With the end of summer and changing color of the leaves comes a fairy tale time in the French annual calendar, the wine harvest season. It is a festive time of year across France, providing excellent opportunities for foodies and wine lovers alike to experience some of the country’s best cultural and gastronomic traditions. European Waterways’ guests have the chance to enjoy numerous experiential excursions such as a truffle hunting adventure deep in the heart of the French countryside, as well as a private lunch and tasting at the world renowned Bouchard Pére et Fils winery in the Burgundian wine capital of Beaune.
“Autumn in the South of France is a special time to cruise,” said Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways. “It is the season of change, the season of color, and the season when local traditions, intimately tied to the harvest, are on full display. Our hotel barges cruise right through the heart of it, all over the country, every year.”
Wine and Dine
One of the most prominent events throughout France in the fall is the wine harvest, the gold and red leaves indicating that another vintage is ready to be plucked from the vine. Thousands of people converge at vineyards around the country to help pick and sort the grapes – and drink the wine! European Waterways’ guests can participate in many of the celebrations that pay homage to the time-honored rituals of the season. Activities include guided tours of historic cellars, wine and food tasting, live music, and gourmet dining at area restaurants.
The eight-passenger hotel barge Finesse, herself a byword in luxury, is also an excellent vessel from which to experience the wine harvest. Cruising Southern Burgundy, guests can enjoy a private wine tasting and gastronomic lunch in the elegant setting of the Puligny and Chassagne Montrachet vineyards, as well as a guided tour and subsequent tasting at the beautiful Château de Chamirey.
The Languedoc region of France is today at the forefront of experimental French winemaking, making it a very exciting place to be in the fall. Cruising through the South of France on the historic Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 8-passenger Anjodi and the 8-passenger Enchanté are ideal for exploring the harvest season.
The harvest arrives later in September and early October in the Alsace & Lorraine region. Guests can revel in the festivities aboard the 12-passenger Panache, which explores the famed Route des Vins d’Alsace and features private wine tastings and hearty Alsatian cuisine. Panache guests can also enjoy a ride on the famed Arzviller boat elevator and admire the colorful autumnal surroundings as their boat is hoisted up the slope on this mechanical marvel.
Making a Good Impression
For guests who are particularly keen to hunt truffles in France, October is one of the best times to go, with the 12-passenger L’Impressionniste the ideal “floating boutique hotel” for the occasion. Other itinerary highlights include cruising through the postcard-perfect Ouche Valley and visits to historic cities such as Beaune, the unofficial “wine capital” of Burgundy, and Dijon, Burgundy’s ancient capital. Rates on L’Impressionniste start as low as $5,150 per person, based on double occupancy.
“You can’t get ‘closer to the land’ than truffle hunting, which calls for much digging in the forest!” said Banks. “Our excursions and cruise routes are all carefully designed to immerse our guests in the authentic traditions of the land.”
European Waterways offers last-minute specials during this time of year which can be as high as 20% off the listed price for select cruises. For more information, visit them at www.europeanwaterways.com.