How Halfwine Travels
Where there are vineyards there is usually great scenery and great food. halfwine.com visits winemakers to source half bottles of wine for you. We write up our visits so that when you are in that part of the world you can add a couple of vineyard visits to your itinerary. If you like good wine, look at what we buy. Unfortunately most of it is not available in half bottles!
Our overall philosophy is to taste excellent wine, eat great food, but balance the budget by doing picnic lunches and staying at cheap but clean, en-suite hotels.
You can see details of our past travels here, and take a look too at our summary of winemakers we recommend on regional maps of France, South Africa, and elsewhere. Please check back often - as the world starts to reopen post-COVID, you can be sure that we'll be back out there finding great wines for you, and updating our must-tastes, as soon as we possibly can!
Wine tasting and buying
We select the wine area in which to taste based on its reputation for excellent wine, at both ends of the price spectrum.
Deciding where to taste is somewhat tricky. In broad terms we are serendipitous, preferring the satisfaction of discovering excellent wine by ourselves, and maybe having it confirmed by the wine critics.
Where we have been able to identify in advance excellent producers and get our wine trade contacts to arrange a tasting we do so. However no more than one or two per trip, as these events can consume several hours.
If through research we can identify producers to visit we list them and look out for them when in their village. But so often we cannot locate them. On occasion we will come across their phone numbers and phone ahead to book a tasting.
But most often we cruise the streets looking for places that look good and sell wine. Over the years we have learned that if the establishment looks like a tip its wines taste like it too. So: well cared for, loved, flowers, shabby in the great French style, are all indicators of good wine.
We only buy from above average vintages. The aim is to get drinking wine (excellent, value for money at below £10) and occasional bottles of excellent wines that are the top of the producer’s range but usually cost considerably more. Thus we achieve a reasonable average cost for the wine we purchase.
Restaurants and Hotels
Restaurants are selected first using Guide Michelin. We target to eat at one star or better restaurants.
We always have one of the set menus as we consider that this gives the best representation of what the chef can do. As we are not trying to be parsimonious we generally go for the menu gourmand as this has the widest range of tastes. We try to pick the best value for money wines on the wine list. This makes selecting the wine an enjoyable debate.
With a lovely restaurant dinner planned each night, we keep lunches simple... finding a good store to pick up fresh bread, fruit, charcuterie and cheeses, and plenty of water. Then we head for the high ground - nothing better than a picnic with a view over the vineyards we're tasting all day!
Hotels are selected to be as close to the restaurant as possible using Guide Michelin, Logis de France or booking.com. We generally select a two star hotel to meet the budget.
Azurmendi ***, near Bilbao, Spain