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Always Use Protection!

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.

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Discovering Cava in Catalunya

Cava tour

Cava bottle sizes at Freixenet

Cava in Catalunya

Let’s talk about Cava! It is little wonder that Wine Tourism is undergoing a surge all over the wine world, when you consider the typical climate, the beauty of wine regions, and most importantly, the end result. For lovers of bubbly, the options for wine tourism are more than one might think, with many still wine regions also producing sparkling. Today, however, we are concentrating on Cava in Catalunya – Cava is Spain’s traditional method sparkling wine. 95% of this famous Spanish bubbly is produced here, mostly in the area around the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.


cava tour

cava tour

cava tour

cava tour

From the mountains to the sea, the breathtaking landscapes of Catalunya provide both a perfect backdrop and a myriad of conditions in which to grow the traditional Cava vines. There is a lot more to Catalunya than Barcelona, yet visiting only the region’s capital is a mistake many tourists make. This is a stunning region for wine tourism, with an abundance of Cava houses to visit, both large and small, from the historic family houses of Codorníu and Freixenet, to the smaller artisanal producers such as Gramona and Llopart.

Catalan generosity and positive spirit provide a genuine feel-good factor wherever you go. The wineries really do welcome visitors, and are so proud to show you their extensive cellars and impressive winery buildings, often in the Modernist style of architecture.

Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel.lo vineyards abound- these are the most well-known varietals for Cava, although Garnacha, Monastrell, Pinot Noir and Trepat (Rosato only) are also permitted, and more recently, Chardonnay, which was authorised in 1986 and is the featured grape of Codorníu’s Anna range. No matter which time of the year you visit, the vineyards will always provide a learning experience, from winter pruning through bud burst, inflorescence and grape setting, veraison and full ripeness. It can be quite soothing to wander through the vines, enjoying the peace and the sounds of the countryside, while contemplating the time and effort that goes in to producing one single bottle of the finest fizz.

Prepare to be astonished by the extensive cellars of the larger Cava houses. Electric trains are frequently employed in ferrying visitors for miles underground, through ancient tunnels lined with riddling racks, emerging in to the stark contrast of the modern bottling and packing areas. It feels like quite an adventure through history and time! Each visit is different, and each winery has a different approach to the conduct of their tour, but if you get the balance right between the large and small houses you are sure to acquire an excellent knowledge of Cava and its production.

In the United Kingdom, since quality Cava is not widely available, and the supermarkets and large wine retailers sell mainly entry-level Cava, we tend to get little experience of the Reservas and Gran Reservas, which can be truly stunning wines. The best winery tastings, therefore, include these finer offerings, with their complex flavours and aromas, and persistent finish. Zero dosage (Brut Nature) is quite common in Cava production, the grape varieties providing enough interest on the palate through ripeness and their own characteristics to avoid any sense of austerity. One of my favourite memories of my last Cava tour is drinking Llopart’s Brut Nature Gran Reserva Original 1887 amongst its 75 year old Xare.lo vines, with the serrated mountain of Montserrat in the distance. Wine tourism truly does not get much better than that!

Other things to do in Catalunya, aside from drinking Cava!

In addition to vineyard and winery tours and tastings, many estates also offer additional activities, such as cycling through the vineyards, picnics amongst the vines, perhaps even watercolour  painting classes. Electric bikes are usually available for those less active amongst us so most people have the opportunity to enjoy this very special experience. Furthermore, the area is rich in cultural and religious heritage, including museums, art galleries, stunning modernist architecture, and elegant monasteries, both currently active and also those now converted to visitor attractions. No monastery is more deserving of a visit than Montserrat, perched high on the famous mountain of the same name, first founded in the 9th Century- a site of pilgrimage for millions, motivated by the legend that a visit to Montserrat absolves all sins!

catalunya wine tour

catalunya wine tour



Whether you choose to make your own Cava tour plans or prefer to have a dedicated wine tour specialist to organise everything for you, from travel and accommodation to winery visits and tastings, rest assured that a visit to Catalunya offers something for everyone, and the rich heritage of this fascinating region will leave you wanting more. You will also find yourself seeking out the finer Cavas that you never knew existed before your visit, but whose memory will linger on your palate for years to come.

We are currently planning a luxury wine tour to Catalunya with Spanish Wine Expert Sarah Jane Evans MW. If you would like us to send you details of this tour as soon as it is available, then please register your interest now by emailing or via the website contact form.

cava tour

Cheers from Sorcha in the vineyard at Llopart, Montserrat in the distance!

Southwest Vineyards Association Event- Exeter June 16

I’m always amazed by the reaction when I talk to people about the abundance of vineyards we have in the beautiful South West of England. People, in general, seem unaware of this bounty on our doorstep, and nothing gives me more pleasure than introducing my bespoke groups to our fine wineries on my day tours and short breaks in the region. It was therefore a great opportunity for me to meet some more of our local producers at the Southwest Vineyard’s annual tasting event held at the Phoenix in Exeter at the end of June.

As a guest of indefatigable Hilary of Eastcott Vineyard in Okehampton, I was pleasantly surprised by the number and quality of local producers exhibiting. In addition to the fine offerings from Hilary & Richard at Eastcott and a number of other Devon wineries, Dorset, Cornwall and Herefordshire were all well represented, giving me lots of ideas for future wine tours in the South West. It was nice to meet Emma Coulson from Polgoon, a great ambassador for their family-run estate near Penzance. I enjoyed a long conversation with Geoff Bowen from Pebblebed near Exeter and Frank Myers from Wythall Estate in Herefordshire on the EU Referendum- as well as the wine, of course!

Dorset was well-represented too with Rebecca Edwards from award-winning Furleigh Estate. I adore Furleigh’s sparkling Rosé! My recent visit to beautiful Furleigh will be the subject of another post soon.

It’s always lovely to catch up with Duncan Schwab from Sharpham and his sidekick Tommy, who is always smiling and obviously adores his work. We fixed a date for me to drop by, and this visit will be covered in a future post. At this event I tasted their award-winning red wine, a tribute to their winemaking skills in this cool English climate.

Other exhibitors present included Lyme Bay WineryCarey ValleyLily Farm, Redyeates, Sidbury and Torview. I have yet to visit many of these!

It was also fantastic for me to finally meet Wine Educator Rebecca Mitchell in person after knowing each other for quite some time via Twitter.

Southwest Wine Tourism with Away With Wine

It was so much fun to explore our beautiful region’s wines at this excellent event, but it’s even more fun to explore them at the vineyards. If you’d like to explore the wineries of the South West get in touch with me by Email or call me on 01752 662801 or 07866 472724. I can organise both daytours and shortbreaks here in this beautiful part of the world for private or corporate groups.

For more information on the South West Vineyards association check out their website here.

rebecca mitchell sorcha holloway

With lovely Rebecca Mitchell, WSET educator

pebblebed wythall swva

With Geoff from Pebblebed & Frank from Wythall

English Wine Week Part 1

So it’s English Wine Week! A great celebration of the growing wine industry of this beautiful country…

There is an abundance of events on offer around the country to celebrate and promote English Wine. I must first of all mention, of course, my regular Twitter chat, #ukwinehour, which takes place every Thursday night at 7. This week is an English Wine Week special, hosted by my righthand man at #ukwinehour, John Mobbs, who tweets as @GreatBritWine. He truly is an expert on English wine and I can’t think of anyone more qualified to host on this special theme. I will be joining in as much as I can, but will be otherwise occupied while attending the South West’s premier English Wine Week event, the English Winemakers’ Event at Le Vignoble, arguably the South West’s finest wine lounge.

This year’s event will feature the winemakers from Camel Valley, Knightor, Sharpham, Polgoon and Furleigh Estate. We are sure to be in for a treat, tasting many medal winners from these established and highly-regarded wineries from Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, all of which can be visited with us on an Away With Wine tour. I will be sure to report back with photographs and news about the wines from the evening.

Other events from around the country can be seen here on the English Wine Week official website I’m sure you’ll find something close to you, whether a winery open day or event such as this one at Le Vignoble. Oh, don’t forget to enter Camel Valley’s competition to wine 6 bottles of Camel Valley Brut! And do join us for #ukwinehour on Twitter, Thursday at 7. Cheers!




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!