26 May 9 Great European Food And Wine Destinations For Fall
Gastronomy tourism is on the up throughout Europe, as elsewhere around the globe, with Italy seeing the number of food and wine tourists doubling in 2018 over the previous year, and France having a third of its visitors coming to experience the richness of its culinary heritage.
While there are countless foodie destinations to consider, where are the spots luxury experts are recommending for fall, a particularly good season for gastronomy visits, with the bounty of harvests and cold-weather dishes on offer? Here, four travel advisors with Virtuoso, the luxury travel network: David Mellon, vice president, Gateway Travel; Olivia Nash Richardson, founder and owner of Nash Travel Managment; Foy Renfro, CEO, Journey To & Fro Travel; and Peter Rubin, co-owner of About Going Places, share their recommendations. Mellon, Renfro and Rubin are also members of Virtuoso’s Culinary Travel Community.
Some of the destinations are well-known, others are up-and-comers—all should please those seeking a memorable food and wine holiday. There are also recommendations for top food markets to visit.
ENGLAND: THE SOUTH WEST
David Mellon: “This area with its beautiful countryside settings is for major foodies, repeat visitors who have seen the tourist sites, and for those who like to get off the beaten path. There are great, quaint hotels and lodging, a growing number of farm-to-table restaurants, and small farmhouses, for example, Trill Farm and River Cottage in Devon, with cooking schools and weekly dinner festivals using local ingredients, that have sprung to life. There are slso vineyards like the Langham Wine Estate in Dorset and cider farms, such as Somerset Cider Brandy in Somerset, to visit.”
FRANCE: BORDEAUX, PROVENCE
Foy Renfro: In 2017, Atabula, the influential site covering French gastronomy, gave Bordeaux the top foodie destination ranking for France, beating out Paris. Says Renfro: “There is obviously a great selection of Michelin-star chefs in the region [e.g., Gordon Ramsay, Pierre Gagnaire] and their restaurants are easy to find. Also to try: Up-and-coming talents, many of whom are leaving Paris and opening places with farm -to-table experiences. Often the menu is very limited, changing on a daily basis depending on what is fresh at the market.” Restaurants he and his onsite colleague Joelle Kolich-Brocas of Bordeaux Excellence like to suggest include Racines, helmed by Scottish chef Daniel Gallacher, Soléna, Garopapilles and Symbiose.
Peter Rubin: “Avignon has a nice list of Michelin-starred restaurants, especially for the size of the city, and it is also adjacent to the Chateauneuf du Pape wine region. I love the historic walls, with the Rhone running around them. When staying in Avignon try the Hotel La Mirande [a five-star boutique hotel in a landmark property], which has a wonderful cooking school onsite.” [Le Marmiton at La Mirande, headed by Séverine Sagnet, also has top area chefs teach at the school. Classes, limited to 12, are conducted in the hotel’s 19th-century kitchen.]
“While Alain Ducasse is well known for his restaurant empire, he also has a couple of beautiful hotel properties in Provence: La Bastide de Moustiers in Moustiers-Sainte-Maire and Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle in La Celle [both are inns with Michelin-star restaurants]. They are fairly close to each other so they can be easily visited during a Provence/Côte d’Azur itinerary.”
FRANCE AND SPAIN: BASQUE COUNTRY
Foy Renfro: Another foodie region you shouldn’t miss is Basque Country, says Renfro, an area known for its great culinary culture with many Michelin-star restaurants. Some of his favorites places to eat in the French part of the area include La Table de l’Auberge Basque in Saint Pée sur Nivelle (the Michelin-starred restaurant is in the Relais & Chateaux property, L’Auberge Baque); Olhabidea in a charming country house in Sare; Lore Tipia at Auberge Ostape, the restaurant of the five-star manor house hotel dating from the 17th century in Bidarray; and La Table des Frères Ibarboure in Bidart. Not far from Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, this restaurant has been Michelin-starred for more than three decades, and is also recommended by Renfro’s onsite colleague, Joelle Kolich-Brocas of Bordeaux Excellence.
In San Sebastián in Spanish Basque Country, Renfro recommends Rekondo. “They have the most exceptional wine list,” he says. “Any of the tapas bars in the Old Town of San Sebastián too. Then, of course, you have such places as Arzak, which is the most exceptional three-Michelin-star gourmet experience.” Renfro and Kolich-Brocas also suggest Kaia-Kaipe, known for its seafood, in the fishing village of Getaria.
David Mellon: “There has always been a great craft beer scene here for altbier [a top-fermented beer], and there are brew houses in the old town [Altstadt] of Düsseldorf that also serve traditional German dishes. A classic hotel to stay in is Capella Breidenbacher Hof Düsseldorf and a beer house to visit is Zum Schlüssel.”
Peter Rubin: “Go for the Oyster Festival, running this year from September 27th to the 29th.” [Dating from 1954 and created to showcase native Galway oysters—the nearby waters of Dunbulcan Bay are home to one of the few surviving wild oyster beds in the area—the festival offers competitions, tastings, chef demonstrations and food lectures.”]
Whether you’re in Galway for the festival or at other times of the year, Rubin suggests staying at “the g Hotel and Spa, which has a contemporary style [it was designed by Phillip Treacy, the famous milliner who is also a Galway native]; or Glenlo Abbey, located just outside the city and more traditional in decor.” As for restaurants, Rubin likes Kai Cafe + Restaurant, for when you want to keep it “low key and local”; the longstanding Ard Bia at Nimmos; and Loam and Aniar for Michelin-star quality dining.
ITALY: LE LANGHE, PIEDMONT
Olivia Nash Richardson: “Fall is the ideal time to pay a visit to Le Langhe. In October and November the hills are bathed in autumnal hues, the days are cooler, nights are brisk, and truffles are in season. It’s pretty much perfect (as is Piemonte in high season). The landscape is more compact than that of, say, Chianti, and it doesn’t take much time to travel between towns and vineyards. The UNESCO World Heritage Site designations [of the vineyard landscapes of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato], including Barolo, Barbaresco, Nizza Monferrato and Barbera brought a lot of attention to the area, but it still very much has a local feel. Ancient Alba, considered the home of truffles, has big-city confidence and energy while retaining all the grace and warmth of a small rural town. Its white truffle fair and market, Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco D’Alba (October 5-November 24), is the undisputed protagonist of the autumn season. Piemonte in general, and specifically the Langhe region, is great for cyclists as well, but I much prefer the bacchanalian endeavors of drinking Barolos and sampling anything white truffle-y.”
For hotels, Nash Richardson likes Relais San Maurizio in Santo Stefano Belbo and Castello di Guarene in Guarene. For dining she suggests Locanda in Cannubi in Barolo, and Damiano Nigro at the Relais Villa d’Amelia–“also a terrific hotel I highly recommend.”
PORTUGAL: DOURO VALLEY
Peter Rubin: “In the Duoro Valley, book a ride on The Presidential train. Chefs from all over Europe guest chef on board to provide a remarkable food and wine experience. And the views are amazing.” [Leaving from Porto and traveling to Quinta do Vesúvio and back, the Presidential is typically a one-day, nine-hour excursion with a multi-course degustation menu whipped up by a Michelin-star chef. There are other itineraries lasting two and three days. Rubin notes there is limited availability in September and October.]
“Lamego in the heart of the Duoro Valley is an up-and-coming culinary destination,” says Rubin. “It has many amazing properties, culinary events and vineyard tours. In Lamego, the Six Senses Douro Valley would certainly be my main choice of hotel. As for dining go to DOC for contemporary cuisine and beautiful views of the Douro River. [The restaurant, in Folgosa, Armamar, is about a half-hour drive from Lamego.] Also stop by Castas e Pratos in Régua for the interesting warehouse interior.” [Régua is about 20 minutes by car from Lamego.]
EUROPE’S FOOD MARKETS
Foy Renfro: “Most European cities have wonderful food markets where you can experience local specialties and wine, among them the Mercato Centrale in Florence; the San Miguel Market in Madrid– try the different traditional tapas; and the Great Market Hall in Budapest, not to be missed for it’s sheer size and offerings. In Munich a stop at the Viktualienmarkt is a must for traditional German fare and, of course, the local beer. In Amsterdam go to the Farmer’s Market on Noordermarkt, adjacent to a canal. At the market visit Winkel 43 for authentic Dutch apple pie and coffee drinks.
“These markets are also great places to pick up souvenirs for foodie friends at home. Have Parmesan cheese vacuum-packed to travel, or send some balsamic vinegar from Florence. Consider picking up almonds in Madrid, paprika in Budapest, marzipan in Munich, and in Amsterdam you will find an array of items, as Noordermarkt is a food and flea market all-in-one.”