You don’t have to know brix from clicks to appreciate a wine cruise on the Danube. But whether you’re an amateur or a wine pro, you’re sure to come away with a new appreciation for good vintages.
And on an Ama Waterways In Celebration of Wine cruise, and we didn’t have to look far to find opportunities to celebrate. Wine cruises and tasting events are long-standing specialties of AMA Waterways on their European river itineraries.
Some days, tastings on AmaCerto were scheduled as early as 10 in the morning, accompanied by presentations from wine makers on the nuances of blending tipples.
After a couple of samples, I even started to grasp wine-making concepts like stir rates and malolactic fermentation. But then things could become hazy again after a few more refills of the finished products. No matter, though. I decided to leave the making to the experts and just enjoy the results.
And boy were there wines to enjoy.
Weisswein–white wine—has been the main produce of the towns in Austria and Germany along the Danube for over 1,000 years. With such a long tradition, vintners are proud of creating distinctive local specialties, many of which are made in such small batches that they aren’t exported outside the region—which made the tastings we did almost daily at the great cellars in cities along with river rare treats.
The guest lecturers on the cruise make wines in relatively small batches, but they brought plenty of it on board for tastings.
On this cruise, we were hosted by the Honig family, which runs the Honig Vinyard and Winery in the Caymus region of California’s Napa Valley. Michael Honig, who took over the winery from his dad at the age of 22 has become a proselytizer for sustainable production and quality over quantity. His wife Stephanie was on board as well, sharing the lecture duties and describing the subtleties of blending wines.
Michael started specializing in producing sauvignon blanc in 2000– a time when chardonnay was the only white variety many people knew. In the warmth of California, sauvignon blanc grows more fruity and less acidic than the well-known varieties of New Zealand, he explained.
As the cruise went on, we had complimentary tastings daily and nightly. And on AMA cruises there are complimentary wines for every lunch and dinner. So I felt I had improved my taste buds in m week on board.
I hardly qualified as a pro, though. One day on board the wine team organized a game in which we were to try to identify 20 different flavors in wines. I understood what they meant by a hint of mango or lemon but got totally lost trying to pick out whether the tang in a red was blackberry or black currant or black raspberry.
Not that it mattered. The prize in the game was–guess what– a bottle of wine and the winner of the game shared it with all of us.
We all agreed that the real fun of wine is enjoyment and not forensic analysis. Our AmaCerto cruise from Budapest to Regensburg on the Danube was indeed a great celebration of wine.