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.


Is it really possible to produce wine in space?

According to NASA, it most certainly is possible to make interstellar wine. We’re assuming they have higher priorities when it comes to exploring the final frontier, but it’s interesting to know that it could happen.

Over the last couple of years, NASA astronauts aboard the ISS (International Space Station) have been showing that it’s possible to grow produce in space, harvest it and eat it safely.

While they’ve been concentrating on nutrition for astronauts rather than fancy drinks, does the fact that they’ve been happily making space salads mean that a vintage space wine could be on its way?

Grapes are a challenge in space

ideal wine grape growingMost of the vegetables grown so far have been compact and easy to harvest. A major challenge in growing wine grapes in space would be the way vines need to grow.

Gioia Massa, a representative for NASA’s Vegetable Production System, said: “We have been working with some dwarf fruit trees that the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) developed, and I have heard that they also have some dwarf grape vines, so if the plants were small enough or could be trained around, for example, lights, it would certainly be possible to grow them.”

If the challenge of needing compact vines that can be clipped and trained in a certain way could be overcome, then the next step would be pollination. In 2018, NASA astronauts will be trying to pollinate tomatoes manually in the hopes of developing a process that can be replicated with other vegetables and fruit.

What about fermentation?

Grapes are only part of what’s needed to make wine – somehow the process of fermentation must also happen. So, is that possible in space? According to studies testing beer brewing in space, very possibly.

Student research shows that by using a microbial bioreactor, it is (at least in theory) possible that fermentation and other similar processes could happen in an atmosphere of microgravity.

So, to conclude, yes it’s ‘possible’ to grow grapes in space and make a galactical vintage. However, as NASA are concentrating on trying to ensure astronauts can grow vegetables for their health while on the space station, it’s unlikely to happen any time soon. We can always hope though!

The Bellini: a cocktail classic

The Bellini is an Italian classic is popular among those that prefer to diverge from a Mimosa, swapping zesty orange flavours for a sweeter peach flavour.

The recipe for a Bellini originates from Venice, Italy. The sweet treat is as simple as two parts Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) to one part peach puree. A hint of raspberry or cranberry juice can be added giving the drink its unique pink tint. Created in the 1930s-40s by bartender Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, it was named after the Italian renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini.


Since the perfection of the original recipe, there have been many variations. This is predominantly due to the availability of the products used, however bottled peach puree made specifically for a Bellini can be purchased. Alternatively, a homemade puree can be concocted using canned fruit.


The recipe for a Bellini is as simple as two steps:

  • First put one tablespoon of peach puree into the bottom of a chilled flute glass
  • Secondly, slowly fill the glass up with Prosecco so that it stirs up the puree

If, by chance, you do not have access to peaches and raspberries to puree, below is a version using all bottled/canned ingredients – this version will have a higher alcohol content than the original version:

  • Firstly, mix two ounces of peach nectar, one ounce of peach schnapps and finally one teaspoon of lemon juice into a chilled flute glass
  • To finish, add the Prosecco and stir

Mocktail, anyone?

For those that fancy something refreshing and tasty but don’t want the hassle of a morning hangover, this ‘Mocktail’ Bellini is a perfect fit. Using one tablespoon of peach puree, one ounce of mineral water and half an ounce of lemon juice and sparkling white grape juice. Just as simple as the original, this three-step recipe will taste just as delicious.

  • Firstly, put peach puree in the bottom of a champagne flute
  • Secondly, squeeze in the lemon juice.
  • Finally, slowly pour in the mineral water and grape juice leaving the drink to stir

A seasonal drink

The Bellini is delicate and light drink with accentuating sweet tones – perfect for spring and summer months. This drink can be enjoyed in the sun with friends, making it perfect for an afternoon party – your guests can accompany it with appetizers for a light snack. You can buy Pizzolato Spumante Prosecco online now from Ideal Wine Company, perfect for making a Bellini.

Four Amazing Wine Dessert Recipes

If you choose to start cooking with wine this year, you can use this incredibly versatile product to whip up everything from mouth-watering mains to delicious deserts. In order to help you develop your wine-based cook book, here we reveal four amazing wine desert recipes for you to try in 2017.

Wine-soaked pears

If you want a light after-dinner dish, try wine-soaked pairs. Browse our Bordeauxs list, to find the full-bodied red this dish requires. You’ll need three cups of red wine, four pealed pears, half a cup of white sugar, juice from half a lemon, a split, seeded vanilla bean and a cinnamon stick, broken into half.

Start by pouring the lemon juice over the pears. Place the wine, sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick into a small sauce pan and bring this mixture to boil. Add the pears in and let them simmer in this mixture for about 30 minutes and then let them cool. Finish by simmering the remaining mixture until it is reduced by half and then pouring it over the pears, to make a delicious dish which serves four.

Champagne cupcakes

You can use wine to make a range of scrumptious cakes. If you’re feeling particularly decadent, you may want to opt for Champagne cupcakes. You can find top Champagnes from Ideal Wine Company, with our list featuring brands such as Dom Perignon. To make a batch of 20 cakes, you’ll need six egg whites, a three quarter cup of Champagne, one and a half cups of white sugar, a two third cup of butter, one tablespoon of salt, three tablespoons of baking powder two three quarter cups of flour.

You’ll also need to make Champagne buttercream icing. This requires three tablespoons of Champagne, half a teaspoon of vanilla, a cup of butter and a three quarter cup of icing sugar. Start by preheating your oven to 175°C and putting cake cases into a cupcake pan. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, before sifting the flour, baking powder, salt and Champagne in. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and fold a third of these whites into the batter.

After this, fill the cupcake cases with the batter until they are two thirds full and then bake your cakes for around 20 minutes. Now turn your attention to the icing. You should start by beating together the icing sugar and butter with an electric mixer. After this is well-blended, add in the Champagne, before beating for another minute and then apply this icing to the cakes, to create unique little treats!

Wine popsicles

In summer, go for something that’ll cool you down, like wine popsicles. For this recipe, we’d suggest that you buy a bold Cabernet red wine. You’ll require three cups of red wine and water respectively. You’ll also need half a cup of white sugar, a cinnamon stick, eight black, crushed pepper corns, six whole cloves, four crushed cardamom pods and a two inch strip of orange zest, to make ten popsicles.

You should begin by heating the wine, orange zest, sugar, cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves and cardamom on a medium setting. You should stir the mixture and lower the heat, to bring it to a simmer, reducing it until you have a cup’s worth left. Then, remove the mixture from the pan, let it cool for 20 minutes, add the cinnamon stick, stir in the water and pour it into moulds. After this, you should add a popsicle stick to each one, before letting them freeze overnight and then voila!

Red wine doughnuts

For something filling, try red wine doughnuts! You’ll need a quarter cup of cocoa, sugar, milk, red wine and chocolate chips each. This recipe also requires a cup of flour, a tablespoon of baking powder, one egg, a pinch of salt, three tablespoons of apple sauce, a tablespoon of canola oil and a teaspoon of vanilla. You should also have half a cup of chocolate chips and gold sprinkles for the chocolate glaze.

Before preparing the recipe, preheat your oven to 230°C and grease a doughnut pan. Then, mix together the cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, sugar and flour, before adding in the red wine, vanilla, apple sauce, canola oil, milk and egg. You should stir this mixture and then add in the chocolate chips, before pouring this batter into the pan and baking for roughly ten minutes. After this, melt down the chocolate chips and add the sprinkles to create a glaze which you can brush over your doughnuts!

Get cooking

With these four recipes, we’ve only just gotten started. You can browse various sources, from wine blogs such as Vine Pair to recipe sites like BBC Good Food, to discover a range of delicious wine dessert recipes to try. You may want to buy the wine needed for these dishes from Ideal Wine Company. With us, you can find fine wines from regions like Australia, Bordeaux and California at great prices!