Wines and Waters of France

I am offering a uniquely designed program called “Wines and Waters of France.” It is a beautiful way to experience French viniculture in a leisurely and relaxed manner, with one- or two-week trips by boat on the rivers and canals of famous French wine regions.

We will navigate along, admiring medieval towns and villages, pastoral landscapes, and the unique nature of the place.

Every day, I will share my knowledge of local viniculture, liberally exemplifying the theory with practical samples. We will visit the most representative wineries, which I have carefully chosen.

We will also study the gastronomic peculiarities of every place, because there is no place in France that cannot offer something to even the pickiest of gourmets. Dinners in local cuisine restaurants, farmer’s markets, cheese shops, boulangeries, and other tasty places await us.

We will also have time for historical sites, architecture, and biking along picturesque trails.

You can choose the region of interest, and I would be happy to offer you several primary routes. We can then develop a detailed plan that considers all of your interests and expectations.


“One Our Day” examples of our previous journeys


France is covered by a network of canals. The first of these canals was built in the middle of the 17th century for cargo traffic, and the system was actively developed and widely used until the middle of the 20th century. Later, trains and tracks largely displaced barges as cargo transport, but the canals, with their developed system of aqueducts and locks, remained. So, after several decades of desolation, canal life is becoming active again. Only now, canals are mostly used for adventure and enjoyment, not for work.

The use of a barge as a home is not a new thing. For a long time, people of all social strata, from pure mavericks to rich extravagant people, have lived on barges, which, of course, can be very different. However, permanent barge inhabitants are rare. The life on a barge is specific, and the geography is limited. A different story is a one- to two- to three-week trip on a barge: leisurely movement among beautiful places with almost constant home comfort, without worrying about hotels or restaurants. Americans like to travel by RV; the French use barges.

I have chosen several interesting wine regions with well-developed networks of canals that are adapted for comfortable travel by boat. These regions are also interesting from historical, cultural, and gastronomic points of view.


This region is saturated with vinicultural history. Burgundy (Bourgogne) is the homeland of two of the most popular grape varieties in the world: white Chardonnay and red Pinot noir. The world’s best wines from these varieties are made in this region. Burgundy is also the place where you can fully understand and appreciate the idea of terroir in viniculture. Do you like sparkling wines? Burgundy produces beautiful Crémant de Bourgogne, both white and rosé.

Even in France, Burgundy is considered a gastronomic paradise. Many French dishes well-known around the world originate from here.

Burgundy is a place with a rich history, from the Roman Empire to the present day. The land is saturated with historically and architecturally significant abbeys and castles. And, of course, the countryside is very picturesque.

I offer wine tours in two parts of Burgundy, which are described below.

Northern Burgundy, Yonna River

Northern Burgundy is famous for Chablis, a Chardonnay with a unique cold mineral taste that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It is also known for its light yet complex northern Pinot noir and one of the best sparkling wines, Crémant de Bourgogne. The Yonne River flows through notable vineyards such as Irancy, Auxerre, and Joiny. The Yonne Valley is also home to the rarer white varieties Aligoté and Melon de Bourgogne. In addition to wine, the Kir cocktail was invented here. And have you tried Ratafia de Bourgogne?

The Yonne Valley is home to the beautiful town of Joigny, the majestic city of Auxerre with its Saint-Germain Abbey, the famous Vézelay Abbey (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the town of Clamecy, the birthplace of the poet Roman Rolland. Our route follows the Canal du Nivernais, one of the oldest French canals, where the locks are still operated manually.

Southern Burgundy, Saône River

It is the wine regions Maconnais and Cote Chalonnaise. Maconnais is a small homeland of Chardonnay. In fact, Chardonnay is named after the local village. Chardonnay is the main variety here, and it produces full-bodied, soft, buttery wine with a complex, saturated flavor that combines the fruity aroma of grapes with oak aromas. In addition to Chardonnay, Côte Chalonnaise produces full-bodied Pinot noir, Crémant de Bourgogne, and Aligoté.

The Saône River, the waterway of our journey, is one of the most beautiful rivers in France. It flows through the picturesque medieval towns of Mâcon and Tournus.

The southern end of Burgundy is the beautiful city of Lyon, the birthplace of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and André-Marie Ampère, and the workplace of François Rabelais and the Lumière brothers. Lyon is a large city. It would take several days to visit only the main attractions, and the bouchon bistros, the islands of traditional Lyon cuisine, should not be missed.

Loire Valley

The Loire River Valley is huge and diverse. I offer a trip to the Upper Loire, the birthplace of one of the great white grape varieties, Sauvignon blanc. Here, the wine is strong, mineral, and sometimes smoky. Our route passes through the famous wine towns of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, where the best wines of the region are produced. Sancerre also produces light and gentle Pinot Noir.

The Loire Valley is famous for its mushrooms and cheeses, especially goat cheeses like Bouchon or Crottin de Chavignol.

The Loire is famous for its castles, including the 600-year-old Château de Gien, the “country house” of the French royal family. We will boat on the Briare Aqueduct, an impressive and beautiful engineering construction that was once the longest aqueduct in the world. The Loire Valley is also home to many medieval villages, castles, and abbeys, such as the Abbey of Charlieu and the beautiful gardens of Apremont-sur-Allier, one of the most beautiful villages in France.

Aquitaine: Gascogne, Baïse River, and Canal latéral à la Garonne

Our route is the Canal latéral à la Garonne and the Petite Baïse River. Gascogne is famous for Armagnac, the older brother of Cognac. The French saying goes, “We gave Cognac to the world, but we keep Armagnac for ourselves.” Gascogne also produces full-bodied, aromatic, and saturated red wines.

Gascogne is a place for musketeers and those who love history and literature. Nérac is the hometown of Henry IV, one of the most famous and important French kings, and a folk hero. His castle is in the town and can be visited. The castle museum, in addition to the main exhibit, often hosts temporary thematic exhibits. For example, we visited the exhibition “Smells of the Middle Ages” to learn how people in Henry IV’s time smelled perfume, food, and their bodies. We will stop near the castle town of Vianne, climb the castle walls, and see how this town has preserved its atmosphere from the 13th century. We will also not miss other charming villages and medieval castles.

Of course, this is another corner of France where gourmets can easily find ways to indulge themselves. The cuisine here is based on duck and goose dishes (famous foie gras and many others).

Mediterranean (Canal du Midi)

This includes the wine regions of Languedoc and Provence. We will try the deep, full-bodied, aromatic wines of Languedoc and the gentle, summer rosé of Provence, which retains the light aroma of lavender fields. For wine lovers with a sweet tooth, Languedoc produces fine fortified wines that can compete with Port. Those who prefer sparkling wines will find Crémant de Limoux here.

The Canal du Midi itself is a masterpiece of engineering and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is surrounded by vineyards, cypress, and pine forests. The history of human settlement along the canal dates back to the Roman Empire. We will see medieval castles, Cathar villages, ancient abbeys, and the famous and beautiful Carcassonne, where the Middle Ages are preserved as if in amber.

Near the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal du Midi passes salt lagoons, which are a unique natural habitat for numerous flocks of flamingos and other birds.

Cahors, Lot River

Cahors is a city and a famous wine that has brought the city glory and wealth since the Middle Ages. The black wines of Cahors are saturated, heavy, and tannic, with a long and bright aftertaste. Cahors is made from the red grape variety Malbec. In fact, the Cahors region is the birthplace of Malbec, although here it is called Cot. From here, Malbec made its way to Argentina, where it became the country’s main grape variety.

Cahors city has a thousand-year-old history and is full of historical monuments. The symbol of the city is the Pont Valentré, a 14th-century fortified bridge across the Lot River. According to legend, it was built with the devil’s help. The bridge is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The beautiful Lot River flows through deep red canyons and winds between flat hills with medieval castles and picturesque villages.

The cuisine of the Cahors region can compete with Burgundy for priority among gourmets. Here we can find foie gras, truffles, saffron, duck confit, jambon, various kinds of cheese, and many other delicacies.


Alsace is a place where two cultures, French and German, intertwine in a complex way. Alsace takes classic German grape varieties and makes wine from them in the traditional French manner. It is a cold wine-growing region, specializing in gentle aromatic varieties: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignons, Sylvaner, and Muscat. For red wine lovers, they make light and elegant Pinot noir. For those who love sparkling wine, there is Crémant d’Alsace.

Alsace is also home to small, pretty towns and villages with colorful half-timbered houses richly decorated with potted flowers. Strasbourg, with the boat landing right near the European Parliament and the beautiful Petit France quarter nearby, is another charming town in Alsace.

Alsace cuisine is similar to that of southern Germany, with dishes such as flans, various pork dishes, and fruit pastries.


A boat is both a home and a means of transportation.
The boats we use have from 2 to 4 berths, each of which can accommodate two people. A hanging bed can be added for a third person, typically a child.
I will choose a boat based on the size of the group.
Each berth typically has a bathroom with a shower.
The boat has a cozy launch and a well-equipped kitchen.
The upper deck has a spacious area with a table and chairs.

Examples of our days from previous trips

One day of the Northern Burgundy travel

We spent the night in Auxerre, the capital of the Yonne department. We had spent the previous half of the day in the town, enjoying the historical and architectural sites of this medieval place. We had dinner at the restaurant Le Bourgogne, which specializes in local cuisine.

Early in the morning, we picked up fresh pastries from the boulangerie and were on the river as soon as the locks started to work. Our plan was to arrive in Vincelles before the lock-keepers’ lunch break. (In Burgundy, unlike most other places, locks are operated by lockkeepers. Additionally, most locks here are operated manually. As a result, the locks do not work not only during the night but also during the lunch break. This takes longer than passing through automatically operated locks, but it also adds a certain charm.) Our passengers slowly woke up and had breakfast, looking at the foggy views that we passed.

About noon, we came to Vincelles, unloaded our bikes, and went to Irancy. At that time, the fog rose up and it became sunny. Irancy is a small, nice village in the middle of a small valley, four kilometers from the Yonne River. It is also an AOC that specializes in Pinot noir, where you can fully understand the idea of terroir in viniculture (more about Irancy as a wine region ).

We tasted wine at two wineries. Domaine Ferrari is a must-visit winery; they offer a very educational tasting that includes a variety of terroirs, years, and the impact of different grape varieties on the wine’s taste. The second winery, Domaine Benoit Cantin, makes excellent Irancy wines.

After the tasting, we walked around the village and biked back to the boat with some wines from the Irancy cellars. We sailed a short distance away from Vincelles and stopped for the night at a landing surrounded by mustard fields.

In the evening, I gave a brief presentation on winemaking techniques and the unique characteristics of this wine region, accompanied by tastings of selected wines. We then had dinner with Irancy wines.

One day of the Gascogne travel

We spent the night in Nerac, where we tasted Armagnac, walked around town, and visited the castle of Henry IV and the exhibition “Smells of Medieval Ages,” which was hosted by the castle.

In the morning, we went down to the Baise River. For lunch, we stopped in the tiny village of Lavardac, whose streets were empty on that hot midday. We walked around a bit, had lunch at a small café, and continued on our way to Vianne. (In Gascogne, unlike Burgundy, most locks are automatic and self-operated, so you can pass them anytime during the day.)

Vianne is a town in a castle, one of the few completely preserved medieval castles, and the only castle in France named after a woman. It is a very atmospheric and beautiful town. In addition to the castle, there is also a glass shop in the town.

We walked around the town, and in the evening we went to the night market in the main square. The villages in Aquitaine have restored the tradition of summer night markets: every nearby village organizes such events in turn, so you can find night markets nearby every week, and even more often.

There was local food, local wine, live music, and dancing. Everything was nice, cozy, tasty, and cheerful.

After spending the night in Vianne, we biked through the fields and vineyards to the small but impressively old village of Mongaillard and continued on our boat trip.


The starting price I suggest is 2200 EUR per cabin. All cabins have double beds, and a third sleeping place (“Pullman” upper berth) can be added.
The price is for a 7-day/7-night cruise, assuming travel in the second decade of October on the largest boat available (four cabins). Traveling in the summer or on a smaller boat would increase the price.

What is included:
– Boat rental and insurance
– Boat piloting by the experienced crew
– Diesel fuel
– Mooring fees, freshwater refills, and electricity costs at ports
– Lock passing fees
– Winery visits and wine tasting fees
– WiFi internet on board

What is not included:
– Travel to and from France
– Transfer to and from the port
– Accommodation in France before and after the cruise
– Personal medical insurance
– Meals and wine (except wine tasting at wineries)