While it is not often considered, there is usually a fascinating story behind a bottle of wine – where it came from, how it was made, how it is best served to maximise its flavour and many other points of interest.
Among the many and varied shore excursions which are delivered with every APT European river cruise, if you have an interest in these wine stories, you may wish to plan your holiday around one of the brand’s several specially themed ‘Wine Series’ cruises, which take place in different parts of the continent in order to accurately tell the unique stories associated with each individual region.
Cruise Advice was recently onboard with APT on part of a Wine Series cruise between the ports of Budapest and Amsterdam. The itinerary featured Wine Ambassador Nathan Waks from the Kilikanoon label in Adelaide’s iconic Barossa Valley, during which he hosted guests at a number of wine-based events.
Nathan introduced himself to guests at dinner on the first evening of the cruise and invited all guests to approach him anytime if they wished to talk wine, as it was a serious passion. Later in the cruise, Nathan demonstrated his other passion of classical music at a special cello performance, on which he was a trained and experienced cellist.
The first wine tasting event took place in the small Austrian town of Durnstein, situated in the picturesque Wachau Valley – famous at a major centre for the country’s wine industry. Guests eager to participate in the tasting event were walked by local hosts to the local monastery, where long tables were set up with a fresh bread roll at every place.
We were introduced to Nick, a local wine maker who also acted as a tour guide in English, French and German, was a certified organic vegetable grower, worked for the state at harvest time and most importantly, conducted wine tasting tours for APT Wine Series guests.
After a brief introduction to the local area and its rich multi-generational wine history, Nick spoke about how the local weather systems, soil quality and altitude combine to affect the growing of the region’s grapes, which contribute to what he said was a unique local flavour.
The first wine served was a fruity white with 12.5% alcohol, which Nick said was a summer wine, designed for drinking outside on a hot and sunny day, with minimal effect. He said the beverage included apples in its make-up and that the age of the apples affected the taste of the wine in terms of its acidity.
Next up was a 13% Austrian Riesling, which Nick said was a very subjective drop as it can be made in a variety of ways, with many different twists to affect the final flavour. Guests then learned a technique on how to separate the flavours of a Riesling through oxidation – keep the wine on your tongue, purse your lips and make a kissing noise to separate the acidity, sweetness and dryness.
The final wine of the session was a red, which Nick said was fairly difficult to make in the Wachau Valley due to its colder climate for much of the year. However as the grape roots run deep into the ground – 15 metres in some places – meaning they can access water from the nearby Danube River and therefore never need to be watered.
After leaving the tasting, guests then had a few hours to explore Durnstein at their own pace, wander among the shops and eventually be back onboard in time to set sail once again.
Later in the cruise, Nathan Waks took control again at a special wine tasting dinner held at dinner one evening while the ship sailed on to its next destination. Working with the ship’s chef, Waks specially selected a number of special wines which complemented each dish, with three groups of wines per course shared among almost the entire passenger contingent.
Guests were able to partake in as many of the wines in each group as they wished, with each group comprising a range of Sémillon, Mataro, Riesling, Rosé, Shiraz, Cabernet Savignon and Dessert Wines. Waks presented each wine individually, spoke briefly about each, answered questions and visited tables to talk to guests about their personal choices and findings.
If you’re looking at a river cruise in 2017, there are still staterooms available on one of four Wine Series itineraries scheduled for next year.
Each cruise will feature a different Australian wine expert, each one attached to a well-known label and an expert in not just their own products, but also in the finer points of how a great bottle of wine is blended. All cruises will also feature plenty of home-grown product from that particular wine maker’s label for travellers to try at several onboard tasting sessions.