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Travelling with Wine – Guest Blog by Paul Budny from Lazennewinecheck elite

Why bringing back wine from your holiday is a great idea

When travelling with wine, savvy wine lovers know that they can transport up to 120 standard wine bottles, between any two EU member countries without paying any duties, pending the booze is not for resale. This, of course includes individuals bringing back wine to the UK. Hopefully, with all the Brexit turmoil and associated speculation this rather useful law will remain in place.

For travellers visiting wine producing countries such as France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal it makes sense to take advantage of this generous duty-free limit if only because wine purchased from within the UK carries a much larger price tag. This is in part because for every alcohol bottle purchased locally at large portion goes to the taxman. Britain and Ireland are known for some of the highest alcohol duty rates in Europe, alongside Scandinavian countries.

Aside from the economics, there is a certain magic of buying wine directly from the winery, after wine tasting and selecting exactly the wines you enjoyed most. Europe’s wine regions are littered with amazing family-owned, artisanal wineries that simply do not produce enough wine to export outside of their region, let alone to other countries. Often, your only option is to buy these bottles directly at the cellar door.

What about shipping wine?

Some wineries and wine stores can ship your wine home, but that pesky excise tax will need to be added along with additional alcohol import costs. E.U duty-free limits do not apply to shipping. Shipping wine and alcohol by non-licensed individuals into the UK is illegal.

Ok, let’s bring back some wine!

If you’re driving back from your wine holiday you can stock up on wine in your car. Many however don’t realize that you can also bring it back with you on the airplane as long as you follow these simple rules below:

The rules for flying with wine and alcohol

  • Wine bottles need to be placed in your hold baggage. This is because cabin baggage security restrictions do not allow liquid containers of more than 100 ml.
  • Travellers can’t transport bottles with more than 70% alcohol content, and can only take 10 litres of alcohol between 24% and 70%. There is no limit on liquids with alcohol content below 24%, and wine fits into this bracket.
  • You do of course have to ensure that you meet the airline’s baggage weight limits and purchase the appropriate baggage allotment. For reference it is good to remember a typical wine bottle weighs between 1.2 and 1.7 kg. See these tips to take alcohol in checked luggage on low cost carriers in Europe.
  • Always use protection!


Protecting your wine for flights

If wrapping your bottles in clothes seems too risky, there are a number of bottle protection products that will give you peace of

mind. For transporting a few bottles you can pick up a bottle sleeve, such as the reusable Bottelo, available from Lazenne. It’s made out of tough, durable and flexible plastic, cushioned with a layer of air-filled bubbles (similar to bubble wrap). It has a secure sealing system to prevent the spillage of liquid, should the bottle break. When packing place these near the centre of your suitcase and you’re travelling in style and with piece of mind.

Seasoned wine lovers will appreciate a dedicated wine luggage like Lazenne’s 12-bottle or 6-bottle airplane wine carrier. This specially designed wine suitcase can be checked like any other baggage and can take all that baggage handlers throw at it, protecting your precious wine. It works with a range of bottle types from standard, up to most sparkling wines. Its minimalist design means that when fully loaded it weighs 18-20 kg, meeting most airline luggage weight limits.

winecheckGuest Post by Paul Budny from



Tour to Rioja, June 2015- Part 3- Roda

2015_Jun_Rioja-1168 (1)

Bodegas Roda- Iconic Contemporary Riojan Winery- this is where it got emotional!

Truly. Moved. Humbled.

It is difficult to convey the emotions that stirred during our visit to this contemporary winery, the youngest in the Haro region of Rioja…

Founded in 1987 by Mario Rotillant Solá and Carmen Daurella De Aguilera and built over ancient cellars on the banks of the River Ebro, this modern yet magical winery provides an interesting contrast with the more traditional establishments. Starting with a photographic exhibition, our elegant hostess, Edurne, conducted us on our VIP tour through the immaculate winemaking areas. Although Roda cultivates 20 vineyards, all of bush vines, each year only the best 17 are chosen, and these grapes then fermented in the 17 vast tanks.

2015_Jun_Rioja-1171After malolactic fermentation in the specially designed bioclimatic cellar, the aging barrels are stored in deeper underground chambers, some purpose built, and some in ancient tunnels hewn out of the rock over a century before, the remains of an older disused winery on the site.


The transition from the high-tech modern bodega spaces to the 19th century cellars provides an interesting contrast. At one end of the cellars, there is a dedicated area which is linked to the Bodega’s wine bar. At the other end, there is an exit to a private dining terrace overlooking the river. It was here that we enjoyed our wine-tasting and VIP lunch accompanied by Roda’s four fine red wines, Sela, Roda, Roda 1, and their flagship wine, Cirsion. Cirsion is made from specially selected grapesassessed for maturity by the level of polymerisation of the tannins in the grapes, all from vines older than 45 years old, 100% Tempranillo

Traditional versus Modern Rioja has been the subject of much debate and discussion over recent times, and while we visited two traditional wineries on this tour, as well as two modern ones, it was this contemporary establishment of Roda that stole our hearts and brought a tear to our eyes, not just because of their exceptional Cirsion, but because of all four of their wines in synergy. My reviews of each of these wines on Vivino can be read below.

Bodegas Roda Sela 2012: 

A fabulous VIP visit to Bodegas Roda, the youngest of the Harò wineries, founded in 1987. They handpick all grapes which are all grown on Bush Vines! 20 vineyards, of which they select the best 17 each year which they ferment individually in their 17 fermentation tanks. All reds. Sela is their entry level wine, still from 15-30 yo vines, 96% Tempranillo, 3% Graciana, 1% Garnacha. Medium nose of cherry, plums & cassis. Dry, medium acidity, smooth medium tannins, beautifully balanced; flavours of cherry and redcurrants, long finish. Exceptional wine at this price bracket. Delightful with mini-tostados with olive oil, and cold Spanish meats…


Roda Rioja Reserva 2010: 

During the ageing process, the individual vineyards are sampled from the barrels to assess which have a tendency to red fruits, & which to black… Roda Reserva is the red fruit option. 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano. Medium Ruby colour, medium nose of red cherry & raspberry. Dry, medium acidity, well-integrated tannins, intense cherry flavours + raspberry & some oak. A beautiful wine offering exceptional value for money. When paired with bread & olive oil a synergistic explosion of flavour. Long finish.


Roda 1 Rioja Reserva 2007: 

3rd of 4 from Roda. Might keep the 4th for my 300th review, it’s that good! If you read my last review for Roda Reserva you will understand that this one is all geared to the black fruit… All bush vines! By the way, it was my birthday on Friday, no better way to spend it than a day in Harò with a VIP lunch at Roda overlooking the Ebro… 100% Tempranillo. Pronounced nose of deep ripe plums and violets. Dry, high acidity, full of body with high silky tannins. Flavours of blackberry, black cherry & plum, paired with cold Spanish meats, Tortilla Española and cheese. A long happy birthday of a finish.


Roda Cirsion 2010: 

My 300th review on Vivino! You’ve already seen my ramblings from our visit to Roda, and this, my friends, was the highlight of the Rioja tour… Highlight of my year so far! This beautiful wine is made from selected bunches of grapes from selected old vines which have been tested for maturity in the lab by assessing the level of polymerisation in the seeds, I believe… So although young, the quality and maturity of the grapes themselves results in the production of this exceptional wine. 

Only 6-8 months in new French oak, followed by 1 year in the bottle before release. Deep ruby colour, almost opaque; intense nose of black fruits and violets, chocolate & mint with earthy notes, stunning! Tear in my eye!

On the palate, full-bodied, med+ acidity, high in velvety tannin, blackberry, blackcurrant, chocolate, tobacco & earthiness all in perfect harmony. So elegant, so emotional… I feel so honoured and privileged to taste this truly exceptional wine.

We look forward eagerly to our next visit to Bodegas Roda, which will be in April 2016. If you would like to find out more about this wine tour to Rioja, please call us on +44 1752 662801.

Tour to Rioja, June 2015- Part 2- Marqués de Riscal

2015_Jun_Rioja-1046Our first 24 hours in Rioja were devoted to the Marqués de Riscal City of Wine. However, what could be more important than the winery tour itself? After a lovely breakfast on the terrace overlooking Elciego, we made our way to the Visitors’ Centre to meet the start of the tour. So many tourists pass through the City of Wine every day! We felt slightly smug that we were staying in the hotel here. We met a couple that day who had travelled over two hours from San Sebastián especially to visit the Marqués de Riscal! We started off with an audio-visual presentation in the contemporary wing of the winery before proceeding to view the exterior, both the historic and contemporary architecture in juxtaposition, and the surrounding vineyards, so beautifully tended, and already showing great promise in early grape development. It was so beautiful to be there amongst the vines, warm Spanish sun beating down, listening to the birdsong…

Back indoors, however, to tour the ancient buildings which date from 1860. Our guide gave an excellent explanation of the entire winemaking process, through from harvest, pressing and de-stemming, fermentation, blending, to ageing and bottling, matched, of course to whichever part of the winery we were currently in. There is something quite humbling about standing in the presence of these vast fermentation tanks, something reassuring about the pristine cleanliness, and something oddly comforting, for me anyway, in the sense of order in the ageing cellars, where the barricas rest in the peace and quiet…

For me, the scents of a winery are very distinctive; I can imagine you could tell exactly where you are by the smell… After we passed through the endless immaculate cellars, we came to the modern botelleria, but not before visiting the old bottle store, where the oldest and most treasured vintages are stored. In the modern bottling plant, we passed through two vast rooms containing many million bottles of wine, how overwhelming! This is an incredibly busy place: bottling, corking, labelling, packing and loading for shipping, all running smoothly if quite noisily!










Last but not least, of course, we arrived at the well-appointed Tasting Room. Below you will find the reviews I posted on on the different Marqués de Riscal wines we tasted over this 24 hours; ratings are out of 5* as per Vivino.

Tempranillo Seleccionado Bodegas 2013

Not a bad welcome- in our room on arrival at Marqués de Riscal… An aperitif before our fabulous arrival dinner… An easy drinker for sure; produced by Marqués de Riscal but from Castilla y Leon, not Rioja… Medium nose of red fruits and all the mediums on the palate, tannins very well-rounded; possibly a little cloying but a crowd-pleaser I’m sure. A nice gesture on arrival… 3*

Rioja Crianza Arienzo 2012

A blend of 90% Tempranillo and 5% each of Mazuelo & Graciana, and aged for 18 months in American oak, this Crianza was part of our set Menu de Riscal yesterday… A medium nose of red cherries and redcurrants, with prominent notes of coconut and vanilla; medium body and acidity with high tannins; also flavours of red cherry and vanilla… Medium finish. Paired exceptionally well with an unusual dish of cod with peppers in a spicy tomato sauce, and also with veal cheek… 3.5*

Rioja Reserva 2010

Wine can only taste better I’m sure after a fantastic winery tour… How I loved the old cellars! The order appeals to me… It was all so aesthetically pleasing! This 2010 Reserva has a medium Ruby colour with an intense oaky nose; also notes of cherries, balsamic spices & vanilla; On the palate, dry with high acidity, high alcohol & high tannin; a little light on the fruit but with a savoury medium+ finish. I would love to try this after an hour or two in a decanter, or tasting again in a few years… 4*

Rueda Verdejo 2014

Again, all the better for drinking in its home of Marqués de Riscal… Pronounced nose of citrus and green fruit; dry on the palate with medium acidity, which always suits me in a white; fresh and crisp with green fruits, especially gooseberry (so a tad bitter) but perfectly refreshing on a hot Spanish day. Medium + finish. 3.5*

Rioja Gran Reserva 2005

Finally we come to the Gran Reserva to complete the set at Marqués de Riscal at the end of a wonderful day… 90% Tempranillo, 8% Graciana, 2% Mazuelo, old vines of more than 80 years old; aged in French oak for 32 months plus 3 years in the bottle. This is a deep inky ruby-garnet, almost opaque… This richness is conveyed also in both the nose and the body… Pronounced nose of blackcurrant with balsamic spicy notes, and some oaky toastiness… Dry, full bodied, medium acidity, medium + tannins which are smooth and well-integrated; blackcurrant and berries give good fruitiness which balances so well with the tannins; long lingering finish… Rioja as it’s supposed to be! 4.5*

Stay tuned for our reviews of Roda, R.Lopez de Heredia and Vivanco, coming soon!

Our First Tour to Rioja, June 2015- Part 1

“Because, afrioja wine tour marques de riscalter all, wine is about joy and pleasure” – A quote by Frank Gehry, renowned architect behind the flagship 5* hotel of the Rioja region, the Luxury Collection Marqués de Riscal… We whole-heartedly, agree, Frank, and experienced much joy and pleasure indeed during our recent sojourn at this breathtaking edifice on our first Rioja wine tour, our base for exploring the fine wineries of the region. The Marqués de Riscal hotel is, of course, part of the City of Wine that incorporates the historic winery of Marqués de Riscal, the luxury hotel, and the Caudalie Vinotherapie® Spa…

Marqués de Riscal- Rioja Wine Tour

This City of Wine is situated on the edge of the beautiful village of Elciego, about 30km from Haro, the capital of the Rioja region. The beautiful sandstone of the area’s buildings is incorporated into Gehry’s design, with steel and titanium, all blending well together and with the environment. Our tour here lasted four nights, in perfect June weather with highs in the region of 30ºC. We visited four wineries on this Rioja wine tour, the Marqués de Riscal, Roda, R. Lopez de Heredia and Dinastia Vivanco, and will report on these visits individually in subsequent blogs.

rioja wine tour frank gehry designed hotel

The Marqués de Riscal hotel was the perfect oasis in which to rest and recover between visits. There are three options for dining: light meals and tapas in the Vinoteca, the traditional Bistrò1860, and the Michelin-starred Restaurant Marqués de Riscal. We started our visit with the Menu de Riscal in The Bistrò 1860, as we also intend to do on future tours here. We enjoyed very much the fine Riojan Cava Dioro Baco and our meal was accompanied by the MdR Arienzo Crianza.

The hotel’s Vinotherapie® Spa provides many options for relaxation. Aside from the stylish black-tiled pool, which reflects the red of the walls to fit with the wine theme, the jacuzzi and steam-room, there are a myriad of options for spa treatments. All the treatments have a relation to wine, with many of the products derived from the wine making process, and you can even bathe in wine! We had to give it a go, of course, and I’ve included a photo of the barrel for the treatment below. We also recommend a massage- excellent, and just what you need after a hard day touring wineries!

rioja wine tour vinotherapie

I’ve already mentioned the beautiful village of Elciego, with it’s old sandstone houses and historic cathedral, of which one could never tire of the views from MdR. We also visited Haro, Riojan capital, and since it was fiesta time there was a fun atmosphere with a lot going on. We were invited to partake in a free public wine tasting in the main plaza! However, the most important part of our trip was, of course, the winery visits. This Rioja Wine Tour is likely to become one of our signature wine tours for the foreseeable future, and we expect it should run annually if you would like to join us. Why not register your interest by emailing

rioja wine tour relaxation area

Stay tuned for our blog reports for the individual winery visits and wine-tastings. If you’d like to visit my profile on Vivino to view my wine reviews in the meantime, click here.

St George – A Wine Tourist?

It would seem that nearly everywhere I go on a Wine Tour I come across some evidence that St George was there before me… I know he was a very busy chap, but is it just coincidence that some of the places he is most remembered have a rich history of winemaking? According to legend, he was born in beautiful Cappadocia in Turkey, which is also reputed to be the birthplace of Dionysius, and where I have had the pleasure of tasting some excellent Turkish wine.
Georgia itself is now becoming a popular wine tourism destination, one I have yet to explore, but surely nowhere identifies more with St George than the country named after him? Georgia is well known in the wine world for its rich history of winemaking, often still carried out in traditional ways, using earthenware vessels known as Qvevri.  Surely the Saint will have enjoyed sampling these ancient wines!



Here is St George depicted in battle with the dragon in the Basilica of the Montserrat Monastery in Catalunya. He features strongly in the legend of this famous “serrated mountain” and is celebrated widely in Catalunya to this day. As per tradition, the men of Catalunya give red roses to their sweethearts in memory of St George. In return, the ladies gift their beaux with books, in memory of Shakespeare, whose anniversary also occurs on St George’s Day. In fact today is the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death! St George’s Day is similar to Valentine’s Day there, very romantic. No doubt large quantities of Cava are also shared and consumed!

I found this lovely fresco of St George in the tiny Church of the picturesque hilltop fortress village of Vigoleno in Emilia Romagna. Who knew he was so important there?
I was so surprised to find this! Emilia Romagna is one of Italy’s largest wine-producing regions, yet we hear little about it in the UK. It’s a great wine tourism destination because it is also, of course, a great foodie destination, rich in Parma ham and Parmiggiano cheese producers, and for the motorheads out there the home of luxury cars Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.
Finally, I’ve just recently returned from a wine tour to Greece, where the ultimate tribute to St George is in the form of the grape named after him, Agiorgitiko, which means “St George”, from the Nemea region of the Peloponnese.
This is a fine example of an Agirgitiko Grande Reserve from Domaine Vassiliou’s Nemean vineyards, and features another great image of the Saint on the label.
So what do you think, was St George a wine lover? I’m sure he was- perhaps I’ll raise a glass of Catalunyan Cava to him today. Happy St George’s Day, everyone!