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…here are the Barge Lady’s Top 5 Tastings in barging.
1) Champagne…IN Champagne! — When cruising in Champagne on the 4-star, 12 guest Panache, sparkling wine and tasty bubbles are the star of the show. A tour and tasting at Maison Pannier, the Marne Valley’s largest Champagne house, reveals the superiority of their exceptional elixirs while showcasing the award-winning acumen generated from over 100 years of wine production. Founded in 1899, Maison Pannier proudly pours remarkable Champagnes noted for their great finesse, delicacy, and balance. Bottoms up for the Barge Lady!
2) Olives — Along the Canal du Midi, the 3-star, 10 guest 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 a sampling of olives, olive oils, and tapenades. It’s an odyssey into the world of olives!
3) Truffles — Deep within the bucolic recesses of Southern Burgundy on the 3-star, 6 guest barge Magnolia, guests go behind the scenes to one of the world’s most secretive business – truffles! A tour of a Burgundian 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. The Barge Ladies love when secrets are this delicious!
4) Whiskey — Aboard the 4-star, 10 guest Shannon Princess, an afternoon visit to a local whiskey distillery in the the lively town of Athlone is a cruise highlight. 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 Lori samples the spirits at Kilbeggan during her cruise aboard Shannon Princess. A wee dram of whiskey is the perfect taste of Ireland!
5) Goat cheese — Cheese, please! As part of the culturally rich itinerary aboard the 3-star, 8 guest barge Savoir Vivre, a visit to a local goat farm and cheese maker ensures the lifestyle and history of Southern Burgundy 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 barge cruise on the Savior Vivre. This exclusive tour and tasting is an homage to fromage!