5 intoxicating honeymoons

5 intoxicating honeymoons

If you're looking for an alternative honeymoon, Clare Wilson suggests five grape-escapes for love-drunk couples

1. Dispense with driving and see Rhône by rail

Lyon to Avignon

Why go? Named as one of Wanderlust's top trips to take in 2012, taking the train through the Rhône is a great way to view the vineyards, no designated driver necessary! If the way to your hearts is via your stomachs, couples wanting to be dined as well as wined on their honeymoon are in for a treat as the Rhône valley is also noted as France's gastronomic heartland.

Grape Escapes' new Rhône by Rail tour visits plenty of the region's vineyards, including the famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape area, where Pope John XXII had a castle built in the 13th century. You'll also visit the Dentelles hills and Gigondas (whose name derives from the latin 'Jocuntidas', meaning 'merry city') and the historic towns of Vienne and Avignon.

Avignon has a charming market to stroll around, not to forget, its famous bridge - perfect for those wanting history and culture as well as the influence of terroir as you sip your way through the Rhône valley.

Toast each other... With real Côtes du Rhône wines. The AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) legislation means that only wines from this region can call themselves 'Côtes du Rhône'.

Details: Grape Escapes offer the six-day tour all year round. It's £789 for a couple, or £150 extra if you decide to stay at the Hotel la Pyramide (price excluding flights).

2. Combine 'vino' and 'velo' on a bike tour of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Why go? Only a short drive from the glamour of Cape Town, the Cape Winelands combine rolling landscapes backed by the dramatic foothills of the Karoo with the charm of culturally rich and utterly relaxed university town of Stellenbosch. Bikesnwines.com run a 'three day escape' guided cycle tour around Stellenbosch that lets you pedal at your own pace around the area's vineyards, while a support vehicle transfers your bags (and bottles!).

As well as fully enjoying the nuances of flavour both wine and Winelands life at several wine tasting and wine pairing sessions, you'll have the chance to visit a cheetah sanctuary, have a sundowner picnic in the Polkadraai Hills and cosy up by the fire after a traditional South African braai (barbeque).

Don't miss exploring historic Stellenbosch, which dates from 1679 and is full of well-preserved buildings, from whitewashed Cape Dutch homesteads to Georgian and Victorian town houses.

Toast each other... In harvest time (late January to early February) as the region buzzes with excitement - the heady effect of ripe grapes, or so the locals claim!

Details: The three-day escape tour with Bikesnwines costs R3450 (approx £280) per person

3. Take an Extreme Wine Experience course

La Verrière Estate near Gigondas, Provence

Why go? If the two of you are serious about improving your wine knowledge but are short on time, the Extreme Wine Experience could be the break for you.

The five day course is held at boutique estate La Verrière near Gigondas in Provence (which boasts a restored priory, dating from the 9th century) from 17-21 June 2012. It includes tastings, field trips, lectures, lessons on how to begin or manage a wine collection (...one for the Wedding List?!), hands-on experience in the vineyard as well as learning how to blend wine.

If you're feeling studious, there's even the option to sit an exam and leave with a qualification at the end of the course. There's no better place to learn the basics: Provence has a long history with the wine, as vineyards were established here by the Romans.

Toast each other... With the region's famous rosé as you take in the romantic views of Mont Sainte-Victoire, which inspired the work of artist Paul Cézanne

Details: Prices start at €8,600 for a couple staying at La Verrière

4. Go up and away with a hot air balloon ride at dawn

Napa Valley, California

Why go? Prepare for romance and excitement as you survey Napa Valley from a hot air balloon. Glide over vineyards, olive groves and plunging valleys in the silence of dawn, as you watch the sun rise over one of the best wine regions in the world.

When you head back to Earth, keep your head in the clouds with a champagne breakfast and a private, escorted tour of the best premium and boutique wineries in the area. For the ultimate in luxury, Beau wine tours have chauffeur driven limos on offer to whisk you from cellar to cellar in style.

Toast each other... While having a gourmet picnic under the vines and enjoying the Californian sunshine.

Details: More information is available from Beau Wine Tours

5. Raise a glass in the tree tops of Champagne

Champagne, France

Why go? Toast to newly-wedded life with a flute of premium Champagne as you admire the Champagne countryside from highest point in the Marne Valley... the treetops of the Verzy forest.

To start this tailor-made honeymoon adventure, you'll have to complete a circuit of an aerial ropes course to get up into the canopy. When you're ready to head back to terra-firma, the intrepid can zoom down again by a series of zip lines.

Catch your breath before heading to the vineyards as guests of a boutique Champagne maker for a lesson in the Napoleonic art of Sabrage (the art of opening the Champagne bottle with a sword). This is followed by a private Dom Perignon tour at the world famous Champagne house, Moët and Chandon and a seven course gastronomic extravaganza back at your Château.

Toast each other... In Reims, the city of Kings and the gateway to Champagne, before or after your tree-top adventure. 

Details: This tailor-made break is available from Champagne Escapes between April to October. It is priced at £784 per person, based on a couple sharing a double room. Includes two nights' bed and breakfast at a 4* Château in Champagne, a luxury chauffeured car for the day, the treetops activity with a tasting, tours and tastings at two Champagne Houses, Sabrage and a seven course dinner with a bottle of Champagne.

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