September 15, 2009 / 1:12 PM / 9 years ago

Wine makes a splash on the high seas

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - People who cruise on the high seas expect wonderful food with wines to match, but how do those bottles of Haut-Brion find their way onto a table in the middle of the ocean?

The Queen Mary 2 cruise liner arrives in Sydney, February 26, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Fine wine has three enemies: heat, light and movement. So ensuring that the Bordeaux or Barolo isn’t banged about on an ocean voyage is tricky, as is deciding which wines to carry.

Britain’s Seabourn Cruises, which has four ships that usually ply the Baltic and Mediterranean seas with no more than 400 passengers prefers to stock just a few bottles of the high-end wines such as Petrus, Haut-Brion and Palmer aboard,

“We don’t keep the hundreds of bottles as others do. We keep the bottles shore side and take them on as needed ... That way, they’re not shaken about for months and months,” said Tony Eggers, the luxury cruise line’s wine director.

Both the Queen Mary 2, which can carry 2,600 passengers and the Queen Victoria, which can accommodate slightly less, have some of the most extensive wine lists at sea, Edward Dieusaert, Cunard Line’s product manager for food and beverage, said.

He explained that the wines are kept in the lowest part of the ship to minimize any movement.

Champagne, sparkling and white wines are stored in a chilled room, while the reds are in a separate location. Each dining room requisitions their wines from the storage areas on a daily basis, he added.

Aboard a Holland America ship, which has a fleet of 15 vessels, the main wine list is kept to around 120 selections.

“I’d say the cellar represents a mixture of old world and new. Spanish, French, Italian mixed with American, Australian, New Zealand, South African and, more and more, wines from Chile and Argentina,” Oliver Hammerer, the wine director, said, adding that he buys more than 100,000 cases of wine a year.

Ole Christensen, of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, was creating a new wine list for its five vessels that can carry from 400 to 1,350 passengers on their journeys through Europe.

“How does one choose? Well, we’ve tried different approaches. When our ships have been on world cruises, we’ve taken aboard local wines and let our passengers be the judge. In addition, we seek out wines that our clientele, who are mainly British, will not find on their supermarket shelves or local wine shop.”

Dieusaert said the 31 sommeliers aboard the Queen Mary 2 and the 23 on the Queen Victoria take on small amounts of local and regional wines during their round-the-world cruises. They also use supplies that have been previously shipped to various ports of call.

The tactic allows customers and the vessels’ staff to taste wines they would otherwise not know.

Eggers said the most important thing is to marry the food with the wine.

“So we all work very closely, chefs with sommeliers. It’s really teamwork.”

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