I adore P & O Cruises (you may remember that my Samsung People of Note video was filmed on board P&O Britannia), so when I was invited to Hedonism Wines in twinkly London for an update on their news, and a wine tasting with Food Hero Olly Smith, I was really excited.
Hedonism Wines, on Davies Street in London’s Mayfair is a jaw dropping space (and a clumsy person’s nightmare – I was terrified of smashing something expensive) and wine expert Olly welcomed us with a delicious glass of Krug Grande Cuvée, before we sat down to listen to all the exciting things that Paul Ludlow, Senior VP for Sales and Marketing, and Director of P&O Cruises, Christopher Edgington, had to tell us.
Olly’s fellow food hero, Master Pâtissier Eric Lanlard was also there (he’s the loveliest man) and as well as providing a very delicious dessert selection, was delighted to announce that his signature afternoon tea has proved so popular that it’s to be rolled out to the Epicurian Restaurant on board P&O Azura and P&O Ventura too. And talking of sweet stuff, outstanding British Chocolatier Paul A Young will be on board giving chocolate masterclasses and hosting chocolate based excursions and dinners next year too. Another new face will be Dr Hilary Jones, who’ll be joining P&O as a wellbeing ambassador. You might also have heard of Jonathan Wilkes, BFF of Robbie Williams, singing star and Principal of the Wilkes Academy of the Performing Arts. He’ll be joining up with P & O to nurture new talent by giving opportunities and work experience on board and introducing a sponsorship programme.
Of course Christmas is coming and we were delighted to hear that P&O’s famous first time cruiser Rob Brydon will be moving from ship to shore with the Christmas advert: tasting wine and throwing coins into fountains, trying out some of P&O’s fabulous shore excursions. And with Christmas in mind, it was announced that the P&O Food Heroes have created an amazing Christmas Day menu for those lucky enough to be on board.
The biggest news though, was the announcement that P&O have joined forces with Spark Media to create a new TV programme combining travel and food that’s set on Britannia with Food Hero Marco Pierre White. In the Spring of 2016, Battlechefs will launch on Watch, giving 10 celebrity amateur chefs the chance to cook for the captain and VIPs. Each episode will follow the celebrities, including Alex James, Debra Stephenson and Greg Rutherford to a different port as they explore and discover the local food.
And after all the excitement, it was time for the wine tasting. Mr E and I are a huge fan of American wine so I was delighted to see our first wine was a delicious, organic Napa Chardonnay. Chateau Montelena is aged in old oak barrels, a process which adds texture and not the ‘in your face’ oak of new barrels, and is bright and fruity, ‘like a grapefruit rodgering a pineapple’ as Olly put it:
Next, a wine that’s the same age as Charlie – a 1998 Sandrone Barolo, Cannubi Boschis. Although this fine, VERY expensive old wine is way more elegant than my palate could ever appreciate, I could certainly taste the dark fruits and a touch of something floral. Wow, what an opportunity! Here’s Olly, who is as happy and friendly as you would imagine him to be, being mum and wrangling with the huge Magnum of Barolo:
The next one was more to my taste, being a lover of big, stonking US wines: the Vérité La Joie from Sonoma County is a blend of Bordeaux/Cabernet/Malbec/Petit Verdot (I hope I got that right, I was scribbling very fast) that was apparently scored 100% by wine expert Robert Parker – something that’s really quite rare. It’s a velvety glass full of rich cherry, chocolate and coffee and I loved it.
Our final wine came out with the cheese (and a delicious truffled honey) and was a huge surprise. Olly chose a Madeira from 1837, the Oscar’s Special Reserve dates back to the year of the very first P&O sailing. It was rich and raisiny but with some tangy acidity, which apparently is typical of this Bual type of Madeira. A snip at £1700 a bottle. What a treat!
Huge thanks to everyone at P&O for having me along, especially to Michele and Jenny, for an absolutely wonderful evening.
Notes: P&O Britannia’s Caribbean fly-cruise programme for 2016/17 will include a range of seven and 14 night winter sun cruises sailing from St Lucia for the first time. A range of cruises are on sale now, with Britannia offering 28 Caribbean cruises including flights to and from St Lucia or Barbados.
P&O’s 2017 World Cruise Collection is celebrating 180 years of heritage and will feature a choice of two world circumnavigations – east or west. For example, Aurora’s circumnavigation 104-night eastern circumnavigation from Southampton will call at 35 destinations in 21 countries and departs on January 9, 2017, featuring 23 new ports, four overnight stays (Dubai, Singapore, Sydney and San Francisco) and seven evening calls.