If Wine Is Your Happy Place
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 world’s oldest winery, Schloss Vollrads in
Rheingau, continues to produce its famous quality Riesling wines and just celebrated its 800th
Wineries abound throughout the Rhine Valley and passengers aboard a Rhine River cruise will
experience the flavorful products at some of Germany’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
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.
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 world’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