The World’s Best River Cruises for Wine Lovers
Sailing along the mighty rivers of Europe can be a delight for the palate as well as the eyes. A new generation of river cruises will allow demanding passengers to taste the land of the noble grape variety: fine Austrian sekt; Chilled tawny port; and Franconian Riesling in northwestern Bavaria.
Imagine the scene: you gaze out from your lavishly appointed balcony suite as you glide past beautifully designed landscapes and 18th century Quintas dotted across the emerald hills, just as your butler arrives with a glass of Veuve Clicquot and a smoked salmon croissant.
]It’s safe to say that the unwarranted image of river cruising as some sort of floating retirement home where passengers all sing along to the Hokey Cokey has been completely overturned, with ultra-luxurious gourmet dining and deep cultural immersion.
Here are some of the most lavish, hedonistic and gourmet cruises through some of Europe’s most spectacular locations.
Cruise along the Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne aboard Uniworld’s SS Bon Voyage outfitted with fine French art, crystal chandeliers and handcrafted railings, plus the only infinity pool on a boat European river cruise.
From Bordeaux, you’ll travel to Blaye and Bourg on the right bank and head north into the Charente region to visit the famous Rémy Martin estate – producing cognac for nearly 300 years. Sip three different cognacs and discover how Rémy Martin chooses its spirits from the best regions of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne aged in bicentennial oak barrels.
You can also take a drive through Margaux to the tip of the 80 km long Médoc peninsula, passing the famous vineyards of Châteaux Mouton Rothschild, Latour and Pichon Baron.
Downstream, cruise to dessert wine country at Cadillac and sample the flavors of Sauternes before stopping at Château de Cazeneuve for an artisanal tasting inside this 14th-century polygonal fortress beloved of the royal family ( it was a personal favorite of King Henry IV of France).
Continuing to the pretty town of Libourne, you can walk along the steep cobbled streets of the St-Emilion hill for more wine tasting, and top off your trip back to Bordeaux at La Cité du Vin, the premier cultural center of the region presenting the heritage of wine through interactive exhibitions, shows and seminars.
Book it: Uniworld’s seven-night Connoisseur Collection Brilliant Bordeaux cruise departing July 31, 2022 from £3,699 pp (uniworld.com).
Wander the cobbled streets of Budapest, Hungary’s bustling capital, and you’ll arrive at the gates of your floating palace, ready for a journey along Europe’s second longest river, the Danube. This cruise will take you through Austria, the Czech Republic and southern Germany, with stops in Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Melk and Vienna.
Marvel at the maze of natural caves and age-old man-made passages at Buda Castle, and go for a wine and cheese tasting at Faust Winery, including some from the famous Tokaj wine region.
As you sail to Austria, you can head to the halls of Vienna’s Liechtenstein Palace for a private concert of Viennese classical music paying homage to the works of Strauss or Mozart while sipping on a glass of fine Austrian sekt.
Further upstream in Melk, visit the magnificent 18th-century Benedictine abbey or head to the Loisium winery for a tasting of Austrian wines before navigating an underground maze of 900-year-old cellars. Here, you can take in the modern multi-sensory spectacle with its vibrant colors and piercing fountains immersing yourself in the lives of winemakers of yesteryear.
Book it: Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours eight-day Danube Gems cruise departing April 11, 2022 from £2,120 pp (scenic.co.uk).
Navigate off the beaten track and stop off at Rhône Valley vineyards like those of E Guigal and its Renaissance-style Château d’Ampuis that spills out onto the banks of the Côte-Rôtie appellation.
In the southern Rhône you will find the famous French village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a place immersed in all things viticulture, where the remains of the 14th century “Palais des Papes” dazzle the surrounding forest of vines.
Wander the winding lanes past medieval houses and stop at a cozy café in Place de la Fontaine, with stunning views of Mont Ventoux, nicknamed the “Giant of Provence.”
Taste produce from local vines grown on the Rolled Pebble Land, famous for its rounded pebbles that absorb sunlight during the day and reflect heat back to the grapes at night, and hike along the west side of the village, taking in visiting superb wine estates such as Château la Nerthe – one of the largest vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape housing a sumptuous 18th century mansion.
If you want to delve a bit more into the history of local wine, be sure to check out Maison Brotte’s interactive wine museum, which showcases a plethora of winemaking tools with audio-guided tours and opportunity to taste his award-winning, full-bodied reds.
Book it: Viking’s eight-day river cruise of Lyon and Provence departing July 12, 2022 from £2,595 pp (viking.com).
AmaWaterways built a bespoke luxury vessel in 2019, specifically designed to cruise along the Douro River in northern Portugal. Aboard the AmaDouro, you’ll pass terraced vineyards and dramatic hills that line the waterfront.
Stretching over 900 km from its origins in the Spanish mountains near the town of Duruelo de la Sierra, the Douro is the third longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, where travelers can walk, fish or sip a drink from Porto in one of the many surroundings. fifths.
Departing from Porto, hunt some of the city’s landmarks like Porto Cathedral and dig into a traditional Portuguese lunch and port tasting in the river port town of Entre-os-Rios.
Upstream in Lamego, make a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios by climbing a flight of nearly 700 steps with a glass of Portuguese sparkling Espumante waiting for you at the top.
The Douro itself is a veritable place of pilgrimage for wine connoisseurs – think of hiking vineyards and charming little farmhouses, there really is no better way to marvel at steep terraced vineyards than to the water.
Book it: AmaWaterways Seductive seven-night Douro wine cruise aboard AmaDouro, departing 13 August 2022 from £3,690 pp (amawaterways.co.uk).
Taste the dry, full-bodied, and earthy flavors of the Franconia wine region and the classic Rheingau and Moselle wine regions as you cruise along the Rhine. Heading north from Bingen, past the city of Koblenz and the Siebengebirge hills towards Bonn, you’ll cruise past steep slopes of vineyards, lavish residences and imposing castles.
In the Middle Rhine, more than 70% of the grapes are white and the locals produce beautiful sparkling sekts; elegant and racy whites; and intensely sweet, late-harvest and dessert styles.
Admire Wilhemine architecture on your way to the Kochbrunnen in Wiesbaden and take a sip of hot spring water while overlooking the beautiful Rhine Valley, before cruising to Rüdesheim, famous for its medieval charm and the exquisite Abbey of Eberbach.
Spin through the Moselle Valley and stop at the wine towns of Cochem and Trier before ending your trip in Bernkastel home to the Moselle Wine Museum with over 150 wines from the Moselle, Saar and de la Ruwer, all hand-selected by a panel of sommeliers.
Book it: Emerald Cruises legendary eight-day Rhine and Mosel river cruise departing 12 June 2022 from £1,595 pp (emeraldcruises.co.uk).