For our first vinous adventure to Central Europe we headed to Austria where we were introduced to the delights of indigenous grapes like Gruner Veltliner, Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt. After an excellent presentation at the Wine Academy we visited several high quality boutique producers in the regions of Neusiedlersee, Kremstal and Wachau. We stayed in the pretty towns of Rust and Krems. And we visited the baroque marvel Ersteharzy Palace and its Wine Museum, enjoyed the Erste Lage tasting in the fabulous surroundings of Grafenegg Castle, and a took a boat ride on the River Danube marvelling at the terraced vineyards. What an exceptionally interesting and varied tour!
“This was my first tour with Criterion and I can honestly say it met all my expectations! The scenery was exceptional and the wineries in the two regions we visited provided a great showcase for the indigenous grapes like Gruner Veltliner, Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt. The tour was well organised by Christos and everybody was easy to get on with – we all learnt a lot and had a lot of fun. All of the winemakers who presented to us were very passionate and knowledgeable and there is a lot of history here, including Nikolaihof which was can trace theirs back almost 2000 years! I now look forward to my next tour with Criterion.”
One word for the most famous sparkling wine region? Champagne, of course. We were there and we loved it. A lovely 4-star hotel right in the centre of Reims was the perfect starting point. We explored one of the Grande Marques to peek at their extensive cellars. But we were even luckier, meeting some smaller family producers. There’s nothing like sharing a few glasses with them, hearing their stories and buying some excellent quality champagne at very reasonable prices. Now that’s the sort of experience that money can’t buy.
“I loved the whole weekend tour – well organised, excellent, amazingly central hotel. It was great fun to visit vineyards and cellars, with champagnes to suit all palates. I can’t wait to go back again and plan to make it annual event in my calendar! I brought back some amazing champagnes that I tasted and look forward to sharing them!”
We kicked off this 4-day tour organised by our guest wine expert, Nancy Gilchrist MW, with a visit to the Madeira Wine Institute. At Pereira D’Oliviera we tasted an extraordinary range of this small island’s treasures with vintages from 1989, 1977, 1968, 1932 – and the highlight…a 1907 Malvasia! A tasting at Henriques & Henriques finished with a 50 year old Tinta Negra Mole, and tours at Barbeito and Blandys, the oldest producer on the island, provided a unique insight to the wines of this stunning volcanic island.
With vines growing on tall pergolas on the mountains and steep cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and a climate characterised by hot, humid summers and mild winters, our wine tour to Madeira was a spectacular experience. And with accommodation at the 5-star elegant surroundings of the Quintinha de São João in Funchal where the staff made us feel thoroughly at home, Madeira is an island we’ll definitely visit again.
“Christos arranged another fantastic tour with great wine, food and company. Our Master of Wine Nancy was an excellent choice of expert: highly knowledgeable and friendly, she fitted in brilliantly with the group. She also arranged some amazing tastings with many of the producers being extremely generous – to try wines that were over 100 years old was a real privilege!”
“The wine tour to Madeira was extremely successful. An excellent and very friendly wine guide in Nancy Gilchrist MW; superb wines from 6 of the island wineries including ones from 1907 and 1908; very good hotel with excellent breakfast; an excellent driver; and very smooth organisation by Christos.”
When you think of wine, you don’t think of Bulgaria. But this lesser-known wine region produces some excellent wines with a new wave of winemakers. We tasted some stunning wines, from international to local varieties like Mavrud and Rubin. We stayed at Markovo Hotel and Spa outside Plovdiv, the wine capital of Bulgaria and one of the oldest inhabited towns in Europe. We explored Roman ruins, Art Deco buildings, an ancient monastery and the highlight of the trip – a fabulous Food & Wine Festival in the Old Town. We can’t wait to go back.
“Just to let you know how much we enjoyed the Bulgaria tour. Somehow you manage to find treasures in the remoter and largely ‘undiscovered’ wine growing areas of the world. The local guides you chose shepherded our group expertly and were able to answer all manner of wine related technical questions and built on our sketchy knowledge of the country. They were a delightful, attentive couple and nothing seemed too much trouble for them. And we were very pleased to meet up again with familiar faces from previous years.”
Chile February 2019×
Our second tour to the land of parched dunes, fertile valleys, ancient volcanoes and forests was spectacular. It began on our first evening with an excellent food and wine matching dinner, presented by Javier of Undurraga Wines. After which, we never stopped enjoying the wonderful wines and food. We visited wineries in Maipo, Casablanca, Colchagua and Curico and we ate delicious food at several wineries. We toured the amazing city of Valparaiso, enjoyed the spectacular mountain scenery of the Andes and Coastal Ranges and experienced a rodeo (yes, a rodeo!).
There was a 3-day extension to the North, where we stayed in the coastal town of La Serena. We experienced the stark scenery of Limari and Elqui Valleys and sampled their elegant wines. We learnt how Pisco is made, wondered at the stars at an observatory and experienced the petroglyphs of the Enchanted Valley. And yes, it was a truly enchanted trip.
“Fantastic tour, well organised by Christos. Visited amazing settings, tasted wonderful wines and learnt about the country and the wineries. All round a terrific experience with a great group of people. Ready for the next one!”
Champagne November 2018×
Did you know that Champagne wasn’t first produced in Champagne? Another interesting fact: a stunning 4-star hotel right in the centre of Reims made a great base for our tour. There were so many highlights. A visit to the Grande Marques to see their extensive wine cellars. And even more interesting were the visits to the smaller family producers for some interesting conversations & the opportunity to buy excellent quality champagne at superb prices. Just in time for those Christmas & New Year gifts. And speaking of the festive season, we also visited the Christmas Village. There were street entertainers, magicians, carol singers and over a hundred colourful chalets welcomed us with their gifts, decorations and delicious festive fare. It was merry indeed.
“A wonderful trip. Everything I imagined and more. Great host, fantastically organised. Great Driver got us everywhere we needed to be on time. Amazing company, food and champagne .. what more could one ask for?! Oh and a really good choice of hotel. Thanks so much Christos!”
“A fabulous weekend in Champagne with an organised and knowledgeable tour leader, great group of people, excellent tours and tastings throughout the weekend, opportunities to visit the festive Christmas market and dine at a Michelin Star restaurant. I’m already thinking of the next one.”
Virginia September 2018×
Virginia is a wine destination unlike any other, with nearly 300 wineries and dozens of wine trails surrounded by lavish scenery, breathtaking views, quaint small towns and monumental historic sites. We tasted superb wines and gourmet food at artisanal wineries on the James River, picked our own pumpkins(!), explored the Berkeley Plantation and experienced Civil War reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg – something for everyone. But with wine varietals from Viognier and Cabernet Franc to Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Gros Manseng, and Merlot, Virginia isn’t just for lovers, it’s for wine-lovers!
“From the beginning right through to the end of our tour, we had such a pleasant experience. Each winery we visited had a special story to tell and truly captured the variety of places in VA. Our trips to Colonial Williamsburg and the Berkeley Plantation perfectly balanced with the different wineries and delicious places to eat. I cannot say enough about the wonderful time we had!”
Southern Greece June 2018×
A magical mix of the modern & the ancient. That sums up our 9 day tour around Athens & the Peloponnese. We held our breaths at the astonishing views of the Acropolis, from our hotel’s rooftop bar in Plaka, Athens. We plunged into deep pools overlooking hillsides, in historic Olympia. We exclaimed at the classical sites of Mycenae, Epidaurus and Olympia. We tasted heavenly wines, sighed over exquisite food, bathed in crystal clear waters and sighed over stunning scenery. And we could almost imagine the Greek gods smiling down on us benevolently, throughout the tour.
“A truly fabulous trip, beautifully organised, delightful company & an excellent balance of wine, culture and relaxation. Every day brought something new & enriching, both the quality & the hospitality at the wineries was above my expectations.”
“Good food, good wines, comfortable hotels, spectacular scenery, and just the right balance of winery visits (all interesting) and classical sites. No leg of the journey was tediously long; no ridiculously early starts or late arrivals; the coach was spacious and comfortable.”
Tuscany May 2018×
What comes to mind when you think of Tuscany? Charming hilltop towns, quaint villages dotted with olive groves, cypress trees and fragrant vineyards, centuries-old villas and medieval castles. That’s exactly what our Tuscan tour was about. We stayed in the beautiful town of Sienna, burnt by glorious sunshine into that inimitable burnt yellow. We visited San Gimignano, nestled between its fourteen towers and the picture-perfect village of Brunello. We sipped glorious wines from Sangiovese, Vernaccia and more. We tucked into exquisite gourmet cuisine and explored the art of eating proper Italian pasta. Life was indeed beautiful.
“A most enjoyable trip. Beautiful scenery, great choice of wines & good company! Excellent value.”
“A delightful trip, Christos; one of your best. Many thanks!”
South Africa March 2018×
Our tour captured all the drama of Cape Peninsula in one tour. We took in the singular and stunning beauty of Cape Town, where nature & culture come together. We enjoyed wine tastings in several different wine regions including Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Durbanville and Hermanus. One of the unforgettable highlights was a two-night stay on a private game reserve: it was the Africa of our dreams. Throw in fabulous settings for meals, jaw-dropping landscapes and coastal views. And you have the tour of a lifetime.
“An amazing trip! Fantastic wineries, great food and a lovely group. I learnt so much about South African wines. The game reserve was a highlight for me. A huge thank you to Christos for organising a totally wonderful experience.”
“A wonderful trip, the combination of wine, food, location and of course the company made for an unforgettable experience. Praise to Christos for organising the itinerary and ensuring its success.”
Piedmont November 2017×
It doesn’t get more elegant than this. Our gastronomic food & wine tour featured world-famous wines, truffle hunting, a cookery class, hilltop villages, spectacular scenery and more. We stayed at the innovative Ascheri winery in Bra; we delighted in tasting some of the most famous Italian wines including Barbaresco, Barbera, Gavi, Arneis, and ‘The King of Wines’ Barolo. We found such joy in a Truffle Hunt with Gino and his trusty dog Bilbo (adorable pet alert!) followed by lunch with delicate, freshly-shaved white truffles. We even learnt how to make fresh pasta. An absolutely glorious tour that will no doubt be repeated.
“Great trip, loved the mix of truffle hunting and cookery class with the essential wine tasting.”
“Barolo vineyards, genuine truffle hunting & a full day in a cookery school were amazing experiences!”
Porto & Douro Valley October 2017×
Porto is pretty, Porto is edgy. We experienced both aspects in our fabulous wine tour to Northern Portugal. The port lodges of Porto opened up their secrets to us. We had fun riding tuk-tuks around the city. We felt adventurous travelling up the Douro by train and boat; marvelling at the steep, terraced, river-lined vineyards. And of course we tried different styles of port wines and the divine local dishes. Portugal, we miss you already.
“Great trip, amazing wines, Port & breath-taking scenery.”
“Sarah & I hugely enjoyed spending a few days in Portugal with you all. Hope to see everyone again on another tour soon.”