Riding the Rails: A Matter of Taste

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Coming up this fall, of course, is harvest time in the great wine regions of Europe, a busy, colorful couple of months (September-November) when ripe grapes make their way from bucket to cave to barrel. Armed with a Eurail Pass, wine lovers can plan to drop into many ofthe vineyards now more easily accessible by rail.

France’s wine country is particularly well connected by high-speed rail. This month, the new TGV Paris-Bordeaux line goes on track, cutting the travel time from three to just two hours for wine lovers to add that one-of-a-kind wine experience that Bordeaux’s wine country offers. If your clients can only go for the day, first stop should be the new La Cite du Vin museum.

High-speed service is not new to the rails linking Paris to Tours, jumping-off point to the chateaux of the Loire Valley standing tall over the estate vineyards producing the Chinon appellation. And everyone’s favorite wine-focused day trip from Paris is world-famous Champagne country, where just an hour away from the capital you can be sipping the bubbly of the great cellars of Reims, from Mumm to Moet & Chandon.

Smart planning can include rail detours to wine harvesting in Germany’s Moselle Valley or plan to sip Asti Spumante in Italy’s Piedmont wine country from Turin. In Portugal, the high-speed Alfa Pendular flies at 2 hrs. 35 min. from Lisbon to Porto, perhaps for a 2-hour port wine tasting and city tour aboard the Magic Train, or a super-scenic ride on the local railway along the Douro River Valley, where they’ll be picking the grapes that go into the fine Douro wines.

Wine will be a supporting actor aboard the Swiss Cheese Train—a.k.a. Train du Fromage—that speeds 36 passengers through the Lake Geneva region. The 5.5-hour trip begins in Montreux, serving a cheese selection and regional wine en-route to Chateau d’Chalet, disembarking to learn how milk is turned into “Le Chalet Bio” cheese, before becoming the central ingredient in the fondue enjoyed at lunch. The city tour ends with a visit to the Museum du Pays-d’Enhaut, one of Switzerland’s most important folklore museums. The Swiss Travel Pass is valid on this route, operating December-April, Saturdays and Sundays.

All rail passes can be booked via Rail Europe at raileurope.com.