Friday, 19 September 2014

Wine and cruises an increasingly popular pairing

Wine and cruises an increasingly popular pairing

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightCruise lines and wine seem like a pairing made for each other. There’s plenty of time at sea to get to know more about grapes, vineyards and the wine-making process.

MSC Cruises has wine blending courses that passengers can take to learn how various grapes change the flavor and texture of a wine. Princess Cruises has a collection of super Tuscan wines on the Royal Princess and Regal Princess. In the dining room of its Solstice-class ships, Celebrity Cruises has a two-story, glass-and-steel wine tower holding 1,800 bottles.

The latest entrant in the wine appreciation sweepstakes is SeaDream Yacht Club, which has expanded a series of wine voyages for 2015 and is inaugurating a certification course in which passengers can become accredited by the London-based Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET).
*TomStieghorst

The course is being offered for the first time on SeaDream I’s April trans-Atlantic crossing, which will allow enough time for the course work needed to take a level 2 WSET exam.

The cost for the course and exam will be $1,500, which largely underwrites the cost of buying wines to study, said Erica Landin, a Swedish wine journalist who has organized SeaDream’s wine program.

“For what you get it’s quite well-priced,” Landin said.

SeaDream’s season in the Med next summer will feature nine winemaker’s cruises, giving passengers access to top-level winemakers who will come on board for tastings, and dinners that pair food and wine.

The ship will also have excursions to vineyards and wineries where tours will be led by the owner or top winemaker at the chateaux.

Cruise ships aren’t the only way, or even the best way, for real aficionados to visit the great wine estates of Europe, but for groups it certainly offers more style than a bus tour. Ships can move from region to region, country to country with ease. SeaDream’s 112-passenger yachts can assemble groups big enough to command attention, yet small enough to be manageable.

And cruises also offer flexibility, so if one partner in a couple isn’t interested in wine, the other can pursue their passion without feeling like their spouse is being left behind.

“It should be enjoyable for people who are just onboard and who love wine and food,” Langin said. “It should be approachable for everyone. You can be as involved or not involved as you wish.”

And wine generally makes for good company and fellowship, Langin noted, adding to the camaraderie that a good cruise engenders among its passengers.

“My hope is this group will enjoy each other’s company in the evening, they’ll maybe have dinner together and share bottles in a more relaxed way than in the class,” Langin said.