If you’re packing your shorts and heading for some European sunshine over the summer, there’s a good chance that a little spot of wine tasting will be on the agenda. Winemakers are usually happy to welcome visitors, although, understandably, many will want you to make an appointment. And they will probably expect you to buy a bottle or two at the end of your visit. But, if your destination over the next couple of months is Italy, Spain or France, there may be a hidden bonus – free(ish) wine!
Italy’s Abruzzo region, just east of Rome, is where you’ll find light Trebbiano whites and the powerful Montepulciano reds for which the area is best-known. It’s also where you’ll find the Dora Sarchese vineyard. Inside its gates is a fountain that pumps out free red wine. It was built to quench the thirst of walkers following the Cammino di San Tommaso (The Way of St Thomas), a 316-kilometre route that links the town of Ortona to the Vatican City. Passers-by are welcome to fill mugs but are warned to drink the wine in moderation.
There is a similar story in Spain, where a fountain at Bodegas Irache winery offers refreshments to pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela along the St. James Way. Located in the village of Ayegui, about two kilometres from the medieval city of Estella in the community of Navarra, the fountain dispenses both wine and water from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bodegas Irache will also stamp your pilgrim’s passport if you are walking an official section of the route.
Meanwhile, in France, the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhône, is home to more than 80 producers. Although it also produces full-bodied whites, it’s the rich reds that Chateauneuf-du-Pape is best-known for. The village comes alive for the annual Fete de la Veraison, which this year takes place from 3-5 August. Here, you have to pay to taste, but the wine glass that costs five euros allows you to sample some of the wines that make the village famous.
And, if you are looking forward to a staycation rather than a continental trip, we have some alterative suggestions. Although they aren’t free, we think our favourites from Abruzzo, Navarra and Chateauneuf-du-Pape offer great value: