Wine: Grape trips away
Wine holidays, said the editor. Erm, all of my holidays have a wine theme. Even in Austria's snow, I'll be thinking of having a Grüner Veltliner with dinner.
I can easily pass on a lunchtime bevvy but, for me, the sun goes over the yardarm at 6pm and I round off the day with a glass of something local.
It's easy to sojourn in wine regions. They're scenic and must have warm summers. Oh, and there seems to be a symbiotic relationship between the cuisine and the wine.
In mainland Europe, that covers just about everywhere from the Loire to Italy's heel, and east to Hungary. Elsewhere, it covers beautiful swathes of Australia, Chile, Argentina and California.
Has anyone returned from South Africa and not raved about the wines?
I find it helps to work up a thirst, although that can be an effortless basking in the glistening light around Jerez on Spain's Costa de la Luz, anticipating the thrill of a chilled fino sherry.
Or something a little more energetic.
Last year, I hopped (it seemed like me and half of Ireland) on a flight to Carcassonne to explore that corner of southern France, between the Pyrenees and the sea.
My meanderings led me to a delightful drunken camel called Le Chameau Ivre, a tapas-style bar in the centre of Beziers where, I admit, I did break my rule about a lunchtime glass, but only because there was such a selection.
Walkers might want to check out a local guide, Benjamin Baudet of La Livinière, Minervois, at email@example.com, who charges about €300 a day.
A perfect end to a perfect day was drinking in the mountainous view at a winery. Dubliner Neasa Corish and her winemaker husband, Laurent Miquel, have taken over Les Auzines, perched above the heritage town of Lagrasse. It has its own two-bedroom cottage available for rental at €550 per week.
Then, there was the week spent walking in Alsace, spurred on each day with the promise of some gloriously spicy Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer or Riesling. Did I mention their restorative powers?
A visit to beautiful Bordeaux could have been happily spent in the city itself, or lolling in the Caudalie spa, where the grape and its by-products may be lavished externally, as well as internally.
But I decided on cycling along restored railway tracks in the Graves region and couldn't have been more exhilarated -- and that was before my glass was poured.
Where will the sun set on my glass this year? I haven't decided.