Cruising in France with Tauck might include a wine tasting stop at Chateauneuf-du-Pape in southernmost France. // © 2014 Tauck
Feature image (above): On AmaWaterways’ Enticing Duoro sailings, guests sample wine at Quinta do Seixo in Portugal’s Douro Valley. // © 2014 AmaWaterways
Many travelers, including those who cruise the rivers of North American and Europe, equate wine with culture, as well as the polish and sophistication they hope to bring home from their travels. These travelers are eager for the opportunity to acquire fine vintages and the knowledge that goes with them.
A couple making their second river cruise in Europe expressed the interest in buying local wines along the way. They explained the delight in bringing a bottle of wine to friends back home, serving it with just the right dishes and having a story to tell about where the wine was purchased.
Capitalizing on that interest, vineyards and wineries from the state of Washington to Germany, Portugal and France are hosting visits; explaining their vintages; offering tastings of old and new harvests; and serving lunch with their wines to passengers on river cruise ships. Experts onboard explain the fine points of wines from Alsace to Washington on rivers and regions whose names have strong appeal in the world of wine including the Rhine and the Mosel, Bordeaux and Burgundy.
In port, guests walk in the vineyards, taste wines in castle cellars and rustic taverns and return home with cases of wines and knowledge of the people who produce them.
Here’s an overview of river cruises designed for wine lovers, offered at a variety of price points and in different wine-growing regions.
AmaWaterways’ “In Celebration of Wine” itinerary offers wine cruises showcasing the acclaimed wine regions along Europe’s Danube, Douro, Mosel, Rhine, Rhone and Seine rivers in company with award-winning winemakers from generations of wine-making families. The company’s “Chateaux, Rivers and Wine” itinerary explores the rolling hills along the rivers that have for centuries produced France’s famed Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Sauternes, Medoc and Margaux wines. Guests can opt for an optional tour to the medieval Cognac, France, and try their hand at blending their own brandy.
Avalon’s 11-day “Burgundy and Provence” itinerary, offered twice next year departing March 29 and Oct. 25, sails between Paris and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera). The itinerary includes two days on land before passengers embark on a seven-day cruise that includes wine tasting in Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy and an architectural delight with its geometrically patterned roofs.
Next year CroisiEurope launches a new ship on the Loire River, a shallow draft vessel that will sail overnight cruises on the river. Loire Princesse will travel in the footsteps of history from Nantes in France to the Muscadet Wine Route, with a white wine tasting in the cellars of the Chateau Cassemichere (or similar) along the way. In addition to a number of overnight stays that allow guests to explore the dining and nightlife in port, the itinerary will visit the castles of the Loire Valley and include tastings of Anjou wines produced in the region.
Tauck’s 10-day “Taste of France on the Rhone” features three days in Paris before a culinary exploration that includes a wine tasting in Viviers, a Provencal country-style dinner with regional wine sampling in Avignon and a trip to a chateau for more wine tasting in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Un-Cruise is introducing a weeklong “Ameritage! Four Rivers of Wine & History” itinerary in 2015. The wine-centric itinerary sails roundtrip from Portland, Ore., on four departures. The cruise will visit nine wineries in the Pacific Northwest including Springhouse Cellar Winery, Maryhill Winery, Bergevin Lane Vineyards, Dunham Cellars, Terra Blanca and the Sunshine Mill Winery, giving guests broad experience of top Pacific Northwest vintages.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Uniworld’s weeklong “Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux” river cruises sail roundtrip from Bordeaux as part of the line’s Epicurean Adventure program, from March through November 2015. The itinerary gives oenophiles the opportunity to experience hosted tastings of Medoc vintages, talk with Sauternes winemakers, take cellar tours in Saint-Emilion and enjoy a wine-pairing lunch at a chateau.
Viking River Cruises
Viking sails the Douro River with the 10-day “Portugal’s Rivers of Gold” itinerary. The sailing gives guests access to regional wines and ports from the vineyard to the tasting room. Quinta do Seixo, a port winemaking institution, is among the dramatic World Heritage sites and old fishing villages that guests will experience along the itinerary. Other features include lunch at Quinta da Avessada, a century-old winery in the heart of the Douro’s wine district.