As I mentioned in my Wineries at Harvest Time article, August is the beginning of harvest season in many locations throughout the world. What better way to explore these vineyards than by traveling to them on a floating hotel? Well, riverboat actually. River boat cruising is increasing in popularity throughout the world from China and Vietnam, to Egypt, India, Europe, and even the Continental US.
The benefits to traveling by boat on your next vacation are numerous, but perhaps topping the list are convenience and cost. Your river boat is small enough to navigate shallow waters and even dock in remote towns and locations previously only accessible by land through various transfers via land transportation. On a river cruise you only have to unpack once - your hotel travels with you as you explore exciting destinations along your route. The savings are also significant. Many river cruises are all inclusive - you pay the cost of your cruise and every expense is covered for entire duration of the trip. Port charges, taxes, gratuities on-board and off, excursions at your stops, meals, and beverages are all included in the one fare.
The quality of the river cruise experience is unsurpassed. Many river cruise companies pride themselves on providing the pinnacle of luxury service. On-board butlers trained where Buckingham Palace butlers receive their training? Why yes, they have that. You’ll usually only be on board with 130-165 guests, so you’ll enjoy an unusually high staff to guest ratio, ensuring impeccable service. Do you enjoy the latest in fine dining? Many cruise lines have gardens on the ship for the chefs to access. Others tout the farm to table experience, so you’ll see your chef scouring the local markets in port for the freshest ingredients, providing you with a dining experience reflecting the local cuisine. You give up nothing by traveling by boat, but rather, gain comfort and quality in choosing to so, immersing yourself in the food and culture of your destination.
Themed sailings provide yet another appeal of river cruising. Wine themed cruises abound in the world of river cruising. Select sailings will feature winery owners or sommeliers as special guests on board to host wine tastings and lectures. Shore excursions on these sailings feature visits to local wineries and tasting rooms, as well as the usual must see sites along the route. Beer themed cruises are popular as well, and excursions complement this special interest. But it isn’t all food and wine. If you are a history buff, river cruising is for you, as well. Sailings will take you to the UNESCO World Heritage sites you have read about and always wanted to visit. Is gardening your passion? How about a river cruise to see Holland at Tulip time? Is adventure travel more your style? We’ve got you covered there, too. Art themed cruises will have you walking in the steps of Van Gogh, appealing to artist of all ages and abilities. The options are endless and the destinations and itineraries are limited only by your imagination.
Family, friends, and special interest groups should consider river cruising together. You can be together or on your own as much as you like. Meals together on board but different tastes in excursions can be the perfect combination of together and alone time. On many cruise lines as few as eight or ten people constitute a group sailing and put you in a position to receive additional discounts on your cruise fare, special on-board perks like private cocktail parties, or customized excursions tailored to your group’s unique interest. Group cruising is also a fantastic way to raise money for your small business or non-profit. What better way to reinforce customer or donor relations than traveling together? As the leader you get to travel free of charge while you build those bonds and generate revenue for your business or cause.
River cruising is for everyone. The destination options are vast. It’s not too late to book your river cruise vacation for this year (think shopping at Holiday Markets in Europe), or plan the perfect one for next year. If you think you might see a river cruise in your future, please contact me. I would love to discuss matching you to the perfect river cruise line and itinerary for you. As a travel professional, I pride myself on customizing travel for each of my unique and distinguished travelers.
Grape harvesting season is the pinnacle event for wineries and vineyards across the world. North of the equator this occurs between the months of August and November, but down South you can expect it to take place sometime between February and April. As the grapes ripen in the summer up until the time of harvest, the variable conditions greatly affect the quality of the wine in that year’s given vintage.
Deciding when to pick the grapes is key. Sugar and acidity must be balanced, not only for the palette, but these affect the alcohol content of the wine as well. Stems, the wine skin, and the seeds all play a part to determine the tannins present, and all of this very time sensitive work. Throw in the variable of mother nature where too much rain, a hail storm, or a frost can wipe out an entire year’s crop, and you begin to understand the complexities of and true art form required of vintners.
Traditionally, harvesting was done by hand, but many vineyards have transitioned to mechanical harvesting for speed and cost savings. However, this increases the need for a good sorting as machines cannot distinguish between ripe, immature, or rotten grapes, or sort out bugs, leaves, and dirt. This is now also mechanized by using optical laser sorters that can determine undesirable grapes and debris and clear it from a conveyor belt by means of a blast from an air cannon.
While most of the mass produced wines have gone to mechanical harvesting, high quality wine producers still use the preferred method of hand harvesting. Workers armed with nothing but a sharp set of shears and a basket or bin make their way through the rows of grapes selecting only those deemed ready to harvest. This method is also imposed on steep hillsides where mechanical harvesting is impossible, such as in Germany’s Mosel Region. These grapes too must be sorted – you may be familiar with the French term triage.
Once sorted, the grapes are ready for destemming and crushing. While there was a time when many feet made light work, it’s highly unlikely you have consumed wine that was crushed underfoot. Wineries today use automated crusher-destemmers which crush the grapes open to expose the flesh and pulp but not the tannin heavy stems and seeds.
Wine harvest season is a perfect time to travel and experience first-hand both traditional and modern methods worldwide. Whether it’s the steep hillsides of the Mosel Region in Germany, the vineyards along the river banks in Bordeaux, or the beautiful wineries in Italy, these are trips that oenophiles will never forget. It’s not too late to plan your perfect getaway to wine country. In any country.
Let’s connect soon to plan your perfect trip!