Jeannine Williamson finds out that the wine on the Rhine will leave tourists feeling fine
The picturesque River Rhine has more castles along its length than any other river in the world and with its charming medieval towns it is the epitome of a romantic German landscape.
The valleys of the Rhine and its largest tributary, the Moselle, are also famous for wine, and by adding this to the mix you can create an appealing cocktail that will help sell a holiday.
Home to six of Germany’s 13 wine-growing regions, the Rhineland-Palatinate state is the largest wine-producing area and over 70% of German wines are produced in more than 20,000 wineries.
It’s also one of the country’s top tourism spots and attracted 5.3 million overseas visitors in 2010. The wine growing tradition goes back 2,000 years and is the current focus of a marketing drive by the German National Tourist Board in collaboration with the German Wine Institute.
The theme ‘wine heritage and nature – fine wine and good times’ is being promoted to key target markets including the UK.For 75 miles between Bingen and Bonn the landscape of steep vineyard slopes is dotted with castles and the legendary Loreley rock where the haunting song of sirens is said to have lured sailors to their deaths.
Nearby are pretty wine towns such as Rudesheim. The equally scenic southern section, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley between Koblenz and Bingen, was granted Unesco World Heritage status in 2002 for its vineyard-sculpted countryside.
Anita Rodgers, European touring commercial manager at Leger Holidays, says: “The Rhine Valley has always proved to be perfect for holidaymakers who are keen to explore Europe but would prefer to relax and unwind rather than explore a bustling city centre.
“It’s one of the most beautiful regions on the continent, with its fine castles and quaint villages. Because of its obvious appeal and our tried and tested itineraries, which include relaxing river cruises and wine-tasting in Alken, tours to the Rhine Valley are among our most popular and longest standing, some have been established for as long as Leger Holidays itself!”
Lawrence Peachey, head of sales at Dertour, adds: “The Rhine is at the very heart of Germany and provides the perfect backdrop for UK visitors as they can either do a river cruise or explore its many fascinating towns and villages. We often get requests for including at least one element of the Rhine in bespoke holidays to Germany.”
Clients can explore by train, boat, car and, for the more energetic, by bike or on foot. And while the Rhine is famous for wine it’s worth noting that it’s also home to Germany’s most popular draught beer, Bitburger, brewed in the namesake town of Bitburg.
GO WITH THE FLOW
With excursions and meals with wine normally included in the price, a river cruise is a cost-effective and increasingly popular way of enjoying the Rhine. Last year the UK European river cruise market rose by 7% to 80,000 passengers and the number of people choosing a combined cruise along the Rhine and Danube doubled.
A growing number of luxury vessels means clients can travel in style. This spring Viking River Cruises launched four 190-passenger longships each featuring two Explorer Suites, the largest river cruise suites in Europe with wraparound verandas.
They are now sailing on Viking’s European routes including the Rhine. AmaWaterways recently launched the 164-passenger AmaCerto, which will also cruise the Rhine this year. The vessel features a sun deck swimming pool with a ‘swim-up’ bar and both Viking and AmaWaterways serve free wine with meals.
Agents can find plenty of cruises with a wine theme. The River Cruise Line offers itineraries in August and September coinciding with the spectacular Rhine in Flames firework displays and celebrations marking the Riesling grape harvest. Optional wine-tasting excursions are also available. Cruises lead in from £639 including regional coach pick-ups and ferry crossings.
BACK ON DRY LAND
For clients that prefer not to fly, the Rhine and Moselle region is Germany’s most popular coaching destination and land-based stays can be combined with a river cruise. Other options include rail journeys and more energetic holidays.
Ramblers Worldwide offers a combination of walking and cycling through and past vineyards on a week-long itinerary based in Rudesheim and leading in at £796. For those who want to stick to pedal power, Inntravel’s six-night self-guided wine route cycling break, starting from £670, takes in parts of the Upper Rhine and includes wine-tasting.
New from Shearings is a 10-day itinerary taking in the Rhine Valley, Alsace and Switzerland with a seven-night Rhine cruise that leads in at £1,149.
The cruise calls at Speyer, from where an optional ‘wine road’ tour is offered. Arblaster & Clarke Wine Tours feature a six-night wine tour to Alsace, Mosel and Pfalz by coach with travel on the Eurostar from £1,750.
For a rail-flight B&B option Dertour suggests two nights in the Maritim Hotel Königswinter and two nights in the Maritim Wurzburg. Königswinter is ideally placed for enjoying the wines of the Rhine and in Wurzburg the Juliusspital is an old Franconian winery and one of the largest in Germany. The four-night break leads in at £499.
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