Greetings from Robbi and Jim

A warm welcome to all of the members of our Aroma Tours Newsletter in over 30 countries around the world.

Kind thanks to Tim Cohen ( Heart of Provence Tour 2015 ) for this photo of Robbi and I

Robbi and I will shortly be embarking for the start of this year's Aroma Tours adventures, beginning in the beautiful Spanish spring with our Flavours of Spain Tour and Spanish Gourmet Pilgrimage

We are all set for another fabulous season of tours and feel truly blessed to once again be sharing our passion for the fabulous places and experiences that we love, with delightful people from around the world.

This year is now fully booked and we are thrilled to see that our 2025 tour season is continuing to receive strong early bookings with several tours already almost sold out.

Aroma Travellers Our Thanks

Without doubt, the main reason that we have grown and flourished over the years, is the on-going support that we have received from our past Aroma Travellers.

As we move beyond the difficulties of the last couple of years we are thrilled to see that they continue to make up more than 65% of our guests!

We would also like to give our heart-felt thanks to all of you who have continued to support us with your kind words and referrals over the years.

Robbi and I also greatly appreciate the wonderful words of thanks we have received from our guests - Guest Comments.

Spanish Gourmet Tours

Each year our Aroma Tours adventures begin with our delightful and delicious Michelin star studded gourmet tours in northern Spain

The first impression is always with the eye and here for your visual pleasure are some of the fabulous meals and experiences that we enjoyed during our Flavours of Spain Tour and Spanish Gourmet Pilgrimage

Our Spanish tours are very popular and are sold out for this year but happily there are still vacancies available 2025 for both our Flavours of Spain Tour and Spanish Gourmet Pilgrimage.

It would be our great pleasure to share a fabulous foodie adventure with you next year in amazing northern Spain.

Our Current Booking Status

The enthusiasm for this year's Aroma Tours has been outstanding with all of our tours now sold out.

List of Tours for 2024
Flavours of Spain 13 - 20 May 2024 SOLD OUT
Spanish Gourmet Pilgrimage 20 - 27 May 2024 SOLD OUT
Flavours of France 3 - 10 June 2024 SOLD OUT
Heart of Provence 17 - 24 June 2024 SOLD OUT
Essential Provence 24 June - 1 July 2024 SOLD OUT
Treasures of Provence
(ladies only special event)
5 - 12 July 2024 SOLD OUT
Aromas of Tuscany 3 - 10 September 2024
Flavours of Italy 10 - 17 September 2024
Bali Women's Retreat 7 - 14 September 2024 SOLD OUT
Bali Women's Retreat (private event) 16 - 23 September 2024 SOLD OUT

We thrilled to see that our 2025 tour season is continuing to receive strong early bookings with several tours almost sold out.

List of Tours for 2025
Flavours of Spain 12 - 19 May 2025 5 vacancies
Spanish Gourmet Pilgrimage 19 - 26 May 2025 3 vacancies
Flavours of France 9 - 16 June 2025 4 vacancies
Heart of Provence 23 - 30 June 2025 2 vacancies
Essential Provence 30 June - 7 July 2025 3 vacancies
Treasures of Provence
(ladies only special event)
11 - 18 July 2025 2 vacancies
Aromas of Tuscany 9 - 16 September 2025 4 vacancies
Flavours of Italy 16 - 23 September 2025 4 vacancies

Please note

  • Our up-to-the-minute booking status is available via our calendar page

Flavours in France

Robbi and I are very excited to be offering a delightful gourmet tour, exploring the beauty, culture and rich gastronomic traditions of eastern France.

Experience the fascinating heart of Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France and enjoy journeying through the beautiful vine clad countryside of Burgundy and Alsace with their enchanting hilltop villages, medieval towns, lush vineyards, spectacular chateau and gardens.

Elegant 4 and 5 star small luxury hotels and spectacular gourmet cuisine and wines are a feature of this tour and your taste buds will be tantalized in some of France's finest restaurants, from hidden gastronomic treasures, to spectacular 3 Michelin star fine dining; with a total of 6 Michelin stars during our week together.

The Story of Champagne - Part 3

The Story of Champagne continues: Part 1 can be found in our February newsletter and Part 2 in our April newsletter.

Champagne was enjoying an era of unprecedented growth and skyrocketing popularity in the late 1860's as demand for their sparkling wines continued to spread throughout the world. However, with the end of the American Civil War ( circa 1867 ) there was a great deal of political friction in Europe, which when coupled with Napoleon III's desire for power and the corruption and nepotism of his government, led to growing animosity between France and neighbouring Prussia.

The Champenois were rightly concerned about what this would mean for them; both their business fortunes and the fact that due to its' location, Champagne would inevitably become the primary battle ground for any hostilities. This concern was well founded, and in July 1870 Napoleon III declared war on Prussia.

Within two weeks, three hundred and fifty thousand Prussia troops and reservists poured into Alsace-Lorraine, sweeping all before them. That is until they arrived in Champagne, where instead of the normal hot summer, they were greeted with plunging temperatures and torrential rain that turned the countryside into a morass of sticky mud. The weather had changed almost the moment that the invasion began and once again made true the ancient legend: "God sends
a bad harvest to mark the beginning of war".

Hostilities were both short lived and savage with dreadful losses on both sides. This was largely due to the advent of the machine gun and long range artillery, which were now being used for the first time with devastating effect.

By September 1st, Napoleon III had led France to a humiliating defeat and was deposed in favour of a new Government of National Defence who, despite their weak position, steadfastly refused to acquiesce to Prussia's demand for the territory of Alsace-Lorraine. Now Paris itself was to be held to account, however, unhappily for the Champenois, Reims lay directly on the line of march and Champagne quickly found itself under military occupation by thirty thousand thirsty Prussian troops.

Knowing that "The German hates the Frenchman but loves his wines", the Champenois set to walling up their champagne stores. Over the ensuing months curfews, arbitrary taxes ( usually in bottles of champagne ) led ultimately to a guerrilla war and subsequent bloody reprisals.

By January 1871 in the midst of a particularly severe winter, the situation for Champagne was bleak. It had borne the brunt of the Prussian occupation, crops had been left to rot, champagne sales were in a slump and more than two and a half million bottles had been pillaged by the Prussian soldiers.

It was at this most inopportune moment, that Louise Pommery divined that tastes for champagne were changing and decided to "risk it all" by making the first significant attempt at producing a dry white "Brut style" champagne. This new drier style was more difficult and expensive to make, needed better quality, more fully ripened grapes and required three years, instead of one for ageing.

Champagne makers such as Louis Roederer had made a name for themselves by selling sweet champagne ( mainly to Russia ) and were very resistant to the idea of Brut style champagnes, which they feared would damage the reputation of their own product. However, it was true to say that at the time, many makers relied on added syrup and sugar to mask faults in their wine ( especially excess acidity caused by picking unripe grapes ). Louise Pommery persisted against this tide of opinion by contracting growers and agreeing to buy all of their grapes as long as she could say when they would be picked.

Because of poor growing conditions in Champagne, it took three years for her to achieve the quality she was hoping for, however, in 1874 the Pommery and Greno Brut champagne produced was so good and fetched such a high price, that it swept all before it and was heralded as the best vintage of the century! Pommery and Greno as a result was transformed from a small company into one of the largest and most important champagne houses. Louise had single-handedly changed the character of champagne forever.

Following the devastation of the Franko-Prussian war, it was expected that France would take thirty to fifty years to recover, but thanks to the industrial revolution of Napoleon III's reign, the French came roaring back.

Three World's Fairs between 1878 and 1900 drew people to Paris from all over the world. Champagne flowed like Niagara Falls and helped fuel a soaring optimism that led to the construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. Every day seemed to bring something new: horseless carriages on the Champs-Elysees, the first telephone booth, the first Metro line, Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur making great discoveries, the opening of the Moulin Rouge, Hedonism and Toulouse-Lautrec's posters of beautiful women holding glasses of champagne were all the fashion.

It was the time of the Belle poque and the Gay 90's. Everything sparkled, the people, the conversation, the decor and especially the wine! Champagne prices were at an all-time high and as one wine grower in Champagne put it, "it's like a rain of gold".

By the end of the nineteenth century, champagne was firmly fixed as part of the French national character: "It bubbles like our spirit, it is piquant like our language, it sparkles and chatters and is constantly in motion". It became the symbol of the importance of a moment: the birth of a child, a marriage, the launching of a ship, friends getting together.

With the advent of modern advertizing, the great champagne houses battled to promote their brands, often utilizing "stunts" to gain notoriety and put their name in the headlines. Eugene Mercier arrived at the 1889 World's Fair with a team of twenty four white oxen pulling the world's largest wine barrel ( it took 16 years to build and contained the equivalent of two hundred thousand bottles of champagne ).

Moet and Chandon's agent in New York substituted a bottle of their French champagne for the German "sekt" ( also a sparkling white wine ) that was meant to be used for the christening of Kaiser Wilhelm II's new imperial yacht. Unlike his father Wilhelm I, he was adamant that only German wines would ever pass his lips and when the deception was discovered it provoked an international incident, which of course guaranteed that the name of Moet and Chandon was emblazoned in newspapers across America.

Mass advertizing was new and there was an "anything goes" attitude, which inevitably led to the phenomenon of name rustling. Unscrupulous individuals used famous names like Moet and Chandon to their advantage: Leon Chandon realized that if his name was printed just right, people would confuse the champagne he made with Moet and Chandon.

Other "faux champagnes" were made by paying people for the use of their family names in order to legally high-jack their more famous name-sakes such as Clicquot ( Victor Clicquot, brick layer ) and Roederer ( Theophile Roederer, a waiter from Strasbourg ). There was even a Pommery "champagne" ( Madame Pommery, a French cook ) made in Rheims, New York USA!

The Belle Epoque was the Golden Age of champagne but as the twentieth century dawned, the glamour and excitement that characterized the era was being replaced by a growing anxiety. As one historian remarked: "The Belle Epoque had become a dance on top of a volcano".

In Champagne, cheaper grapes had begun pouring in from the south ( especially the Loire valley ), undercutting the local growers and threatening their way of life. According to them, using wine and grapes that did not come from Champagne was wrong and the result was not "real" champagne.

The situation for the Champenois continued to deteriorate and it didn't help that champagne producers only had to source 51 percent of their grapes from Champagne for the wine to use that name: the other 49 percent was up to the maker. Some unscrupulous producers even resorted to using pear, apple and even rhubarb juice! No law existed at the time that said that wine had to be made entirely from grapes and the potential for fraud and a quick profit, was enormous.

For the growers it just kept getting worse, as the vine-eating louse phylloxera began to devastate their crops. It was however, not lost on them that sales of champagne worldwide had doubled despite the fact that nearly every harvest in Champagne between 1889 and 1907 had been deplorable. The extremely low prices that they were being paid for their grapes ( if indeed they could even sell them ) led to the saying that "phylloxera isn't the only parasite in our vineyards".

Over the years until 1913, the distrust in governments that allowed Champagne's growers to be so unfairly exploited, as well as the struggle between the regions of Marne and Aube to settle the legitimate boundaries of Champagne, led the region into insurrection that at times hovered on the verge of civil war.

In the summer of 1914 the French government was finally bowing to pressure and starting to introduce measures to combat wine fraud and ensure that growers would receive a fair price for their grapes, when news arrived that a young Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo had just assassinated Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife.

World War One had begun.....

The final part of The Story of Champagne will continue in our next newsletter.

Travelling Solo in a Group

As well as couples and friends travelling together, we are regularly joined by solo travellers - mostly women, who appreciate being able to journey with liked minded people from around the world, without the need to do all the planning and take on the daunting task of touring by themselves.

Joining one of our small group tours is easy and we have already made all of the arrangements on your behalf to ensure that you have a delightful, stress-free holiday with the focus on having fun.

Having a ready-made group of friends to travel with, and us to take wonderful care of you is the way to go!

  • There is no extra charge for solo travellers who are willing to share a room with another same gender guest from our group.

We have carefully crafted off-the-beaten-path itineraries that are the perfect balance of structure, experiences, details and free time to enjoy in your own way.

Our Invitation

Robbi and I look forward to welcoming you to one of our delightful Aroma Tours in 2023 or 2024.

Glorious lavender flowers in Provence France

  • For detailed information about any of our tours please visit our tour information page and if you would like to join us please visit our make a reservation page.
  • As always if you have any questions or if you would like us to assist you personally with advice about your travel arrangements or with any other details please contact us at

Warmest regards,

Jim and Robbi

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