For anyone who loves wine, Europe is a great destination. Home to 7 of the top 15 world-wide producers, you’ll find wine regions in just about every country producing a variety of high quality wine. Many are under the radar, largely because production is small and consumed locally.
Europe is also a great destination for river cruising – a perfect pairing with wine experiences. Following are 9 wine regions you can visit while on a European river cruise (listed in no particular order).
The Alsace region is located in eastern France along the Rhine River, on the border of Germany. This historic region offers a great mix of German and French cultures. Wine producing dates back to 58 BC when the Romans conquered Alsace.
The Alsace is famous for its white wines. 90% of the region’s production is white, primarily Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner Gewürztraminer and some Pinot Gris.
River cruise itinerary: Rhine River. Highlights include visits to Strasbourg (and their famous winstubs) and Colmar (famous for their historic half-timbered houses).
The UNESCO listed Wachau Valley is located in the narrow 20 mile stretch of the Danube River between Melk and Krems, Austria.
The region, with a unique combination of soil, microclimate and winegrowers’ crafts, is known for their dry white wines, in particular Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. Wachau is dominated by small producers, much still harvested by hand – high quality but limited quantities.
River cruise itinerary: Upper Danube. Highlights include visits to Melk Abbey, Durnstein and Krems. (Photo credit Avalon Waterways)
BURGUNDY AND BEAUJOLAIS
The Burgundy region in France is located on the west side of the Saone River (which meets the Rhone River in Lyon), between Dijon in the north to Macon in the south. In between you’ll find Beaune – Burgundy’s wine capital. The Beaujolais region lies south of Burgundy and just north of Lyon.
Pinot Noir (about 30%) and Chardonnay (60%) reign supreme in Burgundy. Beaujolais vineyards are primarily planted with the Gamay variety.
River cruise itinerary: Rhône River. Highlights include visits to Lyon (the gastronomy capital of France) and Avignon, renown for the Palace of the Popes and home to the famous Châteauneuf du Pape wine.
The Douro Valley region is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. It is located in the northern half of Portugual on the Spanish border, based around the Douro River. It is best known for their bulk wine production of dry table wines, and also a renown Port wine producing region.
River cruise itinerary: Douro Valley. Highlights include visits to numerous vineyards, palaces and the UNESCO site of Salamanca. (Photo credit AmaWaterways)
The Mosel is the most famous of Germany’s 13 wine regions, and is considered to be Germany’s oldest region dating back to Roman times. It is also one of or possibly the steepest wine region in the world. The Mosel is famous for its Riesling wines, which range from bone dry to sweet.
River cruise itinerary: Rhine and Moselle. Highlights include visits to Cochem, Bernkastel and Trier, Germany’s oldest city. (Photo credit AmaWaterways)
The Bordeaux region is located in southwest France, centered by the city of Bordeaux. The region is naturally divided by the Gironde Estuary into a Left Bank and Right Bank area. Bordeaux is mainly a red wine region, with Merlot (66%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (22%) varieties in the lead.
Fun fact – in ancient days Bordeaux was famed for its white wine – the transition began in 1970’s. And vines that make Argentina and Chile famous are originally from Bordeaux cuttings. (Merlot, Carmenere and Malbec)
River cruise itinerary: Bordeaux. Highlights include the UNESCO sites of Bordeaux’s city center and famed St. Emillion, beautiful chateaux and the overall gastronomy experiences of the region.
The Pannon region is one of Hungary’s 22 wine regions, located in the south not far from Croatia. The Szeksard sub-region dates back to the middle ages. Red varieties have dominated the region since the 15th century. The area is known for their elegant spicy reds including Blue Frankish (Kékfrankos), Kadarka and Bordeaux varieties.
River cruise itinerary: Lower Danube (Balkan region). Highlights include the Iron Gates Gorge, the UNESCO site Pécs, Budapest and Serbia’s capital Belgrade.
Saxony is Germany’s smallest wine and eastern most wine region, located on the Elbe River. The region dates back 800 years, though wine production was first mentioned in the 1100’s. Sachsen wines are typically dry, white varieties. Low yields and high demand locally make them difficult to find outside the region.
River cruise itinerary: Elbe River. Highlights include visits to Dresden, Meissen and the beautiful Bastei rock formation in Saxon Switzerland.
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