European Wine Themed River Cruises from AMA Waterways
Whether youre a passionate newcomer to wine tasting, or a seasoned connoisseur, AMA Waterways has recently had to increase the number of wine themed cruise packages they offer, due to extended public demand. As reported by Travel Weekly, the number of river cruises they offer will increase from 12 to 44.
The companys new ship, AMAKristina, will launch on the Rhine, next year in 2017, to help provide the extra accommodation needed. As well as being equipped with all the usual luxury facilities customers have come to expect from AMA, the boat will also include more private suites and balconies. So what is proving to be so appealing about these grapeinspired river cruises?
Visiting the highlights of the particular wine region youre in is a given. Youll see the grapes being grown, find out how individual soils help create unique tastes and walk around some of the finest wine cellars in Europe. There will be lectures on board your boat, given by a number of expert wine hosts and of course, plenty of tastings, both on the deck and in various wineries. You will also enjoy meals which have been paired with specific wines to show you how certain foods can bring out the flavour of a wine and vice versa. If the amount of wine provided all gets a bit too much, alternative excursions are also available in order to give you or your partner a day off. Instead of going to another tasting, youll join a group for a tour of a castle or a local attraction. In this post were going to take a look at various wine growing regions around Europe and the cruise routes that runs through them as offered by our travel partner AMA Waterways.
Your journey begins in Paris, where youll board your luxury sailing vessel on the Seine. Youll be welcomed on board with your first glass of wine of the trip, but were not going to spoil the surprise here of what that wine might be! Your 7 day cruise will get going with an on board wine tasting and lecture from guest wine expert and before you know it, youll have arrived in the Chateau de Bizy for a tour of the royal residence and its grounds. This excursion will be followed by trips to a couple of destinations made famous by the impressionist artist, Claude Monet, who lived for most of his life in Giverny and put nearby Honfleur on the map, through his depictions of the place in his paintings. Then the tastings begin in earnest. Youll try Benedictine, a drink which was originally acclaimed for its supposedly medicinal properties, at the Fcamp Monastery and youll try cider and Calvados in Normandy. A well loved part of the cider route, here youll see apple orchards and timbered houses lining the streets.
In Rouen, youll enjoy a Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner, with wine pairing. This is a chance to experience amazing French cuisine, paired with its perfect alcoholic accompaniment. At the Chateau Gaillard, its likely youll try a local Bordeaux blend wine of a Saint Emilion grand cru. Your trip will end with a few nights in the French capital, Paris, where youll enjoy a champagne tasting and a trip to the wine museum.
Bordeaux is one of the best loved wine producing regions in France, producing some of Europes finest and most highly acclaimed wines. Your first destination will be Cadillac, a village just south of Bordeaux, famous for its sweet and medium sweet tipples. Its said to be the morning mists that rise from the river which aids the fungus here and gives the grapes their distinctive taste. The main grapes grown here are of the semillon, sauvignon and muscadelle varieties. Next up will be a mdoc tasting in Pauillac; an area with gravel, clay and limestone-based soils which produces fine cabernet sauvignons and merlots. Those of you who would prefer a day off the grapes, may choose to take a tour of the citadel at Blaye instead. In Libourne youll be encouraged to try the famous reds of the Saint Emilion region, which is characterised by its steep limestone slopes. The alternative excursion is to the Chateau de Montaigne. The following tasting will specialise in reds again, primarily merlots, cabernet sauvignons and malbec. This time the wine, from the Cotes du Bourg area, is just as high a quality, but a little less pricey. Your river cruise will end with a trip to the underground cellars of the Bordeaux wine museum and a taste of Chambord, a liqueur made from black raspberries in the Loire Valley.
Provence and Spain
Bordering on one another as they do, France and Spain share landscape and wine growing regions, so it makes perfect sense for AMA Waterways to offer a luxury river cruise that takes in the wines of these two countries. Your trip will begin with three nights in Barcelona, to help you start adjusting your palette to more western European tastes, before you embark on your sailing vessel in Arles, a town made famous by the demise of artist Vincent Van Gogh. Youll begin your tour in Les Baux in Avignon, where the reds and ross pick up flavours from olives and herbs growing nearby. Youll no doubt get the aroma of blackberries and olives when you try it. Next up is a visit to one of the most prestigious French wine producing villages, that of Chteauneuf-du-Pape . The sandy and pebbly soil here combined with Mediterranean temperatures, is typical of the Rhne Valley and creates great conditions for growing grapes such as Grenache, Syrah and Mourvdre. As youll have developed your palette even further to enjoy the finer tastes in life, youll enjoy your next trip, to a truffle farm in Vivier all the more. Hermitage wine in Tournon is next on the menu. With its firm tannins, this deep wine is often associated with the north of the Rhne. The alternative tour is to Fourvire , where there are a number of fascinating Roman ruins. Finally youll end up enjoying a vineyard tour and tasting of the famously single grape variety; Beaujolais. This fruity red hails from below Burgundy and is produced using just the gamay variety of grape. A famous quirk of Beaujolais is the fact that its drunk almost as soon as its harvested, without a need for it to sit around in a barrel for a prolonged period. Beaujolais nouveau, the freshest variety, is hotly anticipated as soon as it hits the marketplace, immediately after production.
Moving further west, this cruise will take you along the river Douro in Portugal and introduce you to some of the worlds finest port wines. This region is recognised by UNESCO, not just for the quality of its tipples, but also for being an area of outstanding beauty, so as you sail past, be sure to drink in the view. You will spend three nights inLisbon at the beginning of your tour, allowing you to explore this city crammed full with art and incredible culture, before being welcomed aboard your vessel with a glass of wine in Porto. In Porto there are over 50 different port wine lodges, many of them with names which will be familiar to you, such as Graham, Taylor and Cockburns. Youll visit the beautiful Alpendurada monastery and the Palacio de Mateus, an illustration of which forms part of the iconic label on the Mateus port wine bottles. The valleys of the Douro are associated with unfortified reds, whites and roses, which are produced from a large variety of different grapes, grown on steep slopes, in granite-heavy soils and which are protected from bad weather by the surrounding mountains, upon which most of the rain falls, taking the moisture away from the vines. There will be a wine tasting in the famous Quinta do Seixo area, where many of the main vineyards are located, as well a further tasting in Pinho .A final tasting will take place in Lixa Pier and this time the wine be a vinho verde, a young and slightly fizzy wine with origins in the north of the country.
Were moving East now, towards Central Europe. This river cruise takes in the delights of the wine growing regions along the banks of the Rhine. Your holiday will begin in Amsterdam, before you reach the Rhine Gorge and the castles along it. The first tasting will be in Rudesheim, an area whose grapes stretch up into the Taunus mountains in very steep vineyards, which produce very fine rieslings in the sedimentary soil there.Youll enjoy a tour of Heidelberg, another city famous for Riesling and Pinot noir and Strasbourg which forms part of the Alsace wine route. Its said that the oldest wine in the world resides in a cellar here, dating back to 1472. After a trip to either Breisach or Freiburg in the Black Forest region, youll spend a few days in Switzerland, taking in Basel, Zurich and Lucerne.
Prague is a romantic city and its here youll begin your AMA Waterways tour. Regensburg is next on your schedule, before enjoying Vilshofen, Passau and Salzberg. However its in Weissenkirchen that your wine tasting will begin in earnest. Youll whet your appetite with some Benedictine from the Melk Abbey before sampling some of Austrias finest wines from the Wachau Valley. Riesling and Gruener Veltliner are the big names in grapes here and they grown on steep terraces, in rocky soils. The fruity flavour is due to the microclimate that exists here creating hot dry summers and tough, cold winters. Romance is certainly very high on the agenda for this cruise, because the next city on the itinerary is Vienna. Here youll enjoy the very best in Viennese wine, some of which have been grown in vineyards that have flourished here since medieval times. These pinot varieties come from earthy soils and create brilliantly distinctive flavours, such as those of Viennas premiere wine; the Wiener Gemischter Satz.
If you fancy learning a bit more about wine to impress your friends, or youd like to refine your already educated palette further, then you can book one of the wine themed river cruises mentioned in this blog post. Please dont hesitate to get in touch. Our team at Aspen Travel, will certainly be able to answer all your travel questions (if not your wine ones!) Give us a call and well give you all the information you might need to simplify the booking process for you.