For the 50+ Traveler

Michael Higgins loves his wine through and through and has participated in every aspect of wine tasting and grape growing for more than 20 years. He’s traveled the world exploring the best wine regions and has pruned vines, picked grapes, worked directly with winemakers, done blind tastings, curated food and wine pairings, judged Cru Bourgeois wines, and spent countless hours with renowned winemakers discussing their passion for wine.

Higgins is most excited about his latest book, Exploring Wine Regions: Bordeaux, which is a hybrid travel, guide, and coffee table book that’s available for preorder now. He spent two years and many months in Bordeaux researching and writing, plus he took the almost 1,000 splendid photos for the book.

Recently, I spoke with Higgins about Exploring Wine Regions: Bordeaux, his favorite wines, his exclusive, small-group wine tours, and helpful tips for wine collecting.

TA: At what age did you discover you liked wine?

Higgins: I discovered wine in my 30s when I started cooking.

TA: What were some of your early wine experiences?

Higgins: I grew up with jug wine and did not like it. I thought wine tasted terrible.

TA: What made you pursue a career in wine travel and tasting?

Higgins: In our Flying Adventures magazine publication, we have content about food, wine, and wine regions in every issue. Our editor-in-chief does not drink, so I do all the wine-related research, traveling to wine regions and creating relationships with the people at the forefront of winemaking and wine tourism. The book series (Exploring Wine Regions) is the perfect extension of what I love and know so well.

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux, France.
Michael C. Higgins, PhD as Published in Exploring Wine Regions

TA: You are also the publisher of Flying Adventures magazine. What is the theme of the magazine and what are the articles about?

Higgins: Flying Adventures is a lifestyle travel magazine for people who own and travel on private airplanes.

TA: You offer travel planning for wine tours and experiences. Please tell us what types of itineraries you put together, and what are the more popular destinations?

Higgins: We put together over-the-top trips that are unforgettable! Our groups are small and intimate, carefully selected to ensure the best possible experience for everyone. Our events are exclusive and unlike anything available to the general public. These are special activities we curate specifically for our trips. Meet the who’s who of the wine industry. Experience one-of-a-kind excursions. Uncover the best wines. Take part in unique activities. Meet some of the most interesting wine industry experts: winemakers, sommeliers, chefs, proprietors, and more. Enjoy mouth-watering cuisines paired with wine, of course! We take out the guesswork and take you in through the back door. Our trips are special. We have been putting together quality trips since 2005, ranging from spectacular to luxurious. Go to our website for testimonials!

TA: It seems that rose is the new but old wine that is having a big resurgence in the last 10 years. Can you explain why it’s become so popular again and how it's changed?

Higgins: Rose is an easy-to-drink wine that most people can love, especially beginners. As your love for rose grows, you can get more educated in the grape varieties, terroir, and winemaking methods to expand your palate.

TA: What are some of the common wine myths or beliefs you would dispel?

Higgins: Bordeaux wineries are not all open to the public. Over the past decade or so, some Bordeaux wineries have realized the value of wine tourism and have created all types of visitor experiences. Still, many wineries are closed to the public. In my book, I have explored those who are open and offer interesting experiences.

TA: What are a few inexpensive wines (under $25 a bottle) you recommend, and what are a few expensive wines that are worth the price?

  • Under $25: Chateau de Candale, Chateau de Reignac, Chateau du Tailhas, Chateau Venus, and Chateau de la Riviere
  • Higher End: Chateau de Ferrand, Chateau Gazin, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Pichon Baron, and Chateau Troplong Mondot
Château Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux, France.
Michael C. Higgins, PhD as Published in Exploring Wine Regions

TA: If someone is a beginner and wants to start a wine collection, what do you recommend they do so that they don’t get overwhelmed or overspend?

Higgins: A good idea is to buy a case of wine that you really like a lot and then drink a bottle every year for 12 years. Then buy other different cases of wine within your budget. To start out small, buy one case per year; after 10 years, you will have quite a collection. To start the collection, you must buy wines that require aging, so you’ll have to wait. Also, you must buy extra wine so you do not dip into your collection. Always have something ready to drink.

TA: What is an up-and-coming wine region or country that we should know about?

Higgins: Argentina! Through their phenomenal success with the Malbec grape, Argentina has risen to the fifth-largest wine region in the world. I wrote a book about it ... Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina.

TA: If you were on a desert island, what three wines would you choose?

Higgins: Desert tells me it will be hot, so a rose would be an excellent refreshing choice. Island means fish, so a Bordeaux white (a sauvignon blanc) would be a great pairing choice. If I can choose whatever I want? A 2010 Chateau Margaux would be a very exciting choice.

TA: Where are you going on your next wine voyage?

Higgins: California. Our next book is Exploring Wine Regions: California. Meanwhile, we have our eye on Bourgogne (Burgundy).

Exploring Wine Regions: Bordeaux by Michael Higgins.
Michael C. Higgins, PhD as Published in Exploring Wine Regions

TA: Finally, your latest book is about the city and region of Bordeaux and its wines. Please tell us more about the book and its content.

Higgins: Exploring Wine Regions: Bordeaux is 494 full-color pages. Over 950 spectacular photographic images! This second edition explores Bordeaux France’s top wine regions: the Medoc -- Margaux, Pauillac, et cetera; Graves -- Pessac-Leognan and Sauternes; Saint-Emilion; Pomerol; and Fronsac. The book is a beautiful coffee table-quality book that is also a detailed travel guide packed with spectacular photography, entertaining stories, and a very educational journey into exploring Bordeaux, with food and wine adventures in the cities of Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, plus a beach getaway on the Medoc Atlantic Ocean and a side trip to Cognac and a cooperage (where barrels and casks are made).

I spent 21 weeks in Bordeaux, France, over three years researching, during spring, summer, and fall harvest times, working with people who are at the forefront of wine and wine hospitality ... researching, writing, designing, and producing this spectacular book. It is a one-of-a-kind insider’s guide to Bordeaux’s wine regions like never seen before. If you have any interest in Bordeaux wines, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or other Bordeaux varietals, and especially if you want to travel to Bordeaux, this book is exactly what you need.

This book details all the information you need to travel to the Bordeaux wine regions. Names, addresses, phone numbers, websites, email addresses, languages spoken, and more ... of the wineries, hotels, restaurants, and other culinary opportunities. Also, numerous outdoor activities. Twenty-nine maps of the regions are included. Winemakers, agronomists, oenologists, sommeliers, chefs, and more are included throughout the book. With each winery is the entire lineup of each chateau’s wines.

This book is written for both the beginner wine lover and the advanced wine professional. Even if you do not drink wine, this book offers a variety of extraordinary experiences in culinary, romantic, cultural, and outdoor adventures. The book starts with the basics of winemaking and the basics of what makes Bordeaux special in the wine world. And for the experienced professional, this book digs deep into the micro-appellations and subregions and their special terroir and characteristics. Innovative and cutting-edge oenologists provide their insight into making unique and spectacular wines. It is a 494-page education into the rich heritage of the French wine and culinary scene in Bordeaux.

TA: In the book, you simplify the process of choosing and tasting Bordeaux wine. Can you tell us how to do that?

Higgins: I am not sure choosing Bordeaux wines is simple. Bordeaux is complex. In my book, I help my readers understand the different terroirs -- Bordeaux wines are all about the terroir -- to discover what is most attractive to their palate. Then within the appellations of choice, I lead my readers to the wines and wineries that they should explore to optimize finding their favorite wines.

Editor’s Note: For additional wine inspiration, read up on the nine best Temecula wineries to visit, Thrace, Turkey’s wine route: 11 perfect stops, and seven beautiful hidden vineyards in Paris.