On The Road With Andrew Caillard: Part 1



A visit to the pretty village of Hautvilliers, where Dom Perignon is buried, is a romantic introduction to Champagne. The village, nestled on the edge of a forest, looks down on the various plots of vineyards towards the River Marne. Many of the Champagne houses around Reims have magnificent underground drives where Champagne is left to mature. Some of these chalk cellars date back to Roman times. Many of the Champagne houses offer visits but my favourites are Charles Heidsieck (Reims), Bollinger (Ay) and Joseph Perrier (Chalons). Reims, Epernay, Ay and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger are great destinations.

The fascinating Musee de la Reddition (surrender) is where the armistice was signed in 1945 concluding the war in Europe. Champagne was in the firing line of both 1st and 2nd world wars. Notre Dame de Reims cathedral which took 64 years to build (1211-1275), has remained a resilient symbol of civilisation. Although severely damaged by bombardment in 1914, restoration work was completed in 1938 with the addition of Marc Chagall's stained glass windows in 1974.

Musee de Beaux Arts in Reims is a lovely art gallery with an impressive collection of paintings by Camille Corot and many other works by celebrated artists including Auguste Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin etc. The Brasserie Le Jardin Les Crayeres set in beautiful parkland in Reims is a great place for lunch or dinner. 



Flying into Queenstown in Central Otago is one of the most exhilarating experiences as the aircraft's wings almost touch the sides of the mountains on the final approach. The spectacular rugged landscape and beautiful lakes set the scene for a great holiday getaway. Winter sports, especially skiing and snowboarding, or summer trekking, mountain biking, or rafting can be combined with visits to the many wineries and restaurants in the area. The biodynamic Rippon Vineyard on Lake Wanaka is often described as the most beautiful vineyard in the world.

You could include a side trip to the nearby Warbirds and Wheels Museum (which includes a Canberra jet my father flew in the 1950s!). Most of the key wineries including Felton Road, Mount Difficulty, Akarua, Valli (Kinross cellar door), Chard Farm, Mount Edward, and Amiisfield welcome visitors. But actor Sam Neill's quirky and fun Two Paddocks winery, including its free-ranging pigs, will only welcome cellar club members. 



I love the history of the Rioja region. A few years ago, I wrote a book, 'A Travel Through Time', about the region's oldest winery Marques de Riscal (1858) and centred the story around a historic vertical tasting of wines from 1862 to recent times. I have never tasted so many 19th Century wines in one day. The 19th Century facades, labyrinthine cellars, state-of-the-art winemaking, temple-­like barrel maturation, and the sublime modem architecture of Frank Gehry are marvellous. Marques de Murietta, also established in 1858, has also gone through a superb detailed restoration.

The Reserva wines from both these estates are wonderful and probably the best value fine red wines in the world. The remarkable museum of wine culture at Bodegas Vivanco is also a must-visit. The collection of artefacts, artworks, implements, machinery and displays combine the history, art, science and culture of wine into an extraordinary immersive experience. The corkscrew collection is amazing. 



Mendoza is Argentina's wine capital and produces around 70% of the country's wine production. It is most famous for the Bordeaux grape variety malbec which was brought out during the 1850s. The wines are simply fabulous with amazing density, generosity of fruit and vigour. Mendoza's Achaval Ferrer, Altos Los Hormigas, Trapiche, Catena Zapata, Decero, Kaiken, Lagarde, Ricitelli, Rutini, Santa Julia and Santa Paula all produce exemplary expressions of the variety.

The region is dotted with amazing winery architecture and remnants of late 19th early 20th Century visions - some of which are still in working order. South America's most famous chef Francis Mallmann's 1884 restaurant is situated in an old 19th Century winery on the outskirts of Mendoza at Godoy Cruz. His signature open-bbq cuisine offers the very best of Argentinian fare in a superb relaxed garden setting.