I recently had the pleasure of taking the AmaWaterways’ Enchanting Rhine River cruise, which winds its way through several countries and 2 important wine regions: Alsace and Rheingau in the Middle Rhine Valley. The AmaKristina passes romantic castles, picturesque villages, and the stunning sloping terraced vineyards that produce the region’s signature wines.
RECOMMENDED POST: Idyllic Towns Along The Alsace Wine Route
The cruise was not a themed wine cruise, per se, but with excursions to and through vineyards, wine tastings and excellent wine selections paired with gourmet meals onboard the ship, there was ample opportunity for wine education and appreciation.
Alsace is a utopia for white wine grapes because of its dry, sunny yet cool climate. It also has the most diverse geology of all of Europe, resulting in near perfect conditions for producing white grapes that are aromatic and high in acidity. Of the 7 wine varieties in Alsace, 6 are white: Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Muscat d’Alsace.
While white grapes are king in Alsace, the region is too far north to do reds much justice, thus only one of the 7 wine varieties is red and it’s used to make Pinot Noir.
While the area’s most prestigious and widely grown grape is Riesling, and it is thee wine to discover while in Alsace – and I definitely did – I was able to visit a few vineyards and tasting rooms to taste many of the other varieties.
I tasted a Muscat Cuvée, Pinot Noir and a Grand Cru Riesling at Domaine Martin Schaetzel, and I think I tasted everything else at Domaine Gustave Lorentz, including the Gewürztraminer for which it is best known.
Rheingau is in the Middle Rhine Valley in Germany. This 65-kilometer stretch of the Rhine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of castles, vineyards, historic towns and one of Europe’s most important transportation routes.
Cruising this section of the Rhine was definitely a highlight of the cruise as we passed 8 locks one day (we passed 12 over the course of the entire cruise), and all the castles and countless pretty little towns and villages on another. It didn’t hurt that the day we passed the castles was one of the nicest days weather-wise of the entire cruise.
It was also cool to pass Sankt Goarshausen and Lorelei Rock – famous large rock on the bank of the Rhine River – since I’d been hiking with some friends there a couple of years ago.
The Middle Rhine Valley is one of Germany’s greatest wine-producing regions. Like Alsace, the steep hillside vineyards produce the excellent Rieslings Germany is known for.
One of the AmaKristina docking locations was the famous winemaking town, Rüdesheim, where we had the option of a hike through the vineyards or a gondola ride and wine tasting.
I chose the latter and was rewarded with sweeping views of Rüdersheim’s vineyards followed by one of the most entertaining wine tastings I’ve ever been to.
In between jokes and jesting, the vintner explained that 80% of the grapes grown in Rüdesheim are Riesling, which are harvested by hand because the vineyards are too steep to use machines. He then presented three wines: 2 Rieslings, and a white wine variety, which is a blend of Riesling and Silvaner.
Rüdersheim is also home to the famous – or maybe that should be infamous – Rüdesheimer Coffee, a traditional coffee drink made with coffee, sugar flambéed Asbach brandy, whipped cream, and chocolate flakes.
Sinfully delicious, and a wonderful punctuation to our time in the Rhine Valley.
The wine experience was not limited to the vineyards and tastings in the towns where we docked, but extended onboard the ship as well, and was combined with an exceptional dining experience.
Guests of the AmaKristina had the option of dining in either the main dining room or the more exclusive Captain’s Table Restaurant where wonderful, gourmet meals are paired with regional wines. Other wines that were always included on the menu were Californian wines.
While this may seem curious to some, there are several areas in California, including Mendocino and Santa Barbara, which have the ideal climate to grow Riesling grapes. I’d never associated Rieslings with California, so it was interesting to do a sort of old-world vs new world comparison.
Have you ever visited the wine regions along the Rhine River?
If you’re interested in taking a river cruise with AmaWaterways, visit the website for more information.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Enchanting Rhine River cruise courtesy of Backroads Travel and AmaWaterways. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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