Wine is a drink completely of its place, its unique flavours and character born from the land where it is grown. Dry heat, cool mountain breeze, even early morning mist can all play its part in creating a wine that speaks of its provenance. We know at Skedaddle that places that make great wine, also make for great cycling. Warm reliable sunshine, sloping river valleys and gentle hillsides, peaceful picturesque villages and farming country, these form the key ingredients of some of our most popular cycling routes and holidays.
So, pull the cork on a bottle of wine and begin an armchair journey to some of our favourite cycling destinations in Europe – your chance to imagine yourself pedallin’ through the vineyards with us…
Smoked Salmon and Champagne
The classic way to start your Christmas meal, smoked salmon calls for a glass of the perennial celebratory drink, perfectly chilled Champagne. To be Champagne, a wine must do more than sparkle, it must come from the Champagne region in North-East France.
Champagne’s secret lies in its precise position, at a higher altitude than nearly all other wine regions (except for England) and within close proximity to the sea, which helps to ripen grapes despite its northern latitude, it owes a unique combination of soil and climate its success.
Day four of our Bruges to Bordeaux guided classic road holiday takes us through the vineyards of Champagne. Each row of vines has a marker, often with a famous name emblazoned on it, giving us a chance to see where the grapes of our favourite bubbly actually grow. The gentle slopes and unique geology of the Montagne de Reims, a layer cake of different soils and rocks, creates some of the most expensive wines in the world but also makes for a great day in the saddle!
Roast Turkey and Beaujolais
Fresh, light and fruity Beaujolais is perfect for not overpowering the mild flavour of turkey. Famous for its Beaujolais Nouveau, released every November, it is a prime example of how terroir (the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced) creates the finished product. Made from the Gamay grape, undistinguished in nearly every other region, it comes into its own granite-based hills south of Mâcon.
Beaujolais stretches for 34 miles with different regions making markedly different wines depending on the soil type and terrain. Our Alsace, Burgundy, Beaujolais trip passes through the Haut-Beaujolais its name giving a little indication of its appeal to cyclists. Whilst not particularly high the terrain here is hilly, a miniature mountain-scape that reminds us that we are in the foothills of the Rhone-Alpes. The trip finishes in Fleurie, one of the many small villages tucked away in the hills. Compared with the wealthy vineyards and towns of Burgundy, the villages of Beaujolais are charmingly rustic and traditional, a perfect place to relax at the end of a trip.
Lamb and Brunello
Lamb is a popular choice throughout the festive season, it needs very little done to it to taste amazing and pairs well with many different intense reds. On our Italian trips we often select Brunello di Montalcino, to compliment the very simple but well-cooked roast meats that appear on the Tuscan table. Brunello can evoke the flavours of sage and black pepper, often used as a seasoning for lamb, so they work particularly well together.
Montalcino is situated in Tuscany, it lies at about forty kilometres south of Siena in a hilly area listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the highest level of Italian wine appellations) is produced here, from nothing but 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes.
Tuscany has an immense cycling history, its classic landscapes, rolling hills, cypress trees and medieval hilltop towns attract bike riders from all around the world. For an easy-paced road cycling holiday, with plenty of chance to explore and enjoy the regions wine heritage turn to the Giro della Toscana. For an off-road experience, taking in the famous white gravel roads of the region, as well as exploring the trails hidden in the woodlands, hills and valleys then Sacred Routes Tuscany will give you some incredible biking memories, beginning with a stay in a Agriturisomo, a guest house on a farm. Here you can take a plunge in the infinity pool overlooking vineyards to begin your immersion into a landscape, perfect for wine and cycling. For our full range of holidays in this beautiful part of Italy, including some great leisure options, go here.
Nut Roast and Rioja
Nut roast has become the modern tradition for vegan or vegetarian dinners, its robust, rich flavours put it on a par with roast meats for flavour and because of that, it pairs fantastically with Rioja and other reds.
Rioja is one of the most well-known and most widely drunk Spanish wines. Despite wine being grown in the region since Roman times, the Rioja we drink now is a relatively young style of wine – only 150 years old and strongly influenced by French winemakers. La Rioja region is divided into three zones, two Spanish and one Basque with their own unique soils and environments.
La Rioja region spreads itself out along the fertile Ebro valley, hemmed in by the dramatic Cordillera Cantabrica (we cross it on our Basque Country to Andalucia iconic journey too) and the lofty peaks of the Sierra de La Demanda threaded by sinuous roads, perfect for exploration by bike. If you want to explore the patchwork of low-growing vines, coloured soils and whitewashed buildings then our dedicated Riojan road cycling tour Ruta del Vino is the one for you. Explore an area boasting more than 500 wineries and meet the people who live, breathe and probably even dream wine! As well as wine there is also some of the finest food in Spain, choose from hearty mountain stews and fantastic tasty local meats and game, foods that naturally complement the wines of the region. For more riding options in the north of Spain, we recommend our leisure cycling journey from Bilbao to San Sebastian, where you’re not too far from La Rioja region and will get an opportunity to experience the fantastic food and wine this part of Spain is famous for.
Christmas pudding and Sauternes
While many people will return to a sparkling wine with their pudding, a dessert wine is another fine option. Sauternes, made in Bordeaux, with its sweet, flower-scented, deep gold liquid is completely unique amongst wines. It has a richly-textured syrupy feel but is far from cloying and is absolutely delicious chilled. What makes it so specific to the region is the mists that form along the narrow River Ciron on autumn evenings that give rise to noble rot, a peculiar form of mold that allows water to escape, the grape to wither and its sugars, acids and flavours to become more concentrated.
The final day of our Bruges to Bordeaux tour, already a bonanza of wine experiences, passes through St. Emillion famous for its red wines, winds its way past many of the famous Bordeaux vineyards and close to the very small area where Sauternes is produced. With an optional visit to the Musée du Vin, where you can taste the many fabulous and famous wines of this region, it is an unforgettable trip for a wine lover.
Panettone and Prosecco
A perfect Italian pairing at any point in your celebrations, Prosecco is now a ubiquitous crowd pleaser at every party. From the north-east of Italy, sales of Prosecco have gone through the roof in the last few decades, to the extent that the production area of Prosecco was enlarged in 2008 to encompass nine whole provinces.
Italy is home to many fantastic wines and amazingly varied cuisines, travelling around the country you can experience a wealth of changing scenery and culture, as well as brilliant cycling terrain. Our South to North Italian Grand Traverse concludes in Venice and gives you the opportunity to sip Prosecco in Veneto, the area of its production, to celebrate the conclusion of an unforgettable 1,000-mile ride. For a more leisurely experience, you can encounter typical landscapes of the Veneto countryside on our Lake Garda to Venice ride, that is also suitable for families.
Cheese and Port
You can’t beat a little bit of cheese and Port to round off a meal, even if you thought you couldn’t squeeze in another mouthful! Port is made by adding brandy to red wine, which not only preserves more of the natural sugars from the grapes but increases its alcohol content and its sweetness. Whilst Ruby Port remains the most popular, there are many different types including red, white, rosé, vintage ports and an aged style called Tawny Port. As a refreshing change to the traditional rich sweet red ports, white port is becoming an increasingly popular cocktail base.
Port is made from grapes grown in the Douro region of Portugal. It is in some ways one of the most inhospitable places to make wine, but the Douro river is flanked by improbably steep-sided terraced vineyards, with very little soil and incredibly high temperatures in summer. In its favour, it is stunningly beautiful!
The vineyard terraces act as visible contour lines, hugging the hillsides to clearly reveal the gradients and shapes of this hilly landscape. It is also where you can find the N222, long-held to be the most beautiful road in the world. It travels in parallel with the sinuous movement of the Douro river. Exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site by bike on our Vineyards of the Douro Valley tour and sampling some Port and other wines in the quintas (vineyards), is a relaxing way to get to know more about this extraordinary area. Our well-loved Azure Ocean Ride also begins in Porto, well known for being the home of Port wine (it’s in the name!) – so we’ll be sure to have a glass to salute the journey ahead and ride along the Douro River on our first day.
Late-night by the fire and Whisky
As Christmas night draws to a close, and you clutch your heavy food-laden stomach, there is room for just one more drink and it has to be a whisky. Rolling its smoky, peaty scent around the glass as you stare deep into the embers of the fire takes you away to wild, windy hillsides, dramatic views and the stunning scenery of the Highlands in Scotland.
We love the experience of cycling in the Scottish Highlands and whisky is a big part of that, on our Highlands Coast to Coast and Celtic Crossing mountain bike tours you can trace your journey across the country in the single malts of each distillery we go past! Certain whisky names will forever conjure up the memory of singletrack for us now.
A little west of Inverness, the start and finish point for our Tour d’Ecosse, you can find the Glen Ord distillery, the only remaining single malt scotch whisky distillery on the Black Isle. But whether you choose tarmac or trail under your wheels, whisky is present all across the Highlands. If you enjoy an aged single-malt you will love discovering names you have never heard before and linking them to the landscapes you cycle through.
For more food inspiration, check out our recipes inspired by the legendary Skedaddle picnics that you can try at home! And if you’re looking to travel somewhere further afield to discover the land that lives and breathes wine – we recommend our Wine Country tour in Chile.