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We spent a week sailing Italy’s dramatic Amalfi Coast past colourful fishing villages, craggy limestone cliffs, and terraces of lemons, olives, and grapes growing on the precipitous mountainside. A week relaxing on our luxurious yacht enjoying the scenery would have been more than enough but our trip had a theme—tasting some of the region’s best wines.
Campania Wine & Sail is a flotilla holiday where a group of chartered yachts sail together on the same route. It’s organised by Sail Italia who provide support for the boats along the way, plan the route, and organise the evening wine tastings. You don’t need to have sailing experience to take part as you can book a cabin in a shared yacht with a captain to sail the boat for you—this is what we did on our Intersailclub yacht.
There were 10 yachts in our flotilla with people from all over the world—Italy, UK, Holland, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, and more. Most people had chartered their own boat and knew much more about sailing (and wine!) than us. After a morning briefing for captains everyone was free to sail alone during the day and meet up each evening.
We’ve already written about the stunning scenery we saw as we sailed each day. This post focuses on the evening wine tastings organised for the flotilla.
Shortly after arriving at the marina in Ischia we were on a bus up the mountains to the winery Il Giardino Mediterraneo. We had a quick tour of the 400 year old cantina and then made our way up the steep slopes of their vineyards on a rather makeshift “monorail”.
We survived the trip and at the top found a restaurant and tasting room with incredible views of the vineyards, sea, and the Aragonese Castle jutting out of a volcanic rock. The tasting was informal—bottles of white, rosé, and red wine were left out for us to help ourselves, along with a light buffet of grilled vegetables, cheeses, couscous, and bruschetta. We especially enjoyed the refreshing rose and the Biancolella DOC white and it was certainly a spectacular setting for a wine tasting.
From Salerno a bus took us on the 30 minute trip to Paestum, the ruins of a major Greek city with impressive, well preserved Doric temples.
Nearby was the Barlotti dairy farm which specialise in the buffalo mozzarella that this area is famous for. We took a tour of the farm including the milking room where they milk the buffalo every day at 3am and 3pm. Each buffalo produces 10 litres of milk a day—less than a cow, but the buffalo milk has three times as much fat as cow’s milk which makes the cheese much richer and creamier. The cheese here is ultra fresh—they start making mozzarella at 1am with the afternoon’s milk, and then make more in the morning with the 3am batch so the cheese is ready for lunch.
We also visited the buffalo, which despite my love of mozzarella made me reconsider veganism. They weren’t kept in terrible conditions, and they all looked healthy, but it wasn’t the pastoral idyll I would have liked. There were a lot of buffalo in a muddy field, standing in their own manure while they munched on hay. The smell accompanied us through the evening.
The De Concilis family winery had arranged a tasting for us accompanied by a cheese plate of the dairy’s cheese and gnocchi alla sorrentina—potato dumplings in a tomato and cheese sauce. This tasting felt much better organised than the previous one as one of the winery staff came to each table to fill our glasses and introduce us to the wines.
We loved the quiet fishing village Cetara and we had another stunning location for the tasting—the town’s tower that overlooks the sea, a short stroll from the marina. As always the wine was good but as the buffet was mostly fish we ducked out early to get a pizza by ourselves.
From Amalfi the bus took us up winding roads into the hills of Tramonti to the Tenuta San Francesco. The owner showed us his gnarled 500 year old vine that still produce grapes—one of the few that survived the phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century. We really enjoyed the family-run vibe of the winery and the lovely hillside location.
The family cooked dinner for us in the tiny kitchen in the cantina—we ate at long tables in the old stone building with the steel vats of wine behind us. The food was simple and delicious—cheese with pane biscottato dried bread and tomatoes, pasta and beans, pecorino cheese, and apple cake. Each course was accompanied by a different wine—we especially enjoyed their purply reds.
Wine & Sail Summary
The Wine & Sail flotilla was an enjoyable way to experience the Amalfi Coast. We’re not wine experts but we enjoy trying local wines, especially in Italy where the tastings are always accompanied by food! The flotilla enabled us to visit places we wouldn’t have been able to reach on our own without transport, and experience tastings in special places that you wouldn’t usually get to experience.
There were some issues though. Tour groups aren’t our thing and we found ourselves frustrated by the inevitable waiting around you have to do when trying to get 50 people anywhere. We also found the organisation rather flaky with a lack of attention to detail that caused problems like the guide at the first winery not speaking English (the majority language of the group), a lack of communication about the correct places to meet (which led to a large group of us wandering around lost for 50 minutes), and being locked out of the marina because no one had the entry code.
These were small things that made the experience a little frustrating—perhaps because we’re not used to travelling in groups—but ultimately we enjoyed the tastings and got to see some beautiful places and try some delicious wines.
I’m not sure we’d do a flotilla again on a crewed cabin charter holiday as we would prefer to have more flexibility about when and where we sailed (most of Intersailclub’s trips are not flotillas), but we would definitely do one once we have our sailing licence as the support provided would be reassuring on our first solo sailing trip. For sailing and wine lovers Wine & Sail is a unique way to explore the coast.
The next Campania Wine & Sail trip is taking place in September 2015. You can book a cabin on a shared yacht (although a different yacht from the one we sailed on) on Intersailclub with prices starting from €650, plus €190 for the Wine & Sail fee which includes transport to tastings, wine, and light meals.
Our trip was sponsored by Intersailclub, a yachting matchmaker that helps you find the perfect boat with like-minded people. They have a huge range of sailing holidays available all over the world with themes including yoga, scuba diving, and kite boarding.