Wine and cheese tastings are expected and delivered on barge cruises, making them a paradise for gastronomes and oenophiles. But, did you know barge cruising offers several types of tastings? Sure to please the palates of urbane explorers wishing to enjoy an authentically European and epicurean experience…. drumroll please… Barge Lady’s Top 5 Tastings in Barging…
1) Champagne…IN Champagne! — Aboard the Saroche, barge owner and host Jason Ashcroft takes guests to Meruil sur Ay, home to many famous Champagne houses, but none more so than Billecart Salmon. Independent, family-owned, and founded in 1818, Billecart-Salmon creates remarkable Champagnes with great finesse, delicacy, and balance. Lucky passengers will have a private tour of this last remaining independent large Champagne house, followed by a delectable tasting. Bottoms up for the Barge Lady!
2) Olives — Along the Canal du Midi, the barge Athos soaks up the Southern French sunshine, as do the local olives! A tasting of freshly pressed olive oil at the Oulibo, the local olive oil pressoir, is akin to a drop of liquid summer on your tongue. Guests will take a stroll in the heart of a converted olive grove as part of an escorted tour, which covers all the seasons of the olive, the benefits of the olive, stages of preparation of olives, and olive oil. The tour ends with an olive and olive oil tasting. It’s an odyssey into the world of olives!
3) Truffles — Deep within the Provence region on the Napoleon, guests go behind the scenes to one of the world’s most secretive business – truffles! A tour of a Provencal truffle plantation allows a select few to learn how truffles are cultivated and how truffle dogs are trained, along with tips on how to clean, store, and cook with truffles. A look for France’s elusive “black gold” with professional hunters is followed up with a sampling of fresh truffle hors d’oeuvres and truffle oil, accompanied by a glass of champagne. The Barge Ladies love when secrets are this delicious!
4) Whiskey — A wee dram is the perfect welcome to Ireland! Aboard the Shannon Princess, an afternoon visit is made to a local whiskey distillery in the the lively River Town of Athlone. Dating from 1757, the Kilbeggan Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world! Take a visit to the old warehouses and enjoy a meet and greet with onsite distillers. Of course no tour is complete without a tasting! Above, Barge Lady’s Lori samples the spirits at Kilbeggan during her cruise aboard Shannon Princess. Indulge in a Masterclass with tastings from four unique Irish whiskeys: Greenore Single Grain, Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, Tyrconnell Single Malt, and Connemara Peated Single Malt.
5) Goat cheese — Cheese, please! As part of the culturally rich itinerary aboard Burgundy barge Savoir Vivre, a visit to a local goat farm and cheese maker ensures the lifestyle and history of the area are vibrantly represented. Farm owner and goat expert Laure Plait introduces you to her small herd of lively goats, and then escorts you to her gourmet boutique for tastings of the many types of small batch goat cheeses, also known as “chevre”. Here is Barge Lady Stephanie with Laure, above, taken during Stephanie’s recent barge cruise on the Savior Vivre. This exclusive tour and tasting is a highlight for foodies and Francophiles alike, and Stephanie can attest that the chevre was “tres magnifique”!