Updated: Aug 23
River cruises in Europe take you through some of the most spectacular wine regions in the world, many of which have existed since ancient times and have deep cultural traditions.
In the corner of southwestern France, the Garonne and Dordogne rivers merge together to form the Gironde Estuary that naturally divides the famous Bordeaux region into Left and Right banks. A Bordeaux itinerary takes immerses you in impressive wine-growing areas and their signature blends. Bordeaux is the largest controlled wine region in France, made up of several subregions. Each subregion has its own strictly governed appellation, unique climate, and terroir that define it. Unlike most wines around the world, the quality of Bordeaux wine is determined by these factors rather than the grape varietal. Producers combine many grape types together to create food-loving blends. While Bordeaux is acclaimed for its legendary red blends, the small percentage of white blends from this region also make a big impression. The left and right banks of the river have different soil types that bring these exceptional blends to life.
The curvy nature of the Seine River can be disorienting when you’re in Paris. Not to worry, just remember to face downstream so you can tell the Left bank from the Right. A Paris & Normandy cruise itinerary is about as romantic as it gets, beginning with views of the art-inspiring “City of Light” that morph into the lush countryside and historic Normandy beaches. With countless vineyards close by, France’s second-largest waterway allows us to sample some of the country’s most renowned wines and ciders. The wine variety that instantly characterizes northern France comes from the Champagne region, about 90 miles east of Paris. Stemming from chalky soils and cool temperatures, these sparkling varieties produce a sweet effervescence and unparalleled quality that merit exclusive classification as the one-and-only wine known as “Champagne.” Another specialty drink is found closer to the English Channel. Normandy’s fruit-filled orchards are picked and pressed into a rich cider brandy called Calvados. Made from over 170 apple and pear varieties, this rustic spirit is distilled twice and barrel-aged for at least two years before bottling. The result is a palate-pleasing liqueur bursting with complex apple elements and hints of cinnamon spice.
The Rhone River makes its first appearance in the Swiss Alps and then runs through the heart of France to join the Mediterranean Sea. Besides providing captivating views of medieval towns and colorful landscapes, it connects the dots between thousands of vineyards from Lyon to Avignon. A river cruise here takes you through this prized wine-producing region in southeastern France, known across the globe as the Rhone Valley. The valley traces the path of the river for almost 150 miles, hypnotizing travelers with grape-covered vines gripping its steep sides. Since it’s so large, the climates vary greatly from north to south – as does the soil and wine quality. Thus, the Rhone is divided in the town of Valence into two worlds of wine: the Northern Rhone and the Southern Rhone.
Land near a river, and naturally protected by mountain ranges, inspired winemakers to plant vineyards along the Douro, but wild landscapes and nutrient-poor soil made this an extremely difficult task. The birthplace of port wine would simply not exist today if it hadn’t been for the centuries of determined winegrowers who laboriously carved rows of vines into the steep, dramatic terrain. Their efforts proved worthwhile. Angled, rocky terrain just so happens to be ideal for the growth of grapes. Over the years, the magnitude of the Douro Valley wine region has grown remarkably and it is now divided into three parts. Douro itineraries cruise through all three sub-regions, giving you a taste of Northern Portugal’s famous ports and table wines.
Moselle, Main, and the Rhine
Historic villages, medieval mansions, and towering hillsides wrapped in vineyards are just some of the scenery that overlooks the river’s edge from Nuremberg to Luxembourg. Choose these river itineraries that include the Moselle, Rhine, and Main rivers to discover some of Europe’s most fascinating scenery while dabbling in the remarkable wines grown in Germany. For over one thousand years, a wide variety of tantalizing wines have been surfacing from the special soils of the Franconia region, alongside the Main River in Eastern Germany. These grapevines benefit from a continental climate with a Mediterranean influence, which is ideal for growing grapes. Both dry, fruity white wines and rare, decadent reds are made with superb quality here.
Castles from ancient empires and steep vineyards sprout up from every angle, which makes cruising on the Rhine River feel like entering a scene out of a storybook. Actually, there are more charming castles along this river than any other in the world. Rhine itineraries wind through the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland, diving deep into the history and wine regions of this vital waterway. Prepare to be amazed by the white grapevines that coat the vertical surfaces of the Rhine Gorge in Germany, also known as the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. Famous for maintaining quality, grape-growing traditions date back to Roman times, and this area yields some of the country’s best wines. Distinctly elegant Rieslings and fine, subtle reds are a result of the region’s unique, slate-based soils and semi-continental climate
Europe’s second-largest river begins in Germany and touches ten countries before emptying into the Black Sea. Brilliant architectural masterpieces and vine-strung hillsides on the Danube River have inspired artistic creations for hundreds of years. Danube itineraries journey through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary so passengers can experience some of the most celebrated wines and sights in the heartland of Europe.
No matter where your cruise takes you in Europe, you’ll be sure to sample some of the region’s most renowned wines and associated culinary delights. Let me help you choose the itinerary that’s right for you!