals cooked by chef Ellie, accompanied by a fabulous range of Burgundian wines. Learn where they come from at vineyards in the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits areas. Visits include tastings among the vines, and Domaine guests also have the option of private cellar tastings.
A short drive away, the town of Beaune, wine capital of Burgundy, is a must-visit, particularly on market days (Wednesdays and Saturdays), where you’ll find great local produce. There’s wine aplenty in Beaune’s shops and cellars, but be sure to stop at Alain Hess Fromagerie (7 Place Carnot), for a staggering array of local cheeses.
For hefty portions of traditional food including oeuf en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce, £12), dine in the old winemaker’s residence turned restaurant Le Cellier Volnaysien in Volnay (three-course menus from £17). Around 50km north, in Fixin, Au Clos Napoléon, offers a more elegant take on classics like boeuf bourguignon. Lunch menus from £13.
How to do it
Food & Wine Weekends at Domaine De Cromey cost £1,150 per person (four days/three nights), full-board including tastings, excursions and transfers to the local station. Return rail fare, London to Le Creusot from £95 (including Eurostar).
Review by Anna Lawson
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of February 2018 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at email@example.com.
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