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Life's affordable luxuries

One of life's affordable luxuries these days is a weekend away somewhere in Europe. It's so easy nowadays to fly out of the UK on a Friday and be back at work for a Monday having had a wonderful weekend away. Whether your interest is in the local culture or simply an opportunity to recharge your batteries given today's hectic working environment there are plenty opportunities to get away.
My particular passion is wine and looking through the list of European destinations you can get to with ease from London City Airport I can pick out a number which, in addition to offering the opportunity to visit museums or taste the local food, provide a great chance to get to to know the wines from that particular area.
I've picked four particular places I would readily head to for the weekend.
Top of the list would be one of the Spanish destinations such as Barcelona or Madrid. Spain has a long tradition of wine-making. Just imagine sitting at a bar working your way through a selection of tapas with a glass of wine in hand. It's a tried and tested Spanish combination. The obvious choice of wine, and the name that always springs to mind with Spanish wines, is Rioja. But for a change go for a white Rioja which would be a perfect match for many of the tapas dishes. Not far from Barcelona is the region of Priorato one of Spain's traditional and yet most modern and exciting regions. Choose a wine from there and you won't be disappointed.
What do you think of when you think of Provence? Blue skies, the turquoise coloured Med, expensive yachts, the smell of lavender? Fly into Nice and not very far to the West is Provence, one of the spiritual homes of rosé wine. This is by far the greatest percentage of wine produced in the region but there are also some excellent reds. And did you know that the local producers have a range of colours that they aim for when producing their rosés with evocative names such Grenat, Coral and Litchi? Think of it as being a colour paint chart for wines!
Wherever you go in Italy you are spoiled for choice when it comes to wine. Fly into Venice and you are not far from where Soave, Valpolicella and Prosecco is made but my advice would be to look for wines with the name Colli Orientali del Friuli, literally translated meaning the "hills that face the East". Wines from here, whilst not found in the cheapest of restaurants, are of the highest quality. It is probably my favourite wine region in the whole of Italy.
My last choice is less obvious to many as wine producing country. Portugal is associated with Port of course but fly into Faro and most people head off to the Algarve to the beaches or a spot of golf or tennis. The region behind the coastal strip however is called the Alentejo. This is an up and coming wine producing area. Look out for names on the labels such as Aragonez, Trincadeira or Castelao. These are the local grape varieties. Portugal is very much in the shadow of its better known neighbour of Spain and yet it has a wealth of indigenous grape varieties that produce light fragrant thirst quenching whites from the North such as Vinho Verde through to hearty and satisfying reds. There's a lot more to be tasted in Portugal than Mateus Rose (if you are old enough you'll remember the name!) and Port
Whichever destination you choose from City Airport's long list I'd simply encourage anyone visiting to explore some of the wines whose names you don't recognise. Whether you've gone into a bar to rest your weary feet after sightseeing or are enjoying the local food over dinner take up a glass of what the locals are having.

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Written by Colin Smith
Christmas, Shopping, LCY, London, City, Airport, Xmas.
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