It is not unusual to find world-class sommeliers in the tasting rooms of wineries in the famed Napa Valley. However, when the sommeliers have traveled from as far as Serbia and Germany to visit the esteemed wine-making and growing region, the trip becomes all the more significant. When Crystal’s head sommeliers from Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity made this trek for their annual educational wine summit last month, they arrived ready to experience a variety of wines – from both new and storied producers – and expand their own palates in order to expand the onboard wine experience for Crystal guests.
Crystal Symphony’s head sommelier, Boris Aletic of Serbia, points out that, even for the most experienced wine experts, there is always more to learn, and that wine travel adventures often offer diverse experiences.
“For any sommelier, a visit to one of the world’s most renowned wine regions is always fantastic. Although I had been to Napa Valley before, I was again impressed by the diversity of the wines. We tasted wines grown and made just a few miles apart, but that were vastly different in robust flavor and refinement.”
“We are always looking for new wines to share with our guests on board, so this annual trip gives our sommeliers the opportunity to research what they think travelers would most enjoy,” says Toni Neumeister, Crystal’s vice president of food and beverage, who adds that the line’s sommeliers also visit new wineries and vineyards in Europe each year, in order to continue enhancing selections aboard the vessels.
Indeed, the wine selections on the line’s ocean-going ships and newly launched yacht, Crystal Esprit, feature an evolving array of labels from the world’s finest producers in Spain, Italy, France and, of course, California’s Napa Valley. The line’s all-inclusive offerings are expansive lists of virtually any varietal, which the expert sommeliers are happy to recommend, along with pairing suggestions. For those seeking an extravagant experience, rare bottles of especially distinctive wines are also available (think: a 1996 Screaming Eagle or a 1989 Château Pétrus). Often, such rare vintages are included in the multi-course pairing menus served in the Vintage Rooms on Crystal ships, providing an all-encompassing tour of the world through its finest wines.
This global exploration of wine is not simply something to be mastered and taught, as Crystal’s resident experts are quick to point out that they are always learning, even from the line’s well-traveled guests.
“Our guests are mostly from the Unites States and often very knowledgeable about California wines,” says Tilmar Pfefferkorn of Germany, head sommelier aboard Crystal Serenity. “They enjoy discussing the different wineries and the cultures of places like the Napa Valley, so it is valuable to bring such personal experiences like this back to the ship to share with them.”
In true Crystal fashion, the sommeliers remain as passionate about their specialty and sharing it with travelers as ever. Aletic, who has been with Crystal since 2003, still relishes introducing Crystal guests to varied wine profiles and distinct characteristics they might not have known.
“It’s exciting to compare two wines that are seemingly similar, made very near to each other, like Grgich Hills and Caymus, where we just visited,” he says. “Both wonderful, but one with a more European-style refinement, the other with a concentrated robustness… I’ll leave it to the guest to discern which is which.”
We believe that such experiments are best conducted aboard Crystal ships, while enjoying your dream vacation, with guidance from Crystal experts like Boris and Tilmar. Ten “Wine & Food Festival” Experiences of Discovery theme cruises are offered in 2016 and 2017, featuring guest chefs and wine experts from all over the world. Book by February 29 for additional savings.