There are two things I love: wine and water. I enjoy boating and cruising every chance I get. I also enjoy wine education and wine tasting. When you combine being in, on or near the water and wine…well, that just takes the cake! While this is something I do regularly, I recently had a very interesting ‘wining (wine-ing) hour at sea.’
A few weeks ago, I boarded a cruise with my favorite company, Norwegian Cruise Line. Norwegian Cruise Line is not just my favorite. In fact, the World Travel Awards named NCL a leading cruise line for 9 years in a row. So, while in Europe, I cruised along the Mediterranean on Norwegian Escape. Besides the fact that the boat is absolutely outstanding and super clean with spectacular dining, entertainment and accommodation options, NCL Escape has a wine cellar! As a wine enthusiast, this was right up my alley.
The Cellars (A Michael Mondavi Wine Bar) is Norwegian’s first ever wine bar. I met the cellar manager, a very welcoming and knowledgeable guy, who invited me to taste several delicious wines. While there is obviously ample wine on the ship and bars everywhere, it was delightful to know that there was an actual wine cellar where I could sit and sip an even better selection of top quality wines from around the world. Moreover, The Cellars hosted various wine events throughout the cruise. I had to oblige! They offered events such as Old World vs New World with Tapas, Wine and Chocolate Pairing, Wine and Cheese Pairing and several others. Some winelovers may be very knowledgeable, but these events provided some very good information. Here are some highlights from two events that I attended.
Riedel Glass Seminar/Tasting
The seminar was conducted by the cellar manager. He began with a brief history of Riedel Crystal, the leading glassware manufacturer based in Austria, best known for its glassware designed to enhance different types of wines. After the history, the cellar master explained how each of the five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, hear) are addressed. One needs to see the color and brilliance of the wine, which is why the glasses are clear. The diameter of the glass and the shape of the glass helps to direct the wine aromas or the notes we smell. It was interesting to experience how different parts of our taste zones (tip of the tongue, sides of the mouth, back of the mouth) are targeted based on the glass. He then discussed holding the glass a specific way and why this is important, as well as the sound the glasses make.
Practice time. The practice and/or actual experience was quite interesting. It was done with water first, and then with three different red wine varietals: Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet. It was all very interesting and quite profound to see and taste how Riedel designed different glasses to highlight the character of the specific grape varieties. Very informative!
While I may have been aware, it was another story being able to actually experience just how Riedel makes glasses that communicate to all of the senses. This seminar was executed in a way that was very easy to follow and in a way that made it clear to distinguish the best glass for the different types of wines tasted. I thought that this seminar was absolutely brilliant!
Champagne Black Glass (Blind) Tasting
Ok, so while I have done many blind wine tastings, I have not done many blind champagne and/or sparkling wine tastings. The cellar master began with a brief overview of the differences between Champagne, Prosecco, Cava and other sparkling wines. We also discussed the different climates and characteristics, as well as different types of fermentation methods (tank, traditional, charmat, etc). The guests then received a wine tasting tool and a tasting card to take notes. Ultimately, it was time to sip some bubbles and identify them…blind. The groups had a good time discussing amongst themselves, classifying the bubbles and then sharing.
Needless to say, this also proved to be very fun and informative!
Interestly, NCL offers even more in terms of ‘wining at sea.’ The cruise line periodically features a Meet The Winemaker series in which guests can meet world-renowned winemakers and distillers while cruising. Select cruises also offer unique culinary experiences. Past winemaker guests include Michael Mondavi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Antonio Hildago and Greg Miller (Opus One), just to name a few. These Meet The Winemaker cruises feature special tastings, private dinners, meet & greet and Q & A sessions. This is one of the many things, in my opinion, that makes Norwegian stand out.
Without a doubt, I wholeheartedly recommend cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line, cruising on NCL Escape and experiencing The Cellars. The ship is beautiful, the staff is amazing, the experience is awesome and the wines are fantastic for the wining hour(s)!