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cover story | river cruising


Eyewitness: A French affair


Jeannine Williamson sets sail with Viking to cruise Bordeaux’s vineyards and Cognac houses


“IT’S THE HONEYMOON period,” says Cognac expert Frederic Dezauzier as he swirls the amber liquid around the flask to illustrate the process of blending Cognac and the natural chemistry involved in creating the perfect union. He then invites us to pick up the first of four glasses that are set out in front of us and develop our own relationship with the famous French brandy. An hour later, after the entertaining master


class, I turn the tap on a giant barrel to start creating my very own Cognac, using different quantities of the quartet I’ve tasted. Camus, spanning five generations and the only family- run Cognac house in the medieval town of the same name, is a highlight of Viking River Cruises’ new Chateaux, Rivers & Wine itinerary around Bordeaux.


Te seven-night voyage through arguably the


world’s most famous wine-producing region is a feast for the senses. Leisurely traveling along the Garonne and Gironde rivers offers a different treat each day, and not surprisingly much of it is linked to food and wine. In the small UNESCO-listed town of Saint-


Emilion we visit an extraordinary underground church, the largest of its kind in Europe, before stopping at a cafe to try canneles de Bordeaux, a sweet cake and regional specialty. A winery tour in the surrounding vine-blanketed landscape introduces us to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grape varietals that are the two pillars of Bordeaux wine. In Blaye, another UNESCO site, we climb the


steep cobbled streets to admire the view from the top of the 17th-century citadel. As we stroll back, a shopkeeper offers samples of Blaye’s delicately flavored, hand-made almond pralines, and back on Viking Forseti, one of the line’s growing fleet of


Longships, the dinner menu features delicious local asparagus. Te cruise starts and finishes in the elegant


port city of Bordeaux, with daily tours along the way, including the distillery visit, where only brandy made in and around the town of Cognac can be labeled with the prestigious name. Life on Forseti revolves around delicious


meals, many with a French accent, and insightful talks, such as food and wine pairing. Each evening, as the sun dips behind the surrounding vineyards, we meet for a cocktail on the al fresco Aquavit Terrace and swap tales of the day with fellow passengers. Back at home, I can relive memories of this


delightful southwest corner of France with a bottle of Cognac, my unique blend written on the label and recorded at Camus. But I’ll have to wait three months until the honeymoon period is well and truly over before I open the bottle and taste my very own marriage of flavors. n


Bordeaux chateau


74 | ASTAnetwork | summer 2014


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