Looking for the perfect wine holiday? Try a cruise

Wine lovers have it better than ever before, with so many ways to enjoy their favourite drink. From collecting fine wine from specialist sellers to heading out on wine-based holidays, there’s something for every oenophile.

And what could be better than a wine holiday on a cruise ship? There are all kinds of wine cruises, many of which include wine-pairing events on board and exclusive visits to local winemakers. Here’s why a cruise should be your next wine holiday.

 

Why a cruise could be the ideal wine holiday

Cruise liners are clamouring to provide the ideal wine-lovers holiday. Regular cruise goers expect high levels of entertainment, and for the cruise company to provide lots of entertainment choice. Over recent years, this has increasingly included wine-related activities both onshore and on board.

Many cruise lovers are well-travelled, and they also tend to be discerning. This is why cruise liners are now offering some of the best wines in the world in their restaurants and bars. On the right kind of cruise, you can expect to sample everything from world-famous wines to lesser known labels. For example, Cunard serves wine from the novel and growing wine region of Nashik, which is found on the northwest coast of India.

 

Rare vintages and specialist wines on board

Showing the commitment cruise liners now have to providing the best wine experience, Crystal Cruises sends its team of sommeliers to the Napa Valley to blend a unique premium wine. And every year, this special wine sells out.

Cruise liners can buy wine at duty-free cost, making mark-ups on board lower than in premium hotels and restaurants on land. This means cruise goers have the chance to sample high-end wines at lower prices. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a fortune on a bottle while you’re abroad, but it does mean there are plenty to enjoy at around £20 per bottle.

And while you may not find a Chateau Lafleur 1990, there are high end fine wines available on many cruises. Holland America Line stocks the 2005 Chateau Petrus, Pomerol (France) at $2,300, Cunard the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ‘Le Montrachet’ 2001 (France) for £4,302 ($5,295). The Crystal Serenity cruise ship boasts a wine list with the rare vintage from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti for around £16,250 ($20,000).

 

Cruise passengers look for luxury wines

And if you’re wondering whether people actually buy wines at this price while on board, the answer is yes. In 2018, Crystal Cruises sold a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and a magnum of Chateau Petrus. These sold for more than £1625.00 ($2,000) each.

Many cruise liners offer impressively stocked wine cellars. For example, Crystal Cruises’ passenger ships Serenity and Crystal Symphony each hold around 1,000 people. And to cater to the passengers, each shop carries approximately 300 bottles of dessert wine, 2,500 bottles of champagne, 8,000 bottles of white wine, 2,000 bottles of sparkling wine and 10,000 bottles of red wine.

Cunard’s ship, the Queen Mary 2, holds 2,700 passengers. And it sets sail with more than 45,000 bottles of wine. Storing an entire wine cellar on board has its own challenges. The wines are stowed securely in temperature-controlled rooms in the lower aft part of the liner. This moves less than other parts if the weather gets wild, and for extra protection the bottles are wrapped and stacked in v-shaped wine racks.

 

Wine-related activities and vineyard visits

But it’s not just about the wine served on board. There are a growing range of wine-related activities for passengers to enjoy. For example, the Koningsdam (run by Holland America Line) has its very own wine blending room. Here, passengers can make their own blend of wine under supervision from experts.

Cunard, on the other hand, has teamed up with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), to offer courses in wine education on board. Classes are run by trained educators and sommeliers. Passengers can complete the WSET Level 1 course in five days or the 12-day Level 2 course.

Many passengers look forward to the destinations as much as being on board. And plenty of cruises are stopping at vineyards along the way. In 2018, Holland America Line offered 23 specialist food and drink excursions for passengers. These include a trip to the Mazzorbo island in Venice, which is world renowned for its vineyards.

Oceana Cruises joins Holland America Line to offer trips to vineyards on the beautiful island of Santorini. This boasts a particularly interesting terroir thanks to the volcanic rock and seat mists. These are just a couple of examples of the vast array of wine-related cruises available.

If you fancy booking one next year, you could book on the Queen Mary 2 for a transatlantic trip to New York. The voyage will include a Festival of Food and Wine and costs from £1,649 per person. Head to cunard.co.uk for more information. Or you could go on the ten-day Wines & Artistry Cruise from Barcelona to London with the opportunity to try wines from France, Portugal and Spain.

What goes into the art of fine wine collecting?

Fine wine collecting is a fascinating asset class for investors. The fine wine market offers numerous financial opportunities for the discerning wine collector. Understanding how industry trends play out is important to understand how to take advantage of it.

 

Why is fine wine collecting so popular?

Wine is a drink that has always been in fashion. Back in the time of the Ancient Greeks, it was extolled as a source of pleasure, as well as a product that boosts economic growth. Thucydides, a Greek historian, wrote in the 5th century BC about civilisation and how it only really began when people learned to “cultivate the olive and wine.”

Many centuries after he wrote about wine, the market continues to thrive all around the world. And in the luxury wine sector, there are plenty of big money deals to be done. In 2016, French wine collector Christian Vanneque laid out an astonishing £75,000 for a single bottle of wine. He bought a bottle of Ch.d’Yquem 1811, and made it the single most expensive white wine sold in history.

 

What makes a successful fine wine collector?

Technological developments and a global economy have transformed wine from simply a pleasurable drink to a source of great financial reward – if you know what you’re doing as a collector. So, how to you build a collection of fine wine?

Successful wine investors and collectors generally have two main qualities. These are an instinct for a good deal, and a passion for fine wine. It’s important to understand the wine market itself, and that fine wine is a luxurious product. It also is one of the few asset classes that improves as it ages. Because it is produced in small, limited quantities, fine wine also becomes rarer over the years.

 

Fine wine is an ever-evolving market

And to successfully invest in fine wine, it’s vital to understand how the market is changing. There have been many changes for the fine wine market during the last ten years. New routes have been opened up, making it easier for fine wine collectors to buy wine from across the world. For example, there has been a surge of US interest in wines sold by traditional London vendors, which has put pressure on an already limited supply.

Buying fine wine online has also become much more accessible and has had the added effect of making fine wine prices more transparent. Social media has also increased the sway and influence of wine critics. In many ways, the fine wine market has become more mainstream. Check out our Collector’s Guide for information on fine wines and how to begin your personal collection.

Changes we are seeing this year include a diminished appetite for Bordeaux fine wines. Around ten years ago, the Asian market upped their interest in this marketplace, which only covered a few wine estates in the region. Due to this interest from Hong Kong and China, prices shot up faster than the secondary growths. By 2013, there was a marked contraction of this market as prices fell away. However, since then it has levelled out into a more mature market.

In 2019, Burgundy is seeing huge price polarisations. For example, the very top of the scale, including Roumier, Leroy and DRC have increased hugely. They are now going for more than £10,000 per bottle. However, other wine estates that used to be considered on a par with these are reaching far lower prices. Ponsot Clos Roche is selling for £3,500 per case of 12 bottles. This is the case for even the finest vintages.

For newcomers to fine wine collecting, the marketplace can appear confusing. It is packed with many different wine merchants, producers, regions and vintages. The best advice is to only buy the finest wines from the best winemakers. Identifying the best wines for your collection is the first step. Second, ensure you buy wines that have been kept under bond. This means in Government controlled warehouses that ensure proper temperature control. This also adds a layer of security that helps to stop the possibility of buying forgeries of fine wines.

 

Break the rules with these unconventional wine and food matching choices

The rules for wine and food are simple: red with meat and white with fish. Similarly, it should always be white in summer and red in winter. At least that’s what most people think. But there’s no need to be so rigid when it comes to food and wine. Here are some unconventional wine and food matching choices that are just as delicious.

Delicious but unconventional wine and food matching options

Free your mind when it comes to choosing wine for your dinner party. Take a look at these pairings and give them a go next time you’re wondering what to drink with your dinner. Here are some unconventional wine and food matching choices that are just as delicious.

1. White wine and cheese

Traditionally, it’s always red wine with the cheese board. But many French cheese producers believe white wine works best. Sweet wines go perfectly with salty blue cheeses, for example. It also works well with creamy mild cheeses, such as camembert and brie.

2. Sparkling rosé and steak

Ask anyone you know, and they’ll more than likely say it has to be a rich, deep red wine for steak. But try your next steak with a sparkling rose, whether a Champagne or from another region, and you’ll discover why it goes so well with a medium rare, perfectly cooked piece of steak.

3. Sauvignon blanc and salt and vinegar crisps

Well, we did say these pairings are unconventional! According to wine director Ferguson Nagan, any Sauvignon Blanc goes beautifully with salt and vinegar crisps. He told the Spectator Wine that it’s his favourite unconventional wine and food pairing. And if olives are more your style of snack, try a Sicilian white wine.

4. Red wine and chicken

White wine is always touted as the best choice for chicken dishes. But it’s most definitely not the only option that works. Try a red wine with a roast chicken. It may surprise you.

5. Rosé and fish

White is also the first choice for fish due to the low tannin content in its grapes. Tannins are responsible for any sharp or bitter flavours in your wine, and when paired with fish can leave a hint of iron on the palate. Examples of high tannin grapes include Nebbiolo, Cabernet and Sangiovese. However, that doesn’t mean you have to choose white for your fish dish. Instead try low tannin wines, such as rosé, Champagne or a red made with Rossesse, Grenache or Pinot Noir grapes.

6. Sparkling wine and a rich dessert

Rather than choosing a sticky, sweet dessert wine or another glass of red, opt for a sparkler for your dessert. In general, you should avoid wines that are the same level of sweetness as your dessert. However, prosecco, Champagne and demi-sec are all bubbly and forgiving with flavour.

7. Chardonnay and popcorn

Popcorn is full of toasty flavours of the corn itself, and either a savoury or sweet finish. A creamy Chardonnay goes really well with this popular snack and could really lift movie time into something special.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing wine with food. The best thing to do is try different combinations until you find your favourite.

Explaining new wine categories – what is biodynamic wine?

 

Over recent years, there has been an increase of natural, organic and biodynamic wines onto the market. But if you’re not sure quite what these labels mean, you’re not alone. They can be difficult to understand at first glance, so here’s a breakdown of these new types of wine.

While enjoying a glass of wine is a simple pleasure for many people, the labeling and categorisation of the much-loved beverage is complex. And when you’re searching for the perfect wine, working out which country, region and quality to choose can be overwhelming.

 

Natural, organic and biodynamic wine categories

Wine labeling also varies from brand to brand. For example, you could find an Australian chardonnay with both the country and the grape clearly marked on the label. However, if you pick up a typical Chablis, the label generally won’t tell you that it’s also made with chardonnay grapes.

This is partly what makes wine such a fascinating industry. It’s also why there are so many collectors and wine aficionados who take pleasure in learning all about the endless varieties on offer. It’s also important to many people to understand exactly what is in the wine they’re drinking, particularly in these health-conscious times.

All of which has set the stage for a growth of natural and organic wines. Natural wine can be found everywhere now, with varieties easily available from wine merchants, in supermarkets and in bars. Others focus on many different types of artisanal wines, including biodynamic and organic. But what does biodynamic wine mean? And how does it differ from organic?

 

What is organic wine?

 

 

This relatively new category of wine is among the simplest, particularly as consumers are familiar with organic food. Just as organic food is grown and cultivated with no herbicides, fungicides or artificial pesticides, organic wine is too. Vineyards use natural products to fight disease and encourage their vines to grow. The rules for organic wine also mean that certain additives cannot be used to make the wine. Organic wine is popular with people looking for a certain level of quality and who take sustainability seriously.

 

What is biodynamic wine?

 

Biodynamic wine follows a specific ideology that states for a vineyard to be the best it can be, it must be harmonious and balanced. Organic vineyards aren’t enough to fulfill the specificity of biodynamic wine.

Winemakers use crop rotation, for example. By resting and alternating crops, the soil is given the chance to replenish its nutrients. They also spray the soil with natural pesticides and substances, including manure, minerals and various flowers. Some prune and maintain the vineyard according to the phases of the moon, and others take it even further by playing music to their plants.

Whether the more spiritual aspects of biodynamic wine truly work, the makers are producing popular wines. After all, the ancient Romans and Greeks also grew and harvested their crops in the same way, so there must be something in it.

 

What is natural wine?

 

This is a trickier category to quantify. With organic and biodynamic wines, there are clear rules to follow and accreditations to earn. However, natural wine has no specific body overseeing it. This means that there are no widely accepted rules as to what constitutes a natural wine.

However, the basic idea is that the grape’s growing process is interrupted as little as possible. As well as avoiding all chemicals, growers of natural wine grapes also don’t use filtration. This process removes all of the particles that result in a cloudy wine. In addition, they only use naturally occurring yeasts and add a tiny amount of sulphur. With no enzymes or sugar added, natural wines follow a very different path of production that regular wines.

 

This year’s Champagne harvest is now underway across villages in the region

With the nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, it’s finally wine harvest time across Northern Europe. And the Champagne region has already announced its start dates for this year’s harvest.

Villages across the Champagne region in France are now harvesting grapes. The start date varies for each variety of grape and each village. This is to make sure the precious Champagne grapes are harvested at their peak ripeness.

 

What makes the Champagne harvest special?

Each year, all grapes harvested in the Champagne region are carefully hand-picked. This adds to the special atmosphere that always surrounds the Champagne’s region’s strict regulations. It’s all part of the steps necessary to produce the high-quality, unique sparkling Champagne that is loved all around the world.

The rules state that only grapes from delineated, specific plots across the appellation are used to make Champagne. The region is around 90 miles north-east of Paris and covers an area of less than 80,000 acres. From how the grapes are planted, grown and harvested, to the winemaking process itself, every step is carefully regulated. There is a carefully controlled system of adjustments and refinements that all come together to make Champagne, including how it is blended.

 

Champagne is fighting back against climate change

The growing season in 2019 has had to deal with various challenges from climate changes. This includes extremely high temperatures throughout the summer. And, as with many traditional growing regions, Champagne is developing innovative solutions to adapt for the future.

From growers to suppliers, the Champagne region’s industry is united in working together to combat the changes taking place due to climate change. They are also focusing on maintaining the high quality which is Champagne’s traditional strength.

Jennifer Hall is director of the Champagne Bureau in the United States. She says that climate change is a growing problem for the Champagne industry: “The region is committed to sustainable development and seeks to do its part to reduce its environmental impact and protect the unique terroir of Champagne.”

 

Reducing carbon footprint is a priority for wine makers in Champagne

 Champagne is one of the most progressive regions in terms of reducing its emissions. Back in 2013, it was the first wine region in the world to initiate an audit of its carbon footprint. This led to a campaign focusing on reducing the carbon footprint of the Champagne region by 25% by 2020, and by 75% by 2050. During the last 15 years, Champagne has reduced the carbon footprint per bottle of wine by 20%, which is close to target.

It has also reduced the use of nitrogen fertilisers by 50%, and now recycles 90% of all industrial waste and 100% of all wine by-products and effluents. To boost the motivation of the region, the Comité Champagne introduced a certification standard in 2015 for wine growers in the region to prove their environmental commitment. Between 2015 and 2019, more than 20% of the wine growers in Champagne have been certified, and from this 15% are certified “Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne”.

 

For a full and detailed list of all of the harvest dates across villages and by grape in Champagne, click here.