Europe's Greatest Journey for Wine Lovers

Rhine River
Photo by Harald007/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Jeannine Williamson, The Telegraph, October 17, 2018

If you love wine then you’ll savour a cruise on the Rhine. The Rhineland-Palatinate area produces 70 per cent of German wines and encompasses six of the country’s 13 wine regions – a total of nearly 159,000 acres of vineyards.

The most scenic is the Middle Rhine running through a Unesco-listed valley lined with castles and home to the legendary Loreley Rock.

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Most wines are white – up to 90 per cent in the Moselle region – and varieties include aromatic Rieslings made from the “queen of grapes”, delicate Silvaners and more intense Müller-Thurgau. Among the red wines are full-bodied Spätburgunders, deep red Portugiesers and dry Dornfelders.

Read more: Telegraph Travel's Rhine River Cruise Guide

Itineraries

The majority of Rhine cruises are seven-night sailings between Basel and Amsterdam, or the reverse, with many mouth-watering stops along the way. The pretty wine-making town of Rüdesheim is a highlight and the narrow 15th century Drosselgasse is filled with weinstuben, or taverns, and vine-clad terraces serving local wines.

A cream-topped Rüdesheimer coffee made with local Asbach brandy is also a must. Afterwards enjoy a bird’s eye view of the vineyards with a cable car trip to the Niederwald Monument.

The family-run Wagner vineyard is the largest in the Middle Rhine and its wines can be sampled at Weinhaus Wagner in Koblenz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle.

Travelling down the Moselle, Bernkastel-Kues has the interesting interactive Mosel-Vinothek and Wine Museum where visitors can embark on a virtual flight over the vineyards and taste wine in old cellars.

You can’t fail to spot the Cologne Wine Museum as it has a vineyard planted with vines from more than 40 grape varieties on the roof. Inside, the museum traces the history of wine from Roman times to the present day.

The French region of Alsace is well-known for its Gewürztraminer wines, which can be sipped in atmospheric bars in the historic half-timbered Petit France district of Strasbourg.

And, of course, if you sail on the Rhine during the festive season you’ll find warming glühwein in the Christmas markets.

Events

The Rhine region hosts hundreds of wine festivals between spring and autumn, with the peak season being August and September. The festival in Bernkastel-Kues over the last weekend of August is famous for its colourful vintners’ parade and crowning of the wine queen.

The main annual festival linked to river cruises is Rhine in Flames, marking the wine harvest season. Held over five weekends from May to September, huge firework displays light up the river at different locations and castles and historic buildings are lit up at night.

Around 75 illuminated vessels – Europe’s largest parade of ships – sail from Spay to Koblenz. Operators including A-Rosa (a-rosa.de/en), Shearings (01942 614777; shearings.co.uk) and Saga (0808 274 7163; travel.saga.co.uk) run themed sailings to coincide with the event.

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Notably, the River Cruise Line’s historic vessel The Lady Anne (the oldest hotel boat on the Rhine) will sail with the flotilla during its two seven-night Rhine in Flames itineraries departing September 10 and September 17, 2019. The third cruise, departing August 6, 2019, will include the option to visit the Ahr Valley, Germany’s most northerly wine-making area, to sample the region’s red wines. From £820pp for all departures. (01858 438330; rivercruiseline.co.uk).

Which river lines are the best for wine cruises?

On most cruises drinks are included with lunch and dinner and different regional wines will be served daily. Unlike ocean cruises, river lines allow you to bring bottles back on board so you can sample Rhine wines along the way.

AmaWaterways’ 2019 programme includes 16 dedicated Rhine wine cruises hosted by wine experts who will host talks, tutored tastings and visits to cellars and vineyards, which are all included in the fare. (0800 320 2335; amawaterways.co.uk).

Titan Travel’s exclusive vessel MS Serenade 1 is offering excursions to Cochem Castle for wine tastings and to discover how grapes are manually harvested from the steep vineyard slopes on sailings departing June 1, August 2 and 12 and October 22, 2019. (0808 250 6361; titantravel.co.uk).

Emerald Waterways features an on board wine lectures and two wine tastings – one in the Würzburg’s beautiful Bishop’s Cellar – on its Legends of the Moselle, Rhine and Main cruise. (0808 115 8568; emeraldwaterways.co.uk). Amadeus River Cruises is featuring the special Riesling and More itinerary, departing September 12, 2019. It will include three tastings at different wineries, wine talks, a meal showcasing Alsace wines and a wine pairing gala dinner. (0800 035 6411; amadeus-rivercruises.co.uk).

Boppard’s Castle Vollrads is an excursion on Uniworld’s Castles along the Rhine cruise and passengers are accompanied by a local wine expert for a tasting and to learn about the castle’s winemaking legacy dating back to 1211. (0808 168 9110; uniworld.com).

Riviera Travel has partnered with Masters of Wine Susie Barrie and Peter Richards who join selected cruises, including a 14-night sailing taking the Middle Rhine and departing on October 19, 2018. (01283 742 300; rivieratravel.co.uk).  

Read more: Telegraph Travel's Rhine River Cruise Guide

 

This article was written by Jeannine Williamson from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

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