Cunard Raises the Bar for Wine Lovers

Posted on Jun 9, 2015


HMS Queen Victora CunardOn July 4th, 1840, Cunard Line’s first ship, RMS Brittania, left Liverpool on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic bound for Boston, Massachusetts setting the standard for today’s cruise industry. 175 years later, Cunard’s reputation of sophisticated elegance is alive and well amongst her three ships: the Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and the flagship Queen Mary 2. Our first cruise with Cunard turned out to be a world-class Advineture and an experience we would definitely recommend to fans of wine.

While we are no strangers to cruising, having sailed with a number of different lines of various sizes on both ocean and river, our expectations were high given the long-standing reputation of Cunard for its excellent amenities and service.

Cunard Our first indication that we weren’t going to be disappointed was the fact that on a ship with just under 2,000 passengers, there are no less than 22 Sommeliers on board! The high ratio is likely due to the fact that there are 11 dining rooms, bars and lounges to choose from; not including the French specialty restaurant Verandah or Prime Steakhouse and Coriander Indian restaurant (the latter two limited to certain nights on a rotation basis). Regardless, it’s still a notable ratio emphasizing Cunard’s priority in providing noteworthy wines.

The ship’s wine list itself is impressive not only in the variety of quality wines available but also with value. Options range from special occasion vintage bottles through to a nice glass of wine to accompany dinner and everything in between that weren’t exorbitantly overpriced. There was definitely an emphasis on Old World wines but still plenty of choice from the New World to satisfy any palate. Each evening the dinner menu also listed a suggested white and red to accompany that particular evening’s meal choices. But it would be a shame to miss out on speaking to one of the ship’s Sommeliers. We were thoroughly impressed by Alex, who was assigned to our dining room. Despite his young appearance, he was an absolute delight providing very helpful and knowledgeable advice, all with a genuine warmth and friendliness that was one of the highlights of our overall dining experience.

If choosing wine each night from the list feels even remotely onerous, Cunard’s Wine Programme offers pre-selected packages which consist of a variety of wines chosen for you.  There’s even a ‘flexible’ option which narrows your choice down and helps you to keep your consumption in line with your budget. Guests also have access to a dedicated ‘Wine Line’ via their stateroom phone providing access to one of their Sommeliers to pre-reserve your evening’s selection or get advice at your convenience.

2004 La Rioja AltaThe dining room along with all bars and restaurants on board also allows guests to bring a bottle of wine that may have been purchased while in port for a reasonable corkage fee of $20. This was particularly welcome given we spent a few days of our itinerary in Spain, allowing us to enjoy several wines from one of our favourite regions that weren’t available on the ship’s list.

Cunard Blind Tasting SignAnd while it’s not uncommon for Cunard to host leading winemakers from around the world to lead lectures and winemaker dinners, this particular voyage did not have any on board. However, Cunard does hold a blind tasting challenge on every voyage which was without question the highlight of our onboard experience. Held one afternoon while the ship was at sea, guests were invited to sign up and test their blind tasting skills against a three of the ship’s Sommeliers. The fee of $46 included 6 wines (3 white & 3 red) of very good to excellent quality, and generous pours along with valuable insight into the systematic tasting approach used by wine professionals. The fee was a bargain given the lineup which included the Jean Biecher & Fils Gewürztraminer from Alsace, the H Prinz von Hessen Riesling from Rheingau, the Cote de Lechet Domaine V Premier Cru Chablis from Burgundy, the Close Poggiale Rouge Sangiovese/Syrah blend from Corsica, the Chateau Giscours 3rd growth Margaux from Bordeaux (from the fabulous 2000 vintage!), and the Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.


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