Winery tours, relaxing evenings to recharge, and no 300-mile drives! Why a cruise holiday around Spain and Portugal is a wine-lover’s dream
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It took me ten years to visit half a dozen Spanish and Portuguese wine regions. You can do it in a fortnight. And enjoy an amazing holiday on the way. Without doubt, the best way to visit different wine regions, is on a cruise.
A two-week cruise holiday on P&O Cruises Iona to Portugal and Spain will take you to some of Europe’s most fascinating, and different, wine regions.
Dream holiday: If you’re a wine lover, going on a P&O Cruises holiday means you can visit so many vineyards, try so many wines, and meet so many producers
If your cruise includes a stop in Vigo, this is the home of Spain’s fresh, aperitif-style whites made from grapes such as Albariño and Godello. You can head into town and try the wines in its restaurants and bars.
Why not take a tour to the heart of the Salnes Valley, visiting the wineries themselves? Talking to the winemakers. Wandering the vineyards. And tasting through the vintages.
Once you’ve finished soaking it all in, then head back to Iona.
The relaxing way to tour wineries
For years I’ve made television programmes touring wine regions. And the worst part of our day is the five-hour drive to the next destination.
But on board Iona… this is the best bit. Simply sit back and relax. Maybe book a spa treatment. Or have a swim as the ship prepares to sail away. Then it’s time for fine dining at Epicurean restaurant, or a gourmet burger at The Keel & Cow.
A gourmet burger and chips at The Keel & Cow is perfect after a day touring vineyards
Grapes to try on a cruise around Spain and Portugal
· Godello – a fresh, citrussy white grape with a distinctive grapefruit aroma.
· Bobal – juicy, velvety and soft Spanish red with lovely blackberry fruit.
· Monastrell – this is smokey and dark, often blended with other grapes.
· Arinto – the Duke of Wellington’s favourite grape, it’s a fruity Portuguese white.
· Touriga Nacional – a dark, full-bodied Portuguese red with a hint of violet.
Either way, delicious meals are enjoyed with a suitable selection of wines.
As you sail around Spain’s south coast look north for the vineyards of Jerez — you may have a chance to explore these in your travels if you wish.
When I’m on board I quite like to pretend to keep fit in the gym, because wine tasting is a serious business.
From Alicante, it’s less than half an hour to the wineries in the small town of Novelda. Hearty reds that match grills, fresh apéritif rosés, and ripe white wines, perfect with local seafood.
Book a shore experience to Heritat de Cesilia to taste fine Alicante reds and whites.
Visit the most famous names
Back on board you might try street food or a gourmet curry as you sail overnight to one of the great wine capitals of Europe.
Barcelona is a gastronomic city on its own. But just outside the city are Spain’s famous Cava wineries, making Spain’s most celebrated sparkling wine.
Ultimate relaxation between vineyards
Wine is wonderful. But a wine-nut like me needs some wine ‘down time’.
Iona’s four-screen, state-of-the-art cinema is perfect for an evening’s entertainment.
For live entertainment I’m a comedy fan. So a night in The Club House is a fabulous way to see acts spotted at The Edinburgh Fringe.
Here you’ll find the ‘real’ Cava, the luxury cuvées that compete with great Champagne (although at better prices). There are wonderful tours from producers like Codorníu and Freixenet as well as smaller, boutique producers.
As well as shore experiences, Barcelona offers the chance to visit the world famous vineyards of Bodegas Torres, the home of Vina Sol, Sangre de Toro, and the refined Mas La Plana. It’s less than an hour away by car from the port, so you’ll have plenty of time to make the most of the trip.
Back on board, the popular and authentic Mediterranean dining in The Olive Grove is perfect to recharge your batteries, especially after a hard day tasting fizz and fine reds. Think how different it would be if you were about to drive 300 miles to Valencia!
But you will arrive in Valencia after a gloriously relaxed breakfast.
In town, make a beeline for Bobal, a juicy, fruity, lush grape that’s huge in Spain, but not much elsewhere. And it’s delicious.
The wineries here are in the hills, but you’ll find a wealth of wine bars and tasting rooms in the heart of the city where you can try different styles.
The best way to enjoy Europe’s finest wines: A relaxing holiday on board P&O Cruises Iona
Discover the historic charm of sherry
Excitingly, some cruises involve a stop at one of the greatest wine destinations in the world.
Cádiz is just 30 minutes from Jerez, home to world famous sherry bodegas such as Gonzalez Byass, makes of Tio Pepe, or — my favourite — Bodegas Lustau.
For a real treat, head to Bodegas Tradicion, a winery that dates back to 1650, where you’ll try wines that date back 30 years.
Heaven in Jerez: A visit to a traditional sherry bodega will be a highlight of your trip
TOP SHERRY STYLES TO TRY
· Fino – the most famous, aperitif style. Bone-dry, citrus and almost saline. Perfect with nuts, olives, and – yes – fish and chips.
· Palo Cortado – one of the rarest styles of sherry, it blends the freshness of a Fino, with the nutty character of an Oloroso sherry.
· Amontillado – often used to mean “medium” in the UK, the dry styles in Jerez are perfect for food matching.
· PX – or Pedro Ximénez – super-sticky, super-sweet, this is like liquidised Christmas pudding. Magical.
A night cruising past Portugal’s southern coast, and you can be in Lisbon by morning. It’s surrounded by wine regions: Setubal (pronounced ‘shtoo-bal’) to the south, Colares — mainland Europe’s most westerly region to the… well, west, and Bucelas to the north.
All are 40 to 50 minutes away in a car. Although by now you may choose to stay in town, and try all three at somewhere like the famous ‘Lisbon Winery’, a wine experience in the centre of the city.
On a P&O Cruises holiday like this you’ll see some of Portugal and Spain’s best and most fascinating wine regions.
And instead of 30 hours of driving, you’ll have had your own bed, a spa treatment, a night at the cinema, a fine dining experience, an evening of comedy, a gourmet burger for supper, breakfast overlooking the ocean… oh yes, and the odd day sunbathing by the pool.
You can get away on a 14 night holiday to Spain and Portugal from £779pp (cruise G336.)†
Find out more — click here to discover your dream holiday with P&O Cruises
† Early Saver price of £779 per person is based on two adults sharing the lowest grade of Inside cabin available on Iona cruise G336. Prices are subject to availability and may go up or down. For up-to-date prices and full P&O Cruises terms and conditions which you must read before booking, please visit www.pocruises.com
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