Wine for elevenses? It’s almost obligatory when sailing on a Rhône wine cruise in France. How do you fancy a relaxing morning being taken to the local vineyards to see the vines tumbling over the hillsides, before sampling the various wines the local vineyards and wineries have to offer along the Northern and Southern Rhône?
As well as the stunning views of medieval towns and colourful landscapes, the Rhône River winds its way between the many vineyards that line its banks from Lyon to Avignon.
A Provence itinerary on a Rhône river cruise takes you through this prized wine-producing region in southeastern France, known throughout the world as the Rhône Valley. You’ll also get to savour some delightful wines from the Beaujolais region just to the north, where the Rhône meets the river Saône. The valley traces the path of the river for almost 150 miles, with views of grape-covered vines gripping its steep sides. Since it’s so large, the climate varies greatly from north to south as does the soil and wine quality.
The Northern Rhône
The Northern Rhône is a smaller wine growing area than the South, but still offers prestige wines. Offering a continental climate with granite soils and grows Syrah grapes used in the famous Hermitage wines, so impressive that it’s the only red grape grown in this region to create the full bodied, rich and tannic wines, the white wines are made from Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.
The Southern Rhône
A warmer climate is enjoyed in the Southern Rhône with hot summers and mild winters. This larger sub-region is responsible for nearly 95% of the entire region’s wine, including a wide range of everyday whites, rosés and Grenache-based red blends from the more commonly known Côtes du Rhône appellation. The south also creates a variety of powerful, high-quality reds and whites in areas like world renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
What to expect on a Rhône wine cruise
Whilst on a Rhône river cruise you can look forward to sampling some of the hand selected local wines recommended by the on board wine host with your evening meal. Wine tasting of course goes hand in hand with talks on winemaking and other activities including an evening excursion in Vienne pairing red wine and delicious chocolate at Chateau De Tournan , A hike in the vineyard of Tain- L’Hermitage followed by a visit to a local vineyard to sample the wine, whilst in Avignon you can either visit Pont Du Gard an impressive roman aqueduct or take a Provencal cookery lesson before wine tasting at Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, that give an insight into the local gastronomic traditions and history of the local area you are sailing through.
Away from the vineyards, there’s nothing quite like a visit to the Carrières de Lumières—an impressive underground art show held at a limestone quarry near the town of Les Baux. You’ll be surrounded by colour and light from every angle at this stunning visual exhibit, which brings famous paintings to life as they are projected against the rock faces of the quarry.
A visit to Avignon, where truffles are a highly prized delicacy sometimes referred to as “the diamonds of the kitchen.” No man or machine can locate them, only specially trained dogs can detect their scent beneath the roots of certain types of trees such as oak, beech or hazel. You can take part in this authentic and unique experience on a visit to a Truffle farm.
And finally no visit to this area would be complete without a wander around the streets of Arles, one of France’s most beautiful cities, where Vincent Van Gogh lived and painted such well known pictures including “Starry Night” and “The Irises”