Welcome to Britain’s longest, gloomiest month, made even harder by the phenomenon that is Dry January.
According to the charity Alcohol Change UK, some 17 per cent of adults quit booze for the first month of 2023.
But if you’re one of the majority who doesn’t intend to go down that road this year, go the whole hog and book in for a boozy, guilt-free break.
WINE AND DINE IN RIOJA
Rioja’s vineyards are home to a clutch of architect-designed wineries, but the one that stands out is Frank Gehry’s hotel, Marques de Riscal.
Among our selection of boozy breaks is Frank Gehry’s vineyard hotel, Marques de Riscal, in Rioja (pictured)
Its undulating metal roofing panels cover 61 swish rooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant and a vinotherapy spa, whose treatments use the curing power of the grape. The views are sublime, whether you’re sitting in a barrel bath gazing at the vines or on the rooftop terrace looking towards the medieval town of Elciego. There are daily tours of the vineyard, too.
How to do it: Open from February, with B&B doubles from about £447 (marriott.com). Take the car ferry to Bilbao, a 90-minute drive away, with Brittany Ferries from £781, or from Portsmouth to Santander from £772 (brittany-ferries.co.uk).
GETTING MERRY IN SHERRY
There’s nowhere better to stay in Jerez, the heart of Spain’s sherry-making industry, than in a hotel owned by the Tio Pepe winery. Created from a clutch of houses that were formerly homes to winery workers, the boutique hotel in the town’s historic centre (jerez means ‘sherry’ in Spanish) forms part of the 200-year-old bodega. Pretty patios and gardens are scattered between the 27 rooms, some of which look onto the cathedral. For the best views, head to the rooftop terrace with its pool and sherry bar, where you can sip a fino or a sherry-infused cocktail as you watch the sun set.
How to do it: B&B doubles from about £117 (tiopepe.com). Tour and tasting costs about £18. Ryanair flies to Jerez from the end of March from £78 return or head an hour away to Seville (ryanair.com).
THE BOURBON TRAIL
Kentucky’s Log Still Distillery (pictured) is just outside Bardstown, the bourbon capital of the world
With its 18 world-famous distilleries in and around Lexington and Louisville, and many more craft distilleries, Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail makes a great theme for a trip. For an appropriate pitstop, check into Log Still Distillery just outside Bardstown, the bourbon capital of the world. Explore the family-owned distillery’s history and sample the corn-based whiskey. Places to stay range from a traditional room with wrought-iron bedstead in the Homestead Cottage, which overlooks the 12-acre lake, to a three-bedroom modern, rustic lodge with wraparound deck – the perfect place to sip a glass or two.
How to do it: Double rooms with a tour cost from about £180 (logstilldistillery.com). Fly to Nashville with British Airways, from £508 return, and hire a car (ba.com).
BLEND IT LIKE BORDEAUX
Chateau Pape Clement in Bordeaux, named after the man who first planted vines here in the 13th Century before going on to become pope, is an upmarket affair. Its grand cru classe de graves wines mature in an enormous barrel-filled room lit by chandeliers while its grounds are filled with palm trees and cacti. There are just six elegant bedrooms that each come with silk wallpaper and rich fabrics. Better still, you can have a go at making wine yourself, blending cabernet sauvignon and merlot to the level you like before adding a cork, foil and your own label – a wine-lover’s dream.
How to do it: B&B doubles from about £326, including tour and tasting. Winemaker course about £86 (chateau-pape-clement.fr). You can fly to Bordeaux, or take the train, costing from £170 return (trainline.com).
GIN’S THE THING IN LONDON
If gin is your poison, you can’t go wrong at 186 Portobello Road, aka The Distillery. The four-storey building in West London is entirely given over to the spirit, starting with the basement distillery and its copper stills. It’s here they create their blends, and you can try your hand at it, too. But if you’d rather just drink the stuff, there are cocktail bars upstairs. There are also three bedrooms, each featuring a vintage record player and selection of vinyl.
How to do it: Room-only doubles from £120, while a 90-minute masterclass costs £75pp (the-distillery.london).
PORTO’S WORLD OF PORT
Barrel of laughs: Above is one of the wine-themed rooms at The Yeatman Hotel in Porto
The Yeatman Hotel is themed on the port wine lodges that surround it in Porto’s Vila Nova de Gaia, from its decanter-shaped outdoor pool to Wine Spa and even suites that feature barrel-shaped beds. But it’s tastefully done, with each of its contemporary rooms looking out over the Douro River to the jumble of houses in the old town. There’s a tour to suit everyone – take a quick dip into the world of port in nearby Taylor’s (which owns the hotel), a tutored tasting in the Yeatman’s bulging wine cellars or a full immersion in the World Of Wine museum.
How to do it: B&B doubles from about £290 (the-yeatman-hotel.com). An introduction to Port wine tasting costs about £43. Fly to Porto with Ryanair from £34 return (ryanair.com).
WINERY’S WINTER BARGAINS
You can get up to 40 per cent off selected breaks at Three Choirs Vineyard in Gloucestershire before March 27. When the vine-draped slopes are clothed in a cloak of frost, this 75-acre property is arguably at its scenic best. One of England’s oldest vineyards, dating back to 1973, it has eight modern rooms in the main building and three wooden lodges scattered among its vines. After a wintry walk, return to tuck into tapas-inspired dishes in The Brasserie, with its oak barrels and wooden floors. Whether you prefer still or sparkling, white or red, they make it here, with wine tastings held from Wednesday to Friday.
How to do it: Room-only doubles from £120. Wine tastings cost £20pp (three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk).
SPARKLE IN CHAMPAGNE COUNTRY
There are plenty of small champagne producers in the countryside surrounding Reims and Epernay, some of whom run their own B&Bs. Among them is Le Logis Aux Bulles in the village of Verzy. The three rooms and shared sitting room have a boutique hotel feel to them and feature wine bottles as lights, champagne pictures on the wall – and one even has a champagne riddling rack for a headboard. A good breakfast sets you up for a day of tastings, starting with a glass of the Mouligneaux-Gourdain grand cru, produced by the owners.
How to do it: B&B doubles from about £87. Tour and tasting about £6 (lelogisauxbulles.com). It’s a three-hour drive from the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais.
CIDER RULES IN SOMERSET
At The Newt in Somerset, they create ciders from many of its 70 apple varieties in its 65 acres of orchards
At The Newt in Somerset, they celebrate apples in the same way as vineyards celebrate grapes. The sprawling estate creates ciders from many of its 70 apple varieties in its 65 acres of orchards. Join a tour of the Cyder Barn to see the production process, then sample the finished product alongside dishes in the restaurant – be sure to try the sourdough created using apple waste. Take walks in the deer park, visit the interactive museum and taste wine produced at the Newt’s sister property, Babylonstoren in South Africa. Rooms all come with a minibar holding the Newt’s apple juice and cyder.
How to do it: B&B doubles from £520, including the tour and 12-month access to the estate (thenewtinsomerset.com).
ENJOY A WEE DRAM ON ISLAY
Bowmore on the Isle of Islay has six cottages for short breaks adjacent to its traditional whisky distillery (pictured)
Above is Bowmore’s 12-year-old single malt
For lovers of single malts, Bowmore on the Isle of Islay has six cosy cottages for short breaks adjacent to its traditional distillery on the shores of Loch Indaal.
They are all beautifully renovated, with anything from a one-bedroom bolthole for a romantic break to a large pad with six bedrooms that’s perfect for gathering the clan.
Pick the distillery tour to suit your pocket – whether that’s a basic look around the stone warehouse with a cask tasting for £65, or a rare whisky tasting tour for £500.
How to do it: Three nights’ self-catering in a cottage for four costs from £525 (bowmore.com).
Take the ferry from Kennacraig to Islay for £15pp return (calmac.co.uk) or fly from Glasgow from £130 return (loganair.co.uk).