“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”
Wine is among the oldest human indulgences – dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. Bottles of wine were buried in the Pharaoh’s tombs so they could entertain guests in the afterlife, the most elite ancient Greeks had access to wine, and the Romans created a beverage industry with wine bars and exports.
Today we refer to European wines as “Old World” varieties, for their ancient practices, vines and soil. Holland America Line offers terrific access to vineyards and experts to give guests a fabulous taste of the old world, while experiencing the beauty of each region. From Portugal to Croatia and bubbles to digestifs, there is something for every wine lover.
Great wine is a part of Italy’s heritage. On Italian itineraries guests can tour Medieval Siena and then enjoy an Italian lunch and wine tasting overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Or pop Prosecco in the Marca region, and gaze upon the vineyards at Matsaxlokk, Malta.
If you’ve been to Florence, Pisa and Lucca before this is a great alternative excursion. The owners of the winery were welcoming and the food and wine (which kept coming) were excellent. Our guide Alessandro kept us amused on the journey with light-hearted information about Italy.
-Milly, Herfordshire, England.
A Sommelier-Guidied Wine Tasting at Messina is a perfect opportunity to experience Sicilian Wines. The tour visits San Placido Caloneró Abbey and samples a red wine from the Faro DOC, a white wine from the Mamertino DOC, and a dessert wine from the Malvasia Delle Lipari.
Madeira is a fortified wine that is unique to Madeira Island, Portugal. Guests who call at Funchal, Portugal, have a chance to learn about and taste this well known wine in its home. The Wine Tasting at Sao Tiago Fortress takes a tour through the capital, visiting churches and walking the quaint, narrow streets before arriving at the Fortress of Sao Tiago for a lesson in Madeira wine.
The Spaniards are known for creating spicy reds, acidic whites and bubbles! A Taste of Valencia: Requena Wine Cellars focuses on the effervescent white white that the region is known for: Cava sparkling white wine. Requena is a small Gothic city located about 30 miles inland from Valencia with a rich history of wine making. The cellars have more than 100 years of production history. Here guests can tour the town and San Salvador Church, and dine on wine and light snacks. You can even bring a bottle back with you.
On the southwestern coast of Spain lies Cadiz. The climate in the area lying between Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa María and San Lucar de Barrameda in the province of Cádiz contains a special combination of soil (the chalky, crumbly, moisture-retaining albariza) from which sherry is produced. Guests can take the tour Cadiz, Sherry & Horses to not only taste great wine, but witness the phenomenal production of the Royal Andalusia School of Equestrian Arts. This is a lesser known bit of Spanish culture, an institution protected by the Crown where the best horses are taught to dance to music!
One guest said:
“This excursion turned out to be a highlight of our fantastic cruise. We had not expected to see the fabulous show in the arena featuring beautiful Andalusian horses. It was amazing!! We were also given time to see the horses up close. We also enjoyed the visit to the sherry cellar.”
The classic wine drinker will be thrilled to tour perhaps the most famous wine region in the world, Bordeaux, France. The meticulous Médoc region, just north of the city, produces wines that are nothing short of divine — Moulis, Listrac, Saint Julien, Saint Estèphe, Pauillac, Médoc and Haut Médoc, as well as Margaux, with the celebrated château of the same name.
The St. Emilion Village & Vineyards is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the heartland of the Merlot grape, one of the most popular in consumption. The vines on the “hill with a thousand châteaux” reach right up to Saint Emilion’s 13th-century town walls and surrounding moat dug out of solid rock. Members of the local wine brotherhood, the Jurats, proclaim the vintage banns in much the same way as their ancestors did during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.
Those looking to taste something a bit stronger can head to Cognac and sip its famous namesake brandy. This tour includes a trip to Hennessy, the instantly recognizable brand of Cognac enjoyed worldwide.
For a fabulous snapshot of Greece, Holland America offers a shore excursion that tours Ancient Olympia & Mercouri’s Vineyard’s. To the east of Katákolon lies the mystical site of ancient Olympia. Guests tour the great ruins of the temples, treasuries, porticoes and statues before continuing to Mercouri Estate to experience the beauty and charm of the vineyards, to see the old and new wineries and to taste the locally produced wines.
Renae from Houston, Texas, took the Ancient Olympia & Mercouri’s Vineyards shore excursion and said:
“Pretty fantastic. At the end of the winery tour, there’s a tasting underneath the trees with views of the ocean in the background. Our table had a bottle of red, a bottle of white and a lovely snack of salami, olives, feta, bread, olive oil, cucumbers & tomatoes. We were back in time to spend a couple of hours just outside the pier to explore shops & cafes. Ancient Olympia is a must see and it’s a bit outside of town so may as well take a tour. Our guide, Saskia, was wonderful!!!”
Holland America Line offers trips to expand your palate and your horizons! Have you visited one of these wineries on a HAL cruise? Let us know what you think in the comments!