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Drinking in the delights of La Spezia, Nice and Barcelona on a cruise with the wine whisperer

Drinking in the delights of La Spezia, Nice and Barcelona on a cruise with the wine whisperer

Addison in Nice, France

I love wine, but know very little about it. I tend to stick to the same small selection of wines that I’m familiar with at my local supermarket. So an opportunity to experience a wine trip with Celebrity Cruises on their Reflection ship seemed like the perfect way to indulge my passion for travel, as well as learn a thing or two about wine.

This was my first cruise experience ever, and I totally loved it! Check out my video report below:

As well as visiting some amazing destinations, and falling in love with the experience of seeing the world from a cruise ship, I also learnt quite a bit about wine.

Our on-board expert was Joe Fattorini – one of the presenters from The Wine Show.

Joe, a self-proclaimed ‘Wine Whisperer’, is a warm, enigmatic man with the most impressive well-spoken accent that you could imagine.

Never short of a fascinating story, he entertained with intimacy and often the odd naughty added detail. He took us on a trip through anecdotes relating to his time studying wine and the general richness of his past. Much akin to the wines sat before us in the beautifully-decorated Cellar Masters Wine Bar on board.

Joe began the tasting by asking me whether I liked coffee and whether I liked Diet Coke. He also asked whether I used a lot of salt on my food growing up – my answers providing him an insight into my palette.

‘You shouldn’t match the wine to the food, but to the palettes of the guests’

Joe advised there were two schools of thought on the matter of wine matching at dinner and he feels that – contrary to popular belief – you shouldn’t match the wine to the food, but to the palettes of the guests who are attending your soiree.

Addison with the Wine Show's Joe Fattorini
Addison with the Wine Show’s Joe Fattorini

We learned that people’s taste palettes can be organized into four categories. This includes the tolerant palette, which accounts for 2,000-3,000 taste buds. These people generally enjoy a harsher or drier wine.

There’s also the hypersensitive palette, accounting for 8,000 taste buds – the owners of hypersensitive palettes prefer sweeter flavors (and often more salt on their food).

I always used to laugh a bit when reading the exuberantly extravagant and downright over-the-top descriptions of wine on the back of a bottle. ‘Hints of’ this and ‘austere, flamboyant taste explosions’ of that. But Joe actually demystified this by informing us that the human taste palette can only really detect about two, sometimes three flavours at a time, meaning that when they list more than this, it’s all fables and fallacy.

We also were taught the method for grading wines – the B.L.I.C. system. Wines are rated out of three for their balance, whether they are fruity or dry; the length of time the taste remains on your palette; the intensity of the flavor; and the complexity, which relates to such things as the quality of grape and oak-based maturity that culminate within the flavor of each delicious drop of wine.

‘A liquid journey through the regions of Oregon and California’

He took us on a liquid journey through the regions of Oregon and California. Joe also made sure we were sampling local wines from France, Italy, and Spain which were among the destinations on our travels. Joe’s knowledge was flawless, with an entertaining style of delivery that defied boredom.

We sampled six gorgeous wines, three of each, from a drier and tangier Chenin Blanc white wine, through to a surprising, luxuriously buttery Chardonnay. There was the oak-barrell-soaked fruity sunshine of an aged Tempranillo red which was my favorite until it was usurped by the exquisite California Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Celebrity Reflection, docked in Villefrance.
The Celebrity Reflection, docked in Villefrance.

Next up, we were taken on a shore excursion to the stunning-beyond-compare, Le chȃteau de Crémat vineyard near Nice. Here we were treated to a tour of the grounds. It’s been in operation since 1902. It utilized an ancient Roman cellar for maturing the exclusive wine in large oak barrels.

The vineyard only produces 40,000 bottles each year. So to be regaled with three incredible wines to taste was a real treat.

We were given a short tour of nearby Nice. We also had a little spare time to explore the market and beach if we wished. Then, a sumptuous lunch at Le Grand Balcon, featuring, rather cleverly, the wines we had been sampling that morning.

We ate our three course meal, sipping on the beautiful wines. Meanwhile, we made friends with the interesting and diverse variety of people enjoying the excursion with us.

‘Champagne in hand, the sun teasing the horizon’

Setting off for Barcelona, where I was set to leave the ship the following morning, I was invited by the Captain to see the ship leave the port from the helipad. Champagne in hand, the sun teasing the horizon, I felt incredibly at peace with the world.

My last supper was to be had at Murano, one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. I’m a lover of good food and the venue, the chef, and menu did not disappoint.

Addison on the beach in Nice
Addison on the beach in Nice

For my first course, I had the smoked salmon and peekytoe crab parfait. This was layered with avocado and salmon caviar. It proved to be a rich seafood smash.

‘Lobster, flambeed in cognac right in front of us’

This course was followed by the restaurant’s titular Murano Lobster. It was flambeed in cognac right in front of us at the table. We waited patiently, hunger held at bay for the few minutes it took to cook. But the dish proved utterly worth the wait. Following this course, we enjoyed the cheese board (I believe I described the goats cheese as ‘like tasting clouds’). Plus, a small selection of tiny, delicious desserts.

As you would perhaps anticipate from such a venue, the service was impeccable across the board. Especially from our handsome and friendly dish of a waiter, Milan, serving us. It was also nice that they never once missed a trick when filling our wine up. This made for a delectably tipsy last night (and a not so pleasant next morning).

One thing that cannot be questioned is the incredibly warm, welcoming and helpful service on board the ship. The Celebrity Reflection, the wine tasting and events team, along with the utterly delightful crew are everything you would expect from a luxury liner and yet, so much more.

Addison White travelled on the Reflection cruise courtesy of Celebrity Cruises. Celebrity Cruises welcomes LGBTI travelers aboard all of its ships. As a headline sponsor of Miami Beach Pride and a strong supporter of the LGBTI community around the world, Celebrity Cruises are experts in offering guests outstanding service, impeccable attention to detail, and making all guests feel welcome.

A post shared by Addison (@addisonmusic) on Oct 26, 2017 at 9:12am PDT