Q&A with Crystal Cruises’ Wine Experts will Inspire Your Palate
Some of the most fascinating conversations aboard a Crystal voyage occur over dinner and drinks. Aboard Crystal Cruises, wine is an integral piece of this culinary conversational puzzle, as the wine lists featured in the restaurants of Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity are a journey unto themselves. Helping guests navigate the extensive selection of vintages are the expert sommeliers, each certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers and sailing the world with Crystal to share their boundless passion for wine. This passion also makes for great conversation, as Crystal sommeliers relish the opportunity to chat with guests as they dine about their tastes in wine and food and help make the experience even better as they expand their palates.
Today, the head sommeliers aboard our ocean ships, Boris Aletic (Crystal Symphony) and Tilmar Pfefferkorn (Crystal Serenity) bring their tableside banter – and recommendations and other insights – to the Crystal Insider to inspire your next Crystal voyage, or at very least, your next dinner menu.
Knowing that Crystal’s wine list is ever-evolving, what new wine(s) are you most excited to share with guests?
Tilmar: It is always fun to share any wines that a guest has never tried before, or better yet, never heard of or would never expect. I’m currently excited about a selection of nine Israeli wines that we picked up during our visit earlier this year.
Boris: Crystal truly offers some of the greatest wines available in the industry, so for me, it’s virtually impossible to choose one or two. But there are a handful that I am always proud to introduce to our guests:
Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc, Château De Beaucastel, Rhone Valley, France 2014;
Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, Silex, Domaine Didier Daguenau, Loire Valley 2014;
Valbuena, Vega Sicilia, Ribera del Duero, Spain 2009;
Château Lascombes, Second Growth, Margaux, Bordeaux 2010;
Barolo, “Spress,” Angelo Gaja, Piedmont, Italy 2011; and
Pluribus, Bond Winery, Napa Valley, U.S. 2006
Beyond the traditional “rules,” (Cabernet with beef, crisp whites with seafood, seasonal wines etc.), what are some of the most interesting pairings you recommend?
Tilmar: During Vintage Room dinners, we often present pairings that are unexpected but are incredibly delicious. We recently paired Brunello di Montalcino with a porcini and artichoke crusted sea bass and red wine gastrique.
Boris: A few pairings that I find very interesting and enjoyable are Canadian venison with Tinta de Toro Tempranillo; swordfish and caponata sauce with Barbaresco or Barolo; and French onion soup with Sancerre.
How do Crystal sommeliers and chefs collaborate to create complementary menus?
Tilmar: We work alongside the chefs on a regular basis to plan menus for Vintage Room dinners and other wine events. We also have the happy task of sampling new dishes to make our best pairing recommendations.
Boris: Our culinary directors are so creative and innovative with the flavors they introduce, it can be quite a challenge for sommeliers! But it’s a challenge we enjoy exploring. We discuss everything about new dishes with the chefs to fully understand new concepts, ingredients and cooking techniques so we can make the best recommendations for our guests.
What are your favorite wine experiences to share with guests on board?
Boris: In the last few months I have really enjoyed sharing wines from my most recent trips with guests in the Vintage Room. It has been a pleasure to share wines from the top chateaux in Bordeaux and the Joseph Phelps Winery and Caymus Vineyards in Napa with our guests here – we share travel stories as well as amazing wines!
Tilmar: I always love to talk about wine, so it is hard to name one single event. If I have to choose a favorite, it would be the Vintage Room Lunch & Lecture event, which is a fantastic educational experience. During these themed events the guests get so much information and a wonderful wine and food pairing experience. I am really enjoying the “Champagne Lunch” at the moment.
Are there any up-and-coming or lesser known wine regions you’re excited about exploring and sharing with guests?
Tilmar: During my last vacation I visited a Polish winery – who knew that so many wines are being produced there?! They Polish wines have a long way to go, but I think they’re doing some interesting things and will gain more acclaim over the next decade or two. Also, wines from Thailand and Mexico may surprise people. Not comparable to classic wines from California or Spain or France, but they add some tasty layers to the wine world.
Boris: The great thing about the world of wine is that it’s always growing and new and old grape varietals are emerging. I have tried some very interesting white wines from Slovenia, and reds from Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria. That Central/Eastern Europe region, together with already established wines from Austria, may potentially be Europe’s next hot winemaking area.
Crystal sommeliers have undergone the most prestigious education and certification processes… What do you continue to learn as you travel the world with Crystal? Are things that can’t be taught in classes and exams?
Tilmar: To explore the regions themselves in-depth, feel the terroir and discuss it with your fellow sommeliers, and even guests who are knowledgeable and passionate about wine, is impossible to teach in a classroom. Travel is like that in all ways, beyond wine.
Boris: We have great opportunities during our travels to meet with and learn from the winemakers wherever we go – about terroir and different philosophies. This is not possible with books alone.
What’s currently in your own glass?
Tilmar: Champagne! Sparkling wines and rosés are my favorites during summer months.
Boris: Barolo, Campe, La Spinetta, Piedmont, Italy 2010