Wine Not

The sea days on board the ship are interesting when weather is not suitable for outdoor activities. While there’s plenty to do some of the options are not our style: shopping sales, bingo, art auctions, salsa lessons, bean bag toss, teeth whitening seminar, next cruise highlights. The list goes on and on. We enjoy reading and people watching.

Today there was an activity that caught our attention and we couldn’t resist. Wine tasting. Usually we do more than “taste” but this sounded interesting as they were featuring wines from Portugal. I can’t even recall a section in the LCBO from Portugal. We were definitely curious.

There’s a nice cozy bar on board the ship called Vintages and two of the four ship’s sommeliers work there. Denis is from Russia and Natalia is from Costa Rica. We enjoy sipping drinks at this bar because the view is good and it’s not overly busy. They have only a limited bar selection: wines and whiskey. So it’s perfect for us. Denis has brought the wine tasting to our attention and we are intrigued.

We arrive at the bar and they have set their side table with 10 places settings featuring 4 glasses and a plate of cheeses. Everyone takes their seat and Natalia welcomes us. She is clearly knowledgeable and very passionate about her craft. Starting with wine general information she leads us into production in Portugal. As we suspected, Portugal is not famous for their wines and none of the grape varieties are familiar to us. Neither the white or red blends are great, but paired with the cheese they are passable. I wouldn’t rush out to buy them for sure.

However, the Port was another matter. We’ve enjoyed port at home but our knowledge was limited so today’s I information was very interesting. Porto (the official name) was discovered centuries ago by accident. As the British enjoyed their tipples from France, war with the French precluded trade and they needed a new source. Portugal stepped up but shipment was questionable due to distance. There were concerns that the wine’s integrity would not survive. So someone thought adding brandy would lengthen the shelf life and presto! Hello Porto!

There are different varieties such as Ruby and Tawny depending on the aging process, type of grape and quantity of brandy. Aging is based on the vintners guess as production time varies. How’s that for a vocation!!

We tasted two varieties and both were sweet and complex. Natalia paired them strong cheese and also fig compote to highlight that the drinks sweetness could pair nicely with desserts as well as savoury.

After her formal presentation Natalia invited us to enjoy sipping and nibbling. However, this part of the session was the opening that the table know it all (a burly bearded man from Mississippi seated next to Rudy) needed to take over the lead. Verging on annoying, our sip and nibble was suddenly not as enlightening. One glance at Rudy and I could see him edging from his stool. He’s so much like his father!

A lovely afternoon reprieve nonetheless. Cheers!

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