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The Castello Ricasoli in Chianti region of Tuscany

A taste of Riviera

Selector taps the source and explores several European wine icons via the Mediterranean body of water that has shaped and connected them to the rest of the world for millennia.

It’s easy to forget that before rail and commercial aviation, water formed the arteries of our world. Tastes and flavours were blended via the oceans of the globe for centuries, and despite the obvious colonial damage and consequences, the world’s food and wine cultures are richer for the bridges built by sea. 

A solid majority of the wines that have shaped our modern world (Germany aside) have come to us via the Mediterranean. This vast body of water connects 23 countries and forms the channel through which most of Europe shared its foods, wines, and cultures. 



With that in mind, a flavour journey through Italy, France and Spain via sea is surely a noble pursuit. With time dictating limits and options, however, the plan to explore some the world’s iconic wine regions via the Med looked like stacking compromise on concession, barely scratching the surface. Enter Oceania Cruises, with an itinerary that spanned neatly across 11 ports from Rome to Sicily, Malta to Palma, and the South of France through to Barcelona. With these key ports providing excellent access points to great regions, the pathway was set. As Oceania Cruises’ claim to have the “The Finest Cuisine at Sea®” has stood up to time and scrutiny, and boasts the most robust on-board wine program on water, the choice became a perfect fit.


Oceania Cruises' Riviera 2024 with exclusive small group tour

Join us for a recreation of this special flavour quest aboard Oceania Cruises’ Riviera from Rome to Barcelona, November 1st to 14th 2024. Selector publisher Paul Diamond will be hosting a small group tour that will begin in Rome and finish in Barcelona on board Riviera.

Tour includes: Rome, private tours, dinners and tastings across three days in Tuscany, private winery excursions and tastings and lunches across Etna and Provence, as well as on-board masterclasses, exclusive dinners and tastings across the itinerary. This is a small group tour and spots are strictly limited.

Nominate your interest to receive details by emailing taturramurra@travelassociates.com

Get a taste for the tour from the flavour journey below.


The grandeur of Castello Ricasoli in the Chianti region of Italy

The grandeur of Castello Ricasoli in Chianti, Italy.


Tuscany is an open-air art gallery, delicatessen, and museum spread across some of the most beautiful countryside the mind can conjure. It’s a place that pays homage to all that is noteworthy in life: food, wine, art and culture. As you move through its golden hills, sprinkled with cattle, grapevines, olive groves and centuries-old cypresses, the impulse to leave everything behind, buy a rundown villa, bake bread and herd sheep grows stronger by the minute.

At its heart lies Italy’s oldest wine region, Chianti, and its importance, both modern and historical, is woven deeply through its captivating blend of la dolce vita. 

Nowhere better illustrates all that is Chianti Classico, and the nobility of its primary variety, Sangiovese, than its birthplace at Castello Ricasoli at Madonna a Brolio.  Since 1141 AD, Castello di Brolio has occupied a central part in the story of Chianti, and continues to play a significant role in helping cement Tuscany as one of the world’s most important wine regions.

After centuries defending their lands and sovereignty, the Ricasoli family were among the first to dedicate themselves to the improvement of agriculture and vineyards. In 1872, Bettino Ricasoli transformed Italian wine forever by setting up and mandating the formula that soon became the rules under which Chianti Classico is made, and ultimately the framework that has allowed it to evolve and thrive from the past well into our future.

Today, Francesco Ricasoli is the “Barone” and custodian of the Ricasoli business – and the Castello itself. As you move through the Castello, listening to the incredible stories that have shaped the region and the family, it is clear that he is as conscious of the future potential of Chianti Classico and the wines of Ricasoli as he is the past. 

Over the past ten years, Chianti wine has experienced a renaissance, and the Ricasoli family have been at its centre, combining tradition and innovation to enhance its quality and appeal. Winemakers have worked tirelessly to improve vineyard management techniques, focusing on soil health and grape selection. Additionally, oak ageing has been refined, with the aim of preserving the wine’s elegance while adding complexity: greater depth, balance, and structure.

 “I believe there is no place like Madonna a Brolio and Tuscany,” says Francesco Ricasoli. “They are so unique that I’m having a hard time thinking of other places in the world they can be compared to.”


The Ricasoli family crest in statue form at the Castello Ricasoli

The Ricasoli family crest in statue form at the Castello Ricasoli.

Cuisine supreme on-board Oceania Cruises' Riviera

Cuisine supreme on-board Oceania Cruises' Riviera.


You can’t have good wine without food, and Tuscan cuisine is celebrated for its simplicity and the use of locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients. The iconic Tuscan bistecca illustrates that less is definitely more, and, like the wines of Chianti, is having its own renaissance at the hands an esteemed eighth-generation butcher whose passion and dedication have played a pivotal role in resurrecting this Tuscan icon.

Bistecca, a thick, bone-in steak cut from the prized Chianina cattle, holds a special place in gastronomy. However, its artful preparation and appreciation were at risk of fading into obscurity. Enter Dario Cecchini, a charismatic and visionary butcher whose skill and devotion to preserving culinary heritage breathed new life into this gustatory gem.

Cecchini’s Butchery and restaurants begin and end in Panzano, a charming Tuscan village, where he tends his family’s businesses. His famed bistecca alla fiorentina – literally, beefsteak Florentine-style – has garnered international acclaim, attracting epicureans from around the globe to experience the succulent tenderness and flavour of this grilled masterpiece.
Beyond the plate, Cecchini’s vibrant personality can be experienced daily as he welcomes guests and friends to his sustainable, nose-to-tail butchery and restaurant, where you’re introduced to an unforgettable dining experience like no other.



From here, we journey south to Rome’s Mediterranean gateway Civitavecchia, and are welcomed on-board Riviera, a beautiful ship purpose-built to cater to those wanting to explore via their taste buds. She’s classed as a small ship, crafted to carry only 1,250. This is an important distinction for Oceania Cruises, as the number represents almost one-fifth of the 3,000 that is the average passenger size on cruise ships across the globe. 

This reduced capacity allows Oceania Cruises to focus on service, and when it comes to its six on-board restaurants and wine-focused programs across the ship, the feel is personal, genuine, and leaves nothing wanting. After a beautiful meal and a luxurious night’s rest, we dock at Sorrento, across the bay from Naples, before setting off to explore the unique wines of Pompeii.


Dining under the vines at Bosci de' Medici Pompeii

Dining under the vines at Bosci de' Medici Pompeii, Italy.

The legendary Dario Cecchini welcomes guests to his restaurant

The legendary Dario Cecchini welcomes guests to his restaurant Officina della Bistecca in Chianti, Italy.


The wine industry of this area has literally risen from the ashes of Vesuvius, and its highly furtive volcanic soil breathes life into an interesting variety of grapes and delicious agricultural spoils. The perfect place to experience this is Bosco de’ Medici winery, where you can take a tour, see ancient ruins, taste Aglianico, Falanghina, Piedirosso and Caprettone varieties spread across a range of still, Rosé and Sparkling interpretations, as well as dine under the vines and truly settle into the flavours of this historic place.



After a quick overnight cruise and a truly memorable experience at Red Ginger, dining on Asian classics perfectly paired with German Riesling, Spanish Albariño and Burgundian Pinot, the port of Messina was ready for a visit. Messina is a lovely city, and as the third-largest city in Sicily there is plenty of flavour and culture to immerse yourself into, with the slopes of its slow-rumbling volcanic overseer, Mt Etna, playing home to some of the most distinctive and appealing Italian wines you can put in a glass.

One of the most interesting producers is Graci, on the northern slopes of Etna. Their wines – beautifully crafted from the indigenous Nerello Mascalese, Carricante and Catarratto varieties – are delicious, rustic, character-driven expressions like nothing you can taste elsewhere on the globe. The Graci family are well known for their hospitality, and if you’re lucky enough to have a long lunch in the courtyard of their winery, tasting their Etna Blanco and range of distinctive Etna Rossos, it will be something you and your taste buds will never forget.



The next five days are spent cruising west via Malta, Florence, Genoa and Nice, cramming as many cultural experiences into the camera and memory bank as possible. A leisurely day at sea in the middle of it all afforded an opportunity to catch up on all that the ship has to offer. From cultural classes to wine tastings, spa treatments, gym sessions, reading by the pool and back deck open-ocean dining, boxes got well and truly ticked.

Highlights were definitely the incredible wines, dining and service at Toscana, Oceania Cruises’ signature Italian restaurant with Tuscan-inspired classics served on custom-designed Versace china; and Polo Grill, an elegant, upmarket interpretation of the classic New York steak house where decadence really comes to life: think lobster, foie gras, caviar and Kobe beef. Another highlight is the spacious Grand Dining Room which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, paying tribute to Europe’s 5-star restaurants without the formality that comes with formal cruise dining. 

Another treat was La Reserve, a small wine-focused dining experience that is a six-course gustatory indulgence, pairing each course with inspirational wines chosen by the team of on-board sommeliers. For those wanting to push the boat out (pun intended),  a must-do is The Dom Pérignon Experience, developed with Moët & Chandon’s Executive Chef Marco Fadiga and Oceania Cruises’ Master Chef and Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin, that pairs each course with a specific Dom Pérignon vintage. 


The ancient Tibouren vines of Clos Cibonne

The ancient Tibouren vines of Clos Cibonne, France.

The coastal scape of Nice, France looking nice.

The coastal scape of Nice in France looking nice.


From the famous port of Marseille and one of the oldest cities in France, you have direct access to the engine room of one of the most popular segments of the modern global wine scene: Rosé, in particular Provençal-styled Rosé. 

The world has fallen in love with this pink phenomenon that is a refreshing balance between (mostly) savoury fruit and crisp acidity that flows to a dry delicious finish, and there is no stopping its domination. It’s clear that the best of the best of these comes from Provence, and (arguably) the best, if not the most interesting of those come from a small winery just outside Toulon called Clos Cibonne. Started in the late 17th century, it was named after Jean-Baptiste de Cibon, captain of Louis XVI’s Royal Navy and first owner of the vineyard.  

What makes Clos Cibonne unique however is not its link to France’s last king; it is its plantings, and production of an almost extinct, ancient variety known as Tibouren. This earthy, highly aromatic variety is difficult to cultivate and maintain, and is only really known and celebrated today because of the special wines of Clos Cibonne. 

Now owned and operated by the Mourchou family, the incredible wines of Clos Cibonne are Rosés and reds that express the distinctive, complex qualities of Tibouren and the unique climate of La Pradet, and its special corner of the sublime Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.



When people think Barcelona and wine, most (rightly) think of the grand Cava’s of the Penedes and the versatile whites of Alella. But head just a little further north and between Girona and Figueres on the French–Spanish border and you’ll find Perelada and the distinguished wines of the Emporda. 

Perelada is a village surrounding a medieval castello bearing the same name where wine has been made since the Middle Ages. Once home to Carmelite monks, the castello and winery were acquired by former mayor of Barcelona Miguel Mateu y Pla in 1923, whose father Damián started the Hispano Suiza automobile company in the late 1800s. The wines produced here are astounding, reflecting the diverse terroir of its vineyards, and the quality barometer is as high as the hospitality is warm.  

There is something for everyone here. Spend a weekend exploring the castello and its cultural museum, the architectural cellars, the village, wines and incredible food options – it’s a hidden gem that won’t stay hidden for too much longer.

So much to taste, so little time... but then, that’s the Mediterranean for you. A timeless part of the world, that’s always awaiting your return.

Words by
Paul Diamond
Photography by
Paul Diamond
Published on
17 Jan 2024


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