Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Wine shopping on Viking Line

Viking Grace made its maiden voyage in 2012 and it is the pride and joy of Viking Line's fleet ( a real flagship ship!) And for a reason: grace it has. It is in great shape (yes, shipshape!) and offers modern, stylish setting for a minibreak that pampers those into good food and wine. 

Recent wine cruise provided plenty of opportunities to sample new wines - many of which found a new home in my suitcase. Some are the kind you can't get ashore, some are just a lot cheaper on board.

Á la carte restaurant Oscar wooed me with its surroundings, but also with equally elegant, knowledgeable and most importantly, very dignified customer service provided by the very professional staff. Adjacent Seamore Champagne Lounge is a wine bar where you have a chance to treat yourself with one of the several Champagnes that elsewhere aren't often available by the glass  - Laurent-Perrier, Pol Roger and Taittinger to mention a few. You can also indulge in varieties that you might have never even heard of. I myself fell totally in love with that Piper Heidsieck Rare Millissime 2002. Simply a divine Champagne with very distinctive notes of unicorns...!

Wine Spectator awarded this Champagne a whopping 95 points back in 2012 and the following year it was selected World's best Champagne. And the final detail that did it for me? That metal bit around the neck is a ring. Oh yes. And that decorative, filigree-like label? Turns into... a tiara! Seriously!!!

And how could I not feel enamoured with the Champagne of the day: Henriot rosé. And Taittinger, different varieties of which I got to sample the day after at the fair. Wonderful Champagnes all round with fantastic harmony and elegance.

Something's definitely happening to me. Instead of my previously preferred, Pinot Noir-based Champagnes I find myself increasingly drawn to lighter, more subtle Chardonnay-based ones. Is my palate evolving ? Am I actually starting to learn something? Or am I myself starting to calm down...?

And there's more. Tucked away in the corner there's a specialty wine shop where you can buy wines that you've fallen for at the dinner. Just imagine: you enjoy a great dinner for which the waiter has recommended an excellent wine you hear you can't get back on land and then, as you're starting to count minutes wondering if there's still time to rush down to the duty-free two decks below... you're gracefully guided to their own shop where you can take your time selecting which gems to bring back home with you. That could never happen in Finland. Owing to the stupid laws...

This American Syrah was a perfect match with elk tournedos and came home after a dinner exactly like that. So rich, yet incredibly velvety soft. This won't be opened for just any dinner, I'll tell you...!

And in anticipation or rich, meaty pastas some Chianti. This ones calls for a robust ragú that's simmered away for hours!

...and for those dark, dark evenings some Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore. Both soft in tannins and rich with notes of sour cherry sweetness. For Verrocchio I'm thinking beautifully pink liver or something gamey still red on the middle. Oh, and with that some roasted veggies caramelized with honey...

Mara packs a bit more peppery punch, so a rich ragú or lamb dishes are in order.

Probably the best thing on the cruise was a wine tasting exploring the lesser-known wine regions. It was kicked off with this Chilean beauty, which I couldn't believe was Chardonnay - not even after I'd tasted it. None of that dilliness; its floral acids made me think New World Rieslings. Wonderful mineral character and subtle toastiness which would compliment smoked fish. And apparently it's a perfect match with caviar, too...!

Another new friend I made at the tasting is this. Hailing from Alentejo, the coldest and apparently the poorest region in Portugal it has rather parfume-like (lilies?) bouquet and liquoricey notes that are clear in the taste, too, especially after it's had time to breathe a bit. Great as is, but will work well with roasts or a lighter lighter meaty pastas. The winery itself suggests pairing with chicken curry, too. 

Oh and oh. Travelling does broaden one's horizons. And the size of your one's wine arsenal... So there - yet another reason to run away to the seas... for a minibreak anyway. Oh, all the wonderful dinners we'll be having with these...!





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