Rollin’ on the River in French (Wine) Style

Sipping Bordeaux wine, visiting a historic chateau, viewing the green French countryside with plenty of time to pause to appreciate the good life – this is the experience on the new Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary aboard Viking River Cruises’ 190-passenger Viking Forseti.

The one-week cruise through the Bordeaux region doesn’t go very far, because there’s not very far to go. From the city of Bordeaux we set off to explore two rivers, the Garonne and Dordogne, as well as the estuary, the Gironde. The longest stretch is only about 42 miles.

But water is not the reason to come to Bordeaux. The rivers and Viking’s modern Longships are vehicles for access to the region of Medoc, including Pauillac and the prestigious Margaux appellation; the medieval town and surrounding vineyards of Saint-Emilion; and Cadillac in the Sauternes region.

Wine lovers are correct to whet their palates. We have indeed been doing plenty of sipping, including of complimentary Bordeaux wines poured with the nicely prepared, French-influenced shipboard meals.

There’s been some spitting too – at included wine tastings (though it may be some sort of sin to spit good Bordeaux).

Off-ship excursions show off grape vines as far as the eye can see, small towns where everyone seems to be in the wine business, and stately wine chateaux – plus such historic sites as the 17th-century citadel, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Blaye. (Wine aside, there is plenty on this trip for history lovers to like, too).

A visit to a chateau provided a glimpse into the Bordeaux winemaking process – and, of course, opportunity for more tasting.

A dinner prepared by the shipboard culinary team at the lovely Chateau Kirwan – where sips accompanied excellent onion soup topped with puffed pastry, a salad with smoked duck breast and duck confit, and veal tenderloin – was our grand welcome to the region.

Viking includes such excursions in the cruise fare. There are also more intimate experiences – such as a day at a truffle farm in the Perigord region or a lesson in blending in the town of Cognac – available for about $150 to $200 per person for a full-day outing with lunch. (Based on the truffle trip, it’s worth every penny).

The slow-paced itinerary affords passengers time to embrace local culture on their own – including perusing wine shops and pausing for respites at outdoor cafés.

The Bordeaux route was launched in March, and has already proven so popular that Viking will have two ships there next year.

It’s France. There’s wine. What’s not to like?