My homework began before I’d even packed my suitcase. Viking offered all passengers using the Longship Forseti’s “Châteaux, Rivers & Wine” cruise with a list of proposed looking through that spanned French literature, record, art, wine, and food stuff. A several weeks later on, collapsing on to the mattress of my modern, Nordic-type stateroom, I paged by means of an introduction to Bordeaux’s wine locations although surveying the selection of in-area wine instruction movies. My head was already spinning with grape types, terroir, châteaux, and appellations. Would I at any time be equipped to bear in mind all this? Is it achievable to flunk a cruise?
Which is when I built the clever conclusion to just grab a glass and have entertaining. For the future 8 times, I drifted together on an exquisite 443-foot oasis, joining 141 other passengers for a light navigation of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, as very well as the Gironde estuary the place the two rivers satisfy. It was like a lavish floating faculty with wine-soaked industry excursions. (I was delighted to discover that quite a few of my fellow visitors ended up retired academics.) Our itinerary took us to the historic river cities of Cadillac, Libourne, Bourg, and Blaye, with shore excursions led by regional pro guides to Sauternes, Périgord, Cognac, St-Émilion, and beyond. Every working day, the ship’s chef provided a new menu of French specialties complemented by an considerable wine list with offerings from Bordeaux châteaux that turned much more common by the working day.
Mainly because of COVID-similar travel disruptions, a number of of my fellow travellers had been waiting decades to ultimately choose this cruise, and they were being decided to appreciate it. For the duration of our early-June sailing, we began each individual working day with PCR assessments right before putting on our needed masks. Continue to, we had been a merry, vaccinated bunch, and as we sniffed, swirled, and sipped our way by means of Bordeaux, the classic toast, “À votre santé!” felt extra correct than at any time.
Our onboard lectures, guided tastings, and travels among the the vines were aimed at untangling the complexities of the region’s 65 AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) designations. Excursions to the Still left Financial institution, Suitable Financial institution, and Entre-Deux-Mers heightened our sensory experiences with the region’s varying soil circumstances and microclimates, bringing the terroir to lifetime. Even the “Viking Daily” publication, sent each night time to our cabins, offered tips on foodstuff-and-wine pairings and deciphering French wine labels. I appreciated reading through it whilst nibbling on a tiny canelé de Bordeaux (customarily produced with egg yolks discarded when egg whites were being made use of to make clear wine) presented by the ship’s crew.
Our first winery take a look at — to the qualified-natural Château Guiraud in Sauternes — dispelled any fears I had of snooty formality. The environment at the premier grand cru classé estate was a friendly blend of tradition and modernity, with winemakers harnessing the transformative electricity of botrytis (noble rot) to generate a sensitive, sweet wine that defied my expectation of syrupy Sauternes. Yet another working day, I joined a small group on a vacation to Christine and Pierre Chaminade’s Domaine Truffier de Saleix, the place we adopted the nose of Really like, their Belgian Malinois puppy, to unearth some of the elusive black truffles of Périgord. Afterward, we savored a lunch distribute featuring truffles, walnuts, and goat cheese at the close by Auberge de la Truffe just before continuing to the village of St-Émilion. We arrived as the late-afternoon light-weight turned to gold, with just ample time to stroll the cobblestone lanes.
Another highlight was touring to Cognac for a tour and lunch at Camus, owned by the similar loved ones for 5 generations, exactly where we had a opportunity to mix our own exclusive blend of Cognac to bottle and take residence. Back again in Bordeaux, I dashed along the quay to take a look at the Cité du Vin, an interactive museum extravaganza that pours out the complete story — from climate and terroir to vine, wine, bottle, transportation, taste, and support. A whirlwind tour to Médoc and Margaux — rolling past Château Latour and Château Lafite Rothschild, with a rapid stroll at Château Margaux — culminated in a tasting and tour at Château Prieuré-Lichine and a multicourse meal at Château Kirwan that involved lobster bisque, duck terrine, pâté en croûte, beef filet, and balsamic pear and chocolate cake, together with wine pairings.
On the final day of the cruise, my nerves had been on edge when I joined a Wine Tasting Learn Course at the Wine and Trade Museum of Bordeaux. To my reduction, our trainer was amusing, the tone was mild, and I managed to bumble my way as a result of. Afterward, we ended up each individual presented with a gilt-edged certificate of achievement. As I clutched my prize, I commenced pondering a return excursion to France to carry on my wine education — mainly because mastering hardly ever tasted so great.
Eight-day Châteaux, Rivers & Wine cruise from $2,399, vikingrivercruises.com