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October 09, 2013

Top-Tier European Wine Experiences

By Shivani Vora | Travel

Top-Tier European Wine Experiences
Courtesy of Butterfield & Robinson

When George Butterfield, founder of the active-travel company Butterfield & Robinson, led a group of travelers on a bespoke wine-focused trip through Germany and France earlier this year, he knew he was onto something special. Based on the success of that inaugural expedition, B&R (with its tagline, “Slow down to see the world”) is venturing beyond its standard biking and walking offerings in 2014 with new Wine Grand Journeys (eight or nine nights, from $14,500; 866-551-9090; butterfield.com).

The three oenological odysseys—Spain and Bordeaux; Germany and France; Italy—will roll through stunning landscapes, with stays in hotels like Castiglion del Bosco (Località Castiglion del Bosco; 39-05/7780-7078; castigliondelbosco.com), an estate in the Tuscan countryside owned by Massimo Ferragamo, and access to wineries that aren’t typically open to the public. Ornellaia and Antinori, a few of Italy’s most distinguished wine producers, are among them.

We spoke with Butterfield about the inspiration behind the trips, what guests can expect and just how much biking is involved.

Q: What is the concept of the Wine Grand Journeys?
A:
I wanted to offer trips that weren’t limited by budget or time and were simply the best of the best. They are for people who enjoy the idea of drinking great wine and enjoying insider access while biking and walking through gorgeous scenery and staying in fabulous hotels.

Q: How do they differ from a regular trip with Butterfield & Robinson?
A:
Instead of being just biking or just walking they blend both, and they offer access into places that no tour group—not even a regular B&R trip—can usually see, like Gaja in the Piedmont region. At least one of the guides on these trips will have a deep wine knowledge, and the local experts we rely on are recognized in their field. Also, the stays are in small properties that will wow even the most seasoned traveler, like Hôtel les Avisés [59 Rue de Cramant; 33-3/26-57-70-06; selosse-lesavises.com] in Champagne.

Q: How much biking is involved?
A:
It is slightly less than on some of our trips—about 20 miles a day compared with 30 to 40. I would say we have a mix of biking abilities as we do on most trips. The Italian trip is hillier than the other two, which is why we are offering electric bikes for those who hate hills.

Q: What is the ultimate inspiration behind the itineraries?
A:
I have enjoyed wine and meeting wine-makers for as long as I have enjoyed biking. The idea of combining my passion for “slowing down to see the world” with biking and wine is the inspiration.

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