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People are increasingly keen on traveling to quench their thirst for wine. "Wine is so intertwined with history and culture," explains Pascale Bernasse, president of French Wine Explorers, a St. Michaels, Md.-based company that organizes luxury wine tours in France and Italy. "So, an experiential wine tour is a great way to discover a region or culture through its gastronomy."
The intersection of wine and culture is especially evident in Europe, where oenophiles can choose from hundreds of vineyard tours that cater to so-called "enotourists." Here are four favorites.
Visitors to vineyards in France should toast to their travels at Moet & Chandon, Bernasse says. It's famous for its Dom Perignon brand of Champagne that is named for the Benedictine monk who's often credited - albeit incorrectly - for discovering sparkling wine. It's home to the largest network of wine cellars in the Champagne region. Located 30 to 100 feet below ground, these cellars span approximately 17.4 miles. "You get to see these beautiful underground passageways that store millions of bottles of wine," Bernasse says.
— Genevieve McCarthy, managing director of Cellar Tours
Chateau Kirwan in the Bordeaux region of France is a favorite destination for Genevieve McCarthy, managing director of Cellar Tours, a Madrid-based company that arranges luxury food and wine vacations across Europe. It's one of the few chateaus in the region that is still privately owned, and the estate's owner personally leads private vineyard tours, by foot and by air.
"We can arrange private lunches with the owner and, for those who have the budget, a private helicopter tour over the Margaux Appellation," McCarthy says.
The best wines don't always offer the best visits, as many of the most revered estates are not open to the public, Bernasse says. One notable exception is Chateau Haut-Brion. One of only five prestigious "first-growth" chateaus in Bordeaux, it's equally famous for its estate as for its wine, which dates back to 1533 and has hosted such notable visitors as Thomas Jefferson and English philosopher John Locke. Spanning 126 acres, its vineyards are elevated 40 to 50 feet above the beds of two nearby streams, which makes it an especially interesting visit for those interested in terroir, the French term for a winery's unique geography, geology and climate.
Couples and foodies looking to relax during vineyard tours in Tuscany should spend a day at Altesino, according to McCarthy, who raves of the winery's private lunches for two. Hosted in a private room overlooking the vines, they include a guided tasting of wines paired with a home-cooked Tuscan meal.
As wine lovers take in the tastes and terrain of these unique estates, they can rely on a trusted online foreign exchange service during their luxury travel to help calculate the euro conversion, such as from pounds (GBP) to euros (EUR), and submit international payments for everything from sightseeing vineyard tours to shipping costs for large volumes of wine. Online FX services can help individuals avoid unnecessary international travel expenses, such as foreign transaction fees that are sometimes associated with international credit card transactions. And with 24/7 access to their accounts from mobile devices, it's possible to initiate a foreign transaction virtually any time and anywhere.
Example: 1USD = xx INR
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