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Some Observations on Our Wine Drinking

Ramesh, our Sommelier on the Queen Victoria who discussed our wine and pairing with us each night

We recently had an epiphany drinking wines at a wine pairing dinner on Cunard’s Queen Victoria. We brought 48 different bottles of wine with us when we boarded the ship for a 57-day cruise around South America. We consumed one of these wines with dinner every night or occasionally with lunch. The wines we brought with us all came from The Caviste Wine Shop in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and were priced at roughly $25-100/bottle, about the price of most wines on the Queen Victoria wine list. We had to pay a $25 corking fee, but felt we were still drinking better wines than we could purchase on the ship for about the same price.

At a wine pairing dinner hosted by the Head Sommelier and Executive Chef (see, Wine Pairing: Lunch and Dinner on the Cunard Queen Victoria several French wines were served that were over $200 or the higher end of ships wine list, so we sampled and paired several of the best wines available on the ship. Now for the punch line. All of the wines we brought with us from home were better than any of those served at the wine pairing dinner or we drank at several wine tastings on the trip!!! So what’s going on here?

1. All of the wines on the ship come from producers that can provide enough of the same wine to stock all three ships wine cellars; all three Cunard ships have the same wine list (although the Queen Mary, being a larger ship, has additional wines on its wine list). The wines we brought with us all came from small producers that make more limited quantities and/or were not entry level wines from those producers.

2. The mark-up for wines on the ship appears to be two to three times the retail price, not unusual for restaurant wine pricing, but even with the corking fee our wines were lower in price, e.g., the Burgundy we had at the dinner was $225 on the wine list, our $100 comparable Burgundy plus the corking fee was only $125

3. All of the wines we brought with us came from the Caviste Wine Shop in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. All the wines in this shop were hand picked by shops owner, Russ Anderson and this selection process assures that only high quality wines throughout the price range are available in his shop. He does not ever purchase wines that are not high quality and a reasonable price and we GREATLY benefitted from this pre-purchase screening.

4. We have tasted enough wines to recognize the good from the bad and to be honest we have to admit we’re simply not happy with wine that’s not both interesting and high quality. And, this was really brought out when comparing the wines we brought aboard and those served at this wine pairing dinner. THE WINES WE BROUGHT WERE MARKEDLY BETTER THAN EVEN THE BEST SERVED AT THE WINE PAIRING DINNER and were beginning to think were turning into wine snobs!!!

Just a couple of side short side notes: 1. One of the primary reasons we continually travel on Cunard ships is because they let us bring wine on board and pay a corkage fee when we drink our wines with meals in the dinning room. We’ve spent many months on Cunard ships because of this policy and plan on spending many more!!!
2. We really enjoyed our sommelier, Ramesh. He was both helpful and knowledgeable about wines of the world. In addition, when we ordered wine from the ships cellar he always asked what we were having for dinner. A sommelier that pairs wine with food is our kind of guy and he’s a credit to the Cunard sommelier’s. Another reason we come back to Cunard ships again and again.