This is an extremely comprehensive website in terms of the information on offer. It lets itself down a little by not having potentially useful facilities like the ability to view up-to-date tour availability or pay deposits online, but that doesn't stop it being a useful resource. Browsing around this site for a while certainly whets the appetite both for sunny foreign climes, and for a glass of something decent.
Tours are the business of Arblaster & Clarke; wine tours specifically. They offer everything from Champagne weekends, to Wine Cruises and Cookery Schools. Their Web site does not allow full ecommerce booking of tours, but does have a wealth of useful information. The tour guides used by Arblaster & Clarke’s fall squarely into the Expert category. They include several famous names from the wine writing world and several Masters of Wine. The tours themselves are categorised into collections.
Champagne Tours are generally short breaks by coach and Eurostar or ferry. An example might be three days spent in Reims, with daytime visits to a famous cellar such as the ancient caves of Taittinger, and, in the evening, a comparative tasting over dinner. Prices range from around £240 - £280 depending on dates.
Classic Tours make use of scheduled airlines and get you into the tasting mood as soon as possible, usually accompanying lunch or dinner on arrival. Hotels are four star and are generally in a town or village so you can stroll and explore when you wish to. A typical day might begin with a buffet breakfast followed by a wine visit and comprehensive tasting. The second visit might include a leisurely gastronomic lunch of local specialties, accompanied by wines of the estate. What is left of the afternoon would be free, then the tour meets up again early evening for a comparative tasting hosted by the wine guide before dinner.
Reserve Collection is described by Arblaster & Clarke as ‘the ultimate wine tour’. Tastings include top growth expensive wines and party sizes tend be smaller. Prestigious châteaux are visited, and deluxe hotels are used — or even the wine châteaux themselves.
Walking Tours are for some the perfect holiday: the chance to combine walking in the rural countryside with winery visits and tastings might have great appeal. Arblaster & Clarke use small family-run hotels with en-suite bathrooms for these tours and the party is limited to 16. A coach is around throughout the tour to move bags, collect wine and shuttle participants to local towns. A comforting thought is that the coach can also be called for you if you want to bale out at any stage!
Other Tours include cookery tours, long-haul tours, wine cruises and coach tours. Arblaster & Clarke are the appointed agents for tours organised by both the Sunday Times Wine Club and the Vinopolis Wine Exhibition on London’s South Bank, and a number of events are organised each year for members of both.