Who of us does not enjoy the enchanting and relaxing sensation of a good glass of wine? Now imagine drifting, floating, as if almost dreamlike...down the very same valleys that begot those wines. The warm sun on your face, the chill glass between your fingers and your friends at your side, as you explore the ageless vineyards of Europe's wine valleys.
The histories of these plantations are counted in centuries, sometimes millennia. These cruises will let you grasp a tiny part of this odyssey, the perfecting of an art to deliver the nectar in your glass.
Douro Valley, Portugal
If you have ever drunk wine from Portugal, chances are it was from this region east of Porto, the country's second-biggest city. The Douro river is flanked by endless terraces of vines of many different varieties, depending on the topography: Touriga Nacional, which brought back from the brink of extinction in the 70s; Touriga Francesa, the most widely planted varietal, Tinto Barroca, planted in the higher altitudes; and Tinot Roriz, more commonly known to wine-drinkers by its Spanish name, Tempranillo. The intense sun ripens the grapes, developing the future wines' distinctively robust aromas, while precipitation and humidity from the Atlantic contribute to the valley's microclimate, and the wines' distinctive terroir.
A trip down the Douro is a special treat, where you will encounter innumerous roadside markets, selling the freshest fruit and vegetables. Moreover, the colourful facades of typical Portuguese towns will greet you. A unique feature of these old mansions are their "azulejos" or intricately painted tiles, usually blue on white, but sometimes bi or tri-colored.
Why not join us on an exclusive trip basking in the white light of the Iberian sun and enjoy the historical (and gastronomic) highlights of this cultural powerhouse that is Portugal.
Wachau Valley, Austria
While accounting for only 3% of the total output of Austrian wines, the Wachau Valley is its most renowned wine growing region. Between the towns of Krems and Melk, the Danube winds its way through a picturesque valley that is the scene of vineyards ancient castles and abbeys. Within it, a very specific climate makes it particularly well-adjusted to the creation of fine white wines. Its daytime temperatures are relatively high, which enables the build-up of sugar in the grapes, and at night, a sharp fall in temperatures helps preserve their acidity and aromas.
The Vinea Wachau Nobilis districts were founded in the 13th century, and to this day, their charter is respected rigorously by the winemakers of the region. Within the Wachau families of white wines, you will find 3 categories, based on their alcohol level: Steinfeder, the lightest, followed by Fersterspiel and Smaragd, which have a 12.5% alcohol content.
Any trip down this valley should not (entirely) be spent in a Grüner-induced daze, as there are UNESCO World Heritage Sites - the village of Durnstein - as well as the Benedictine Abbey of Melk and the town of Grein. This is only a brief portion of our all-inclusive cruise through Central and Western Europe; much more awaits you before reaching your destination.
Rhine Valley, Germany and France
The valley of the Rhine is home to one of the world's longest-running vineyards, be it on the French side or the German. The river that serves as a border today, the Rhine, has been used for centuries precisely for the transport of the region's wine production. Today, Alsace is a French “département” but in its fraught history, it has changed hands many times.
The Vosges mountain range to the west of the river shields the vineyards from the maritime breezes, exposing the vines to a drier, more continental climate. Colmar, a city in the middle of Alsace, has the lowest precipitation in France. Without a doubt, this region creates some of the best Rieslings and Gewürztraminer wines, all bottled in their distinctive "flûtes d'Alsace" green glass bottles. The winemakers have banded together under the denomination "vins d'Alsace" regardless of the varietals used. A small part of the production uses Pinto Noir grapes, not forgetting their own sparkling wine, the "Crémant d'Alsace". A growing number of vineyards have even started late-harvest wines, in much the same tradition and techniques as Canadian Ice-wines.
Our exclusive, all-inclusive cruise along the great rivers Mosel and Rhine traverse this region, opening up the opportunity to savor these wines in their surroundings.
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