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WHY IT RATES: As culinary travel continues to grow in popularity, these new experiences from Avanti are sure to entice clients. -Janeen Christoff, TravelPulse Senior Writer
Wine- and spirits-loving FIT clients typically head to the vineyards and distilleries of Europe, but FIT specialist Avanti Destinations reminds travel agents that South America is full of world-class wine and unique spirits. The company has just introduced three new customizable wine-focused itineraries in Argentina and Uruguay, a new tour of a pisco distillery in Peru, as well as offering more than 20 wine-focused tours in Argentina and Chile.
Avanti sells custom-crafted itineraries for independent travelers and for custom groups of 15-100 passengers exclusively through travel agents.
"We're always looking for great out-of-the-ordinary places that are less touristed, where agents' clients can have an authentic experience," said Paul Barry, Avanti's executive chairman. "Most FIT travelers whose agents book with us want to combine wine and food with cultural, historical and-in Latin America, soft adventure activities, rather than only concentrating on one interest. Each of our itineraries is custom-made and one-of-a-kind, and wine- or spirits-tasting can be added to any South American vacation."
Argentina and Chile-The Classics of South American Wine
Serious wine enthusiasts know that Argentina and Chile are the main attractions when it comes to South American wines.
Best known for Malbec, Argentina produces other varietals, such as Bornarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Mendoza is the heart of the nation's wine country, and travelers can take wine-tasting day trips to the Maipu, Lujan, and Uco wine valleys.
Surprisingly, wine is even produced in Salta in foothills of the Andes in the far north of Argentina. However, clients don't have to leave Buenos Aires to taste wines from around the country; Avanti offers a Classic Wine Tasting at a historic cellar built in the 1800s.
Avanti's wine-tasting experiences in Argentina can be combined with other activities, such as bicycling or horseback riding, as well as a gourmet lunch. Clients can stay at a winery, some of which offer packages that include tastings, dinner, and a massage or other wellness services.
New Flavors of Argentina Customizable Package
The new seven-day, six-night Flavors of Argentina package visits Mendoza and Buenos Aires and can be booked 365 days a year. Wine and gastronomic highlights in Mendoza: a private winery cooking class with lunch and a tasting, a private wine- and olive-tasting with lunch, and gourmet wine pairing dinner.
In Buenos Aires: choice one day of either a gastronomic or tavern tour in the bohemian district of San Telmo; on another day, a choice of food tours in the chic Palermo neighborhood-pizzerias, taverns or steakhouses; dinner and a tango show; and a private North & South Buenos Aires city tour. Most of these tours are private, and private arrival and departure transfers, as well as a choice of accommodations, are also included.
Chile is best known for resurrecting Carmenere, an ancient grape grown for centuries in Bordeaux but wiped out in France in the late 19th century. Fortunately, some vines had been brought to Chile before the phylloxera plague swept the French vineyards. Other Chilean varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Pinot Noir.
Avanti offers seven different winery day trip tour and tasting options from Santiago. The Colchagua, Maipo, Aconcagua and Casablanca valleys are within a few hours of the capital. As in Argentina, clients can stay in accommodations from small bed-and-breakfasts to grand wine estates, featuring horseback riding and local vineyard tastings.
In Santiago itself, the private tour Chilean Wine Discovery with Dinner introduces clients to the 48 aromas associated with wine, as well as a tasting.
New Uncrowded, Undiscovered Uruguay
Uruguay's wine-growing culture began with Jesuit missionaries 250 years ago. The Tannat grape was brought to Uruguay by Basque and Italian immigrants. Avanti offers day trip tours to wineries from either Colonia del Sacramento or Montevideo; these may be added to any stay in Uruguay. The tour operator offers two new customizable packages:
-Best of Uruguay-eight days/ seven nights in Carmelo, Montevideo, and Jose Ignacio. Included are three wine tastings, four lunches, walking tour of Colonia, vineyards and Jesuit ruins tour in Carmelo, walking tour of Montevideo and its port market, Montevideo wine region tour, tour of Pinapolois and Punta del Este, tour of Garzon town and surrounding area, including the nature reserve at the Garzon Lagoon.
Also included are all private ground transfers and breakfasts.
-Uruguay's Unexplored Wine Country - 3 days/2 nights at Finca Narbona Lodge, where Tannat, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Petit Verdot are grown. Includes private full-day Jesuit ruins and wineries tour with tastings, private picnic, wine and cheese tasting with an enologist and daily breakfasts.New Pisco Distillery Tour
The desert meets the Pacific Ocean at Paracas, the entry point for visiting the famous Nazca lines. It is also the location of a pisco distillery where Avanti now offers a tour and tasting as part of the three-day/two-night Mysterious Nazca Lines and Ballestas Islands itinerary.
Clients will learn about the production process of this high-proof Peruvian brandy-like spirit, invented by Spanish settlers 400 years ago and traditionally aged in ceramic amphorae. Pisco is also produced in Chile.
For more information on booking unique wine-/spirits- or food-themed experiences and custom-built, multi-destination FIT travel 365 days a year to Central and South America, Europe and Asia, log onto Avanti's agent portal or call 800-422-5053 to speak with an expert travel specialist.
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