Wine cruising with Vinopolis and Celebrity Cruises

Jan 22, 13 Wine cruising with Vinopolis and Celebrity Cruises

Posted by in France, Portugal, Spain, Travel

Last Autumn, I was invited by Celebrity Cruises and Vinopolis to join their Immersive Wine Cruise. The cruise featured Oz Clarke and, from Vinopolis, their head educator, Tom Forrest.  They were on hand to not only lead masterclasses on board but also joined guests every evening for wine chats and led the vineyard tours which were offered as on-shore excursions. The cruise was a 12-day trip starting in Southampton with stops in Le Havre, Bordeaux, Bilboa, Vigo and Porto. 12 days might seem like a long time to be on a boat but the Celebrity Cruises ships really are floating luxury hotels. My cabin was spacious and full of light, complete with a small lounge and a sheltered balcony where I could sit and watch the dolphins playing as we sailed by (I saw them 3 times on the trip) or just enjoyed an evening tipple with friends before dinner. As I was in Concierge Class, we had 24 hr room service and unlike the typical “you must eat at your assigned seating” , I had the luxury of choosing my dining time and dining companions as well as my choice of where I wanted to eat. Whatever you may have thought about cruising before, there seems to be a lot of flexibility nowadays. There was plenty to do on-board besides the daily wine tasting classes that Oz and Tom gave every afternoon that we were at sea. The ship, Constellation is one of the older ships of the fleet but it still has plenty of amenities and dining venues. There was a full roster of activities from cooking to dance classes and everything in between. My favourite dining venue was the Ocean Liners Restaurant which was the formal dining restaurant on the ship. The wine list was impressive and although a bit skewed to the New World, the prices were reasonable. This may have been in part because the ship is run by an American company so all prices were in dollars. I...

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Celebrity Cruises with Vinopolis and Oz Clarke this Autumn

Aug 14, 12 Celebrity Cruises with Vinopolis and Oz Clarke this Autumn

Posted by in Food and Wine, France, Portugal, Spain

Earlier this year I was invited to learn more about Celebrity Cruises at Vinopolis and it was a surprising evening for me. Cruise ships have definitely changed from the days of shuffleboard and the blue-rinse brigade, focusing on fine dining and wine as well as having a variety of shipboard activities and themed cruises. Celebrity Cruises is going to be offering wine themed cruises in September, October and November featuring some of the premier European wine regions. The cruises will be stopping in Spain, France and Portugal and will be offering wine seminars and sessions whilst on board. A very special cruise is departing on Oct 13 with Oz Clark and resident wine expert of Vinopolis, Tom Forrest on board to lead the wine masterclasses. Departing directly from Southampton the programme includes on board activities and expert led-sessions, such as introductions to wine tasting, meet and greet sessions and wine masterclasses from the key regions visited. The cruise will be calling at Paris (Le Havre, France), Bordeaux (Le Verdon, France), Bilbao (Spain), Vigo (Spain) and Porto (Portugal) and  is only available if booked directly with Celebrity Cruises on 0844 481 7682. The Winesleuth is going to be on this cruise as well so you can be sure to follow my adventures here, both at sea and ashore. In the meantime, here is a small taste of what to expect from Tom Forrest, who will be be conducting wine seminars along with Oz Clarke. Here, Tom is talking about a few of the wines and the regions they come from… *pics and video courtesy of Celebrity Cruises Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Celebrity Cruising at Vinopolis

Mar 12, 12 Celebrity Cruising at Vinopolis

Posted by in Food and Wine

“Love. Exiciting and new. Come aboard. We’re expecting youuuuu. The Looooooooove boat….” It’s amazing but I can still remember the words to that cheesy 80’s sitcom set on a cruise ship. And much like the 80’s, cruise ships have always seemed a bit cheesy to me. That is until I was introduced to Celebrity X Cruises the other night at Vinopolis. If, like me, you’ve never bothered to find out more about a cruise experience, prepared to be surprised. Apparently, they are gigantic floating hotels/spas/world class restaurants with lux amenities. Celebrity now features fine wine and dining on all it’s ships and gone are the days of shrimp cocktails and sausage cocktails. The ships are also looking pretty flash nowadays, too. I was invited to a dinner at Vinopolis to learn about Celebrity’s new food and wine cruises that they are introducing in the Autumn. The cruises are going to be co-hosted by Oz Clarke and Vinopolis’s Tom Forrest and will feature stops in various wine regions, including, Portugal, Spain and France. The dinner we had was representative of the kind of food and wine matching meals that would feature on the ship. We started off with an English Sparkling wine, the Ridgeview South Ridge 2008 traditional method, which was really good with the canapes. I was a bit surprised as I’d had it a few days previously and wasn’t all that keen on it but it seems to go well with food. Served up with the starter of goat cheese tart and beetroot, we had a white Bordeaux,  a 2004 Rioja reserva, Pagos de Tahola, was paired with a perfectly grilled steak and a 2007 LBV port with chocolate fondant was heavenly.  Happily a cheese board was served up paired with a white wine from the the south of France, the Grand Reserve de Gassac blanc 2010. An interesting choice to have with the cheeses (Cheshire Blue, Brie de Meaux, Epoisse) and for me, they didn’t match. While some people like the wine...

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Win a pair of tickets to Vinopolis’ Grapevine Tour

I haven’t been to Vinopolis for some time but I was there the other night and was really surprised by how much they’ve spruced up the joint. There is a restaurant under the arches along with a cool bar and there are quite a few new exhibits. If you’re a newbie to wine (or want to learn more about drinks), this is a good place to start. Not to mention the Laithwaites shop which is attached to Vinopolis. You can take home a bottle or two if you so feel inspired after visiting. If you’re looking for an introduction to wine “The Grapevine tour for Two” is a good place to start. Itincludes a “how to” session, teaching you how to describe wine easily as well as tasting through 6 different wines and a cocktail to round things out. I’m giving away a pair of tickets and all you have to do is leave a comment here or on The Winesleuth’s Facebook page, telling me why you want to visit Vinopolis. Contest ends midnight, Saturday 3 March 2012. Good luck! Thanks to for providing the prize tickets. The T&C: Your prize voucher will be valid for 10 months and is for two people. The minimum age is 18. You can purchase additional tastings if you wish, but there’s no obligation. Vinopolis’ opening hours are: Mon-Wed (closed), Thurs-Fri (2pm- 10pm), Sat (12pm-10pm), Sun (12pm-6pm). Vinopolis isn’t open on any bank holidays, except for Good Friday. Last entry to the tour is 2.5 hours before closing on all days. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Tequila! (Single-estate Tequila at that)

Tequila! Pee-WeeHerman dancing on a counter top in white platform shoes to the beat of the song, “Tequila”. Upside-down Margaritas and that irritating whistle they’d blow while maniacally shaking your head. Bringing my own blender to dorm parties. Oh, yeah. Memories of growing up in California and going to university in San Diego, just 40 minutes from the Mexican border and Tijuana–haven for underage US drinkers. Tequila, like me, would like to shake off those sordid memories and move on, grow up, become a bit more—civilized. Wandering through the recent consumer event, Bibulous, I was drawn like a moth to the fine tequila stand. I took a trip to Monterey, Mexico a few years ago and visited a tequila museum where I was introduced to some quality tequila so I was curious to see what the Mexicans had brought to the shores of Ol’ Blighty (and no Jose Cuervo Gold in sight!). The Mexican government has devoted considerable time and money to promoting tequila around the world and part of that initiative is the Tequila Roadshow which rolled into Vinopolis as part of Bibulous a few weeks ago. The Tequila Roadshow is highlighting premium tequila featuring 8 world class brands, all composed of 100% agave; Cuervo Platino, Clase Azul, Tequila Ocho, Campo Azul, Herradura, Olmeca Atos, Tres Generaciones and Casa de Don Agustin. I walked up and said, “Give me something interesting”. Tom Estes, European Tequila Ambassador and the fellow manning the stand, was happy to oblige. At first he suggested, reposado (aged less than a year in oak), than anejo (aged minimum of 1 year, max 3 years in oak), ho-hum. I said interesting. And then he said, “Wanna try some single-estate tequila?” Now you’re talking, Tom. Ocho Tequila is the first one to feature a vintage and each are from a single estate which signifies the exact year of harvest and the location of the agave plants. The idea behind single estate tequilas is to highlight the relationship between terroir and the finished product. Ocho Tequilas are made in...

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