Houseboating for wine lovers

A houseboat holiday can also be an extraordinary wine tasting experience. Sample excellent wines from vineyards small and large. It's all about choosing the perfect route

A glass of wine a day is said to be beneficial to your health. Although there isn't medical evidence to support this, it is undeniable that a fine glass of wine can truly enhance your vacation. So, why not combine it with a river cruise on a houseboat? During the day, you can drift in peace, soaking up the sun and scenery, and head off to sample the finest wines in the evening. So, what destinations are worth considering?

France

Vive la France! Cruising along the local canals and sampling some of the finest wines is a perfect combination. French wines are considered the best in the world, and no other country has such a long tradition of grape cultivation. And when you add to that, houseboats, shimmering waters, beautiful countryside with historical villages, towns and castles... it's simply idyllic. If you've explored France along its waterways, you'll never forget it and will be eager to return.

French wines

Vines were first cultivated in France as early as the 6th century. The ancient Greeks settled in the south of the country, specifically around Marseille. Later, the Romans took over the development of the drink and built extensive vineyards there. As early as the 5th century, France dominated the production of wine for religious ceremonies and, shortly afterwards, in exports. Today, there are up to 150,000 winemakers here, and in virtually every village you will find a local producer. And just as the regions of this great country vary, so do the varieties of this delectable beverage. Some of the best-known regions include Bordeaux, Burgundy and Languedoc-Roussillon.

Discover these places during your cruise:

Mâcon

The town of Mâcon on the lower Saône River is located in southern Burgundy between Beaune and Lyon. The soil here is ideal for Chardonnay, but no matter where you go in the area, you'll find excellent red and white wines. In the centre of town, you can visit the 19th-century church of Saint-Pierre de Mâcon or the 15th-century carved wooden house, said to be the oldest in town. The Saône River flows peacefully through the vineyards, so you can sample wines and dock at the waterfront restaurants and wine bars anywhere in the area — the local businesses along the water have their own docks. For the perfect experience, don't forget to have a glass of wine with your Burgundy beef or Coq au Vin.

The city of Macon with the Saone River in Burgundy, France.

Béziers

This historic city, founded in the 6th century BC by the ancient Romans, is one of the oldest in France. Here you can visit the old fortress and the beautiful cathedral, offering magnificent views of both the vineyards and the Canal du Midi. Boating enthusiasts are especially drawn to the unique cascade of eight locks, still in operation today, called the Fonseranes Locks (écluses de Fonseranes), raising boats to a height of 21.5 metres over a distance of 312 metres. Just be prepared to be under the watchful eye of dozens of tourists on the banks of these UNESCO-listed locks (even more need for a glass of wine in the evening). Just a little further along, there's the 350-year-old Canal du Midi that crosses the River Orb on a unique aqueduct... it's breathtaking experience. The Fonseranes Locks and the aqueduct are the third most visited tourist attraction in the region, after the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard and the medieval castle of Carcassonne.

A boat crossing the bridge over the River Orb on the historic Canal du Midi in France. The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Paraza

The village of Paraza is located on the Canal du Midi about 33 kilometres from Béziers. At the local 17th-century Chateau de Paraza, with its 100-metre-long wine cellar, you can have a wine tasting of about an hour with a lecture on the Canal du Midi or opt for a longer wine and cheese tasting for a small fee. And if you'd like to swap the houseboat for a night for solid ground, it's also possible to stay overnight.


YACHTING.COM TIP: Cruising the waterways of France isn't just about wine, but is filled with amazing experiences and beautiful places. For some inspiration, check out  article on 11 places to go houseboating in France.

Homps

The small village of Homps, north of Narbonne, may not be large, but that in no way detracts from its importance. Some boat hire companies have bases here for cruises on the Canal du Midi and, the nearby Lac de Jouarres makes the village is a popular holiday destination for water sports and swimming. But Homps is also famous for its wine production — you'll find Minervos, Languedoc and Coteaux-de-peyrac here. If you want to learn about the wines of the surrounding area, visit the Minervois Wine House, where you can also enjoy a tasting.

 Canal du Midi in the charming village of Homps on a sunny day.

Marseillette

A small village located about fifteen kilometres from Carcassonne. Its main landmark is the clock tower but the church, Église Saint André is also worth a visit. This place is also famous for its wine production — Coteaux de Miramont or Minervois.

Italy

They say that all roads lead to Rome, but Italy is more than just Rome — it's beautiful mountains, lakes, Roman and medieval towns, plus plenty of sunshine, amazing cuisine, espresso and... great wine. And that goes for the renowned houseboat destination, the Venetian Lagoon.

Italian wines

Prosecco (prosecco frizzante — gently sparkling, prosecco spumante — more fizzy), Lambrusco or Tuscan Chianti. These are Italian classics. But did you know that prosecco, which we love so much in summer, is associated with the Veneto region? But the most prestigious wine of the Veneto region is Amarone della Valpolicella —  a strong dry red produced from grapes dried for four months, giving it an intense flavour.

Venice, Venetian lagoon and houses from above, Italy.

View of the Venetian Lagoon

Venetian Lagoon

Venice in the palm of your hand. The truth is that Venice is a place that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime, so why not combine it with a relaxing houseboat holiday and explore at your own pace. Cruise between the islands, including one with a well-known beach popular with the locals, and another offering a close-up look at glassmaking (Murano Island). This and much more awaits you as you sail through the Venetian Lagoon or along the river Sile, which flows into it. You can also stop off at the islands of Torcello, Murano, Burano, Lido... If you're craving a bit of peace and quiet, turn towards the delta of the lagoon. In the Po Delta national park, accessible only by boat, you can observe unspoilt nature. And you won't need a skipper's licence to sail in the Venetian Lagoon.

Hungary

Spicy peppers, goulash and delicious Hungarian salami are Hungary's most popular delicacies. But the country also offers stunning countryside, thermal lakes and spas, and many cultural sights. And, of course, excellent wine. Discover it all from the deck of a houseboat.

Hungarian wines

Golden colour and rich aroma are the hallmarks of the famous wines of Tokaj — said to be the wine of kings and the king of wines. Another well-known wine-growing region in Hungary is Sopron, where, among other things, Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) is produced. In the Balaton area you will find mainly white wines — Riesling, Badacsony or Szürkebarát ("grey monk"), a sweetish wine known as Rulan Grey.

Tokaj

Where else to taste the famous Tokaj wine than in the town of the same name. The origins of winemaking here date back to the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus, in the 2nd century AD. However, the local winery was given its present form by King Béla IV of Hungary in the 13th century who had new vine seedlings imported from Italy. From these, Tokaj wine developed in the local fertile soil. In 2002, the entire Tokaj-Hegyalja area was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is a hilly landscape with river valleys full of fish through which you can navigate from village to village. We definitely recommend a visit to the Rákoczi winery, which is one of the most beautiful. To explore the area on a houseboat, it is best to go directly from Tokaj, which lies at the confluence of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers. Which way you sail is up to you, but we recommend this route.

Lake Tisza

If you want to enjoy a pleasant boating holiday, complete with stunning scenery, orchards and small villages, Lake Tisza is perfect. It can be found between Budapest and Debrecen on the Tisza River in the Hortobágy National Park. The warm waters of the lake are inviting, but if you want even warmer waters, we recommend the nearby thermal baths. 

Traditional wine cellars in Hercegkut near Sárospatak Tokaj region Hungary - Button Hill

Traditional wine cellars in Hercegkut, Tokaj region

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Interested in a houseboat holiday in France, Italy or Hungary? I will be happy to help you arrange everything

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