If Wine Is Your Happy Place Historical Overview The history of wine spans thousands of years and is closely intertwined with the history of agriculture and Western civilization. Cultivation of grapes for wine production began in China around 7000 BCE before spreading to the Near East. European expansion in the 15th century increased wine production and consumption across the globe Whether you’re taking a European river cruise vacation on the Rhône River through southeastern France, or Northern Portugal’s pristine Douro River Valley, it is easy to see how Europe is the most famous continent in the world for wine production. Not only does Europe have the longest history of winemaking, but the countries of Europe produce some of the finest wines in the world. From Beaujolais to Avignon, from Amsterdam to Zurich, there is a surprising degree of versatility in European wines, which vary from country to country, from region to region, and from producer to producer. While Europe is known for its classical wines, some of the most cutting-edge, modern wines are being made in Europe at this time. Top Wine Regions to See by Boat Though you can see a great many cities, villages, and crumbling ruins by car and train, the most breathtaking way to tour and experience the European wine country is by river cruise. AmaWaterways offers several river boat cruises through the most charming and important wine regions in Europe. 1. Provence and Spain (on the Rhône)
Figure 5. Rhône Wine River Cruise takes you from Barcelona to Lyon. A high speed train takes you up to Paris.
The Rhône River, on the Iberian Peninsula, is the only major river flowing directly to the Mediterranean Sea and is thoroughly Alpine in character. Various sources believe the first vineyards in Spain were cultivated on the southwest coast of Andalusia, which may also have been the entrance point for the first vines reaching the peninsula. More
recently we have seen a new generation of master winemakers blending and creating distinctive wines of high quality that are achieving great success across the globe. Further north, there is evidence that the early inhabitants of Provence, France used indigenous vines to produce wine before the Phocaean Greeks arrived in what is now modern-day Marseille in 600 BC. By the time the Romans reached the area in 125 BC, the wine produced there was already enjoying success beyond the local region. Over time, the viticulture and winemaking styles of the Provence developed and matured through the influence of a wide range of people, rulers, and cultures. Today, the renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Avignon remains one of the most prestigious wines in the world.
2. The Seine River Region
Figure 2. Paris & Normandy - Seine River Wine Cruise takes passengers from Paris to Rouen and Fecamp.
The first evidence of French wine comes in the 6th century BC, with the Greek colonization of Southern Gaul. Wine production burgeoned after the Greeks founded the colony of Marseille. During the Middle Ages, monks cultivated vineyards and safeguarded wine-making knowledge and skills during a very unstable time in history. Not only did monasteries occupy protected land, but they also had motivation for producing a steady supply of wine for celebrating mass and generating income for the Church. The Seine and its iconic bridges and riverside walkways throughout the Paris have inspired artists, writers, and musicians for centuries. Whether sipping an apple brandy in the Calvados or enjoying a Bénédictine herbal liqueur in Fecamp, the leisurely pace of your Seine River cruise offers many opportunities to savor Normandy’s distinctive wines and spirits. Three More Wine Regions to See by Boat Now that we’ve explored the Rhône and the Seine River Regions and touched on the variety of wines produced there, it’s time to explore further east into Germany and Austria, and South into Spain and Portugal. There is archaeological evidence of grapes growing in both regions as far back as 4000 BC. Under Roman rule, Spanish wine was widely exported and traded throughout the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, Austrian viticulture was nurtured by the Church and encouraged
among the populace at large. In 1359, Vienna established itself as a center for wine trading on the Danube. 1. The Rhine River Region
Figure 1. The Enchanting Rhine - French River Cruise takes travelers from Amsterdam to Basel
German winemaking was practiced as far back as 100 B.C. when the ancient Romans conquered the region and began producing wine just east of the Rhine, cultivating local varieties by using winemaking practices learned elsewhere. In 400 A.D. Romans build the largest wine press ever found north of the Alps. Nearly four hundred years later, Charlemagne and the spread of Christianity is thought to have brought winemaking eastward to Rheingau. As Christianity spread across Medieval Germany, churches and monasteries upheld the tradition of winemaking and cultivated many of the vineyards that are standing today. In fact, the worldâ€™s oldest winery, Schloss Vollrads in Rheingau, continues to produce its famous quality Riesling wines and just celebrated its 800th vintage. Wineries abound throughout the Rhine Valley and passengers aboard a Rhine River cruise will experience the flavorful products at some of Germanyâ€™s oldest and most renowned vineyards. 2. The Danube River Region
Figure 4. The Romantic Danube connects Austria with Slovakia and Hungary.
Austrian wine production dates back to 700 BC when the Celts and Romans first cultivated the lands around the Danube River region, which was well-suited for viniculture. Winemaking in Austria took a serious hit after the fall of the Roman Empire, but in 788 AD, Charlemagne rekindled production and even brought new grape presses to the region. Today, Austria boasts 51,000 hectares of vineyards and thousands of wine producers. The wine regions in the East include Kamptal, Kremstal, and Wachau. These regions are known for their Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. Styria, in southeastern Austria, is known for producing superior Sauvignon Blanc. The Danube is one of the world’s most romantic waterways. Your Danube river cruise flows eastward through Austria’s fabled Wachau Valley, a wine region long revered for its natural beauty, abundant medieval abbeys, and enticing white wines.
3. The Douro River Region
Figure 3. Enticing Douro - takes wine lovers from Porto to
Portugal and Spain launched into winemaking circa 2000 BC when the Tartessians occupied the Sado and Tagus valleys. Ten centuries later, the ancient Phoenicians migrated to the Western Mediterranean with new grape varieties and winemaking techniques. Over time, subsequent settlers spread viticulture and winemaking further north into what is now the Douro River region. Over time, trade opportunities between Portugal and England grew as the sweet dessert wine known as Port became increasingly popular in England. By the late 20th century, sweet, sparkling rosé wines from Portugal achieved global success. Commencing at the mouth of the Douro River in Porto, the Douro River cruise winds through twisting canyons, past laboriously terraced vineyards, and into villages untouched by time. You will learn about the centuries-old methods used to make Portuguese wine and try several red and white Douro wines, including the sparkling “green wine” of the Minho Province. Company Bio
As a leader and innovator of the river cruise industry, AmaWaterways is proud to provide its customers with a fleet of custom-designed vessels. With beautiful and adventurous river cruises throughout Europe, Russia, Asia, and Africa, there is an incalculable amount of life-enriching adventures to be had by all. Enjoy some of the worldâ€™s greatest cruises on luxurious ships boasting innovative designs, spacious and stylish staterooms, premium amenities, exceptional cuisine and impeccable service. At AmaWaterways, we are proud to set new standards for the river cruising industry year after year. For further information, please visit www.amawaterways.com.
Published on May 7, 2014
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