Top 5 Boozy Adventures
Beneath the historic vineyards of Épernay in the Champagne district
is a series of winding tunnels and hidden caves dug into the chalk. Some date back to Roman times and, apart from a period during World War I when the townspeople hid there to flee the conflict, they’ve been used to store and mature bottles of the region’s famous sparkling wine. Until recently this labyrinth below UNESCO World Heritage-listed Avenue de Champagne was mostly off limits to the average punter. That’s now changing, with more maisons opening their doors. That includes Champagne Boizel, which has been in the same family for five generations and offers English-language tours of its tunnels at 11.30am and 4pm from Tuesday to Saturday. When you’re done, head to Atelier 1834, Boizel’s wine bar, where you can sip on its exceptional offerings by the glass.
It would take you at least 90 minutes to drive from Darwin to the Lodge at Dundee, the bar at the local holiday park in this remote, seaside town. In one of Airborne Solutions’ helicopters though, you’ll be ordering your first icy beer in a mere 25 minutes having taken in some pretty speccy views of the NT coastline along the way. And that’s just the beginning of your day on a seven-hour Heli Pub Crawl that takes in five memorable Top End establishments. Interesting locals with tall tales, some of the country’s more colourful publicans and even a wildlife encounter – one of the stops is Goat Island Lodge on the Adelaide River, where Casey the Croc often comes for a feed – are guaranteed.
What’s better than spending a whole day at a brewery? Staying there overnight. You can now do just that at the DogHouse, a 32-room hotel on the site of Scottish company BrewDog’s Columbus, Ohio, beer factory. The rooms, not entirely surprisingly, have a masculine vibe – some like the Brewmaster Suite overlook the sour beer works – with plenty of suds on offer throughout the stay. It starts at check-in with the lobby bartender ensuring guests enjoy a welcoming ale, while two fridges – one in the room and the other in the shower – are loaded up with the company’s best-known craft beers and seasonal specials. Oh, there’s an in-room tap, too, that can be hooked up to a growler of whatever bevvy your tastebuds desire. Of course, while you’re here, it would be churlish not to do a tour of the facilities and the huge interactive craft beer museum. We’ll raise a glass to that.
Finding a designated driver for a vineyard crawl is always a drag. Even more so if you’re voted it. There’s no need to worry in this part of South Africa, located about 80 kilometres east of Cape Town, because here you can board the Franschhoek Wine Tram. The vintage-style railway employs open-air trams and buses to ferry folks around the region, which boasts fine views and a 300-year history of winemaking. Choose from eight hop-on, hop-off lines taking in all the major estates. We think it’s hard to go past the Red Line, which stops at, among other places, glorious Mont Rochelle, where you can partake in wine and canape pairing. Make sure you get an early start if you want to get up close to a cheetah at Grande Provence or take the cellar tour at Rickety Bridge.
It’s hard to forget what surrounds you when you settle into your unique accommodations at Quinta da Pacheca in the Duoro Valley. These rolling hills have been home to vines for almost 500 years – back then they were the purview of local monasteries – and nothing about your environs lacks atmosphere. Designed by owners Paulo Pereira and Maria do Céu Gonçalves, each of the 10 mega barrels has a pine exterior and an elegant fit-out that includes a round bed, private bathroom and deck overlooking the vines. Grab yourself a bottle of Pacheca Grande Reserva Tinta Roriz (aged for 18 months in oak barrels) or tawny port, since the region is famous for it, and stare out across the landscape. Otherwise, tour the vineyard, do a tasting, take a cooking class or tuck into a meal of traditional Portuguese cuisine in the restaurant.