The Globe’s wine and spirits columnist and co-host of its 2019 Portugal River Cruise shared what he’s most looking forward to about the upcoming trip with Globe readers. Learn more at GlobeandMailCruises.com
You’re one of the co-hosts for July’s cruise, and you were on the South of France cruise last year. From your experience, what makes a Globe cruise special?
At the top of my list are the passengers. I already knew that Globe readers tend to be smart and curious, but it’s been especially gratifying to experience how much fun they can have as a group when we’re all partying together on the same boat. The cool thing is that The Globe takes over the entire vessel, not just a block of rooms, and we customize the whole experience, which I think makes all the difference. The Globe hosted two ocean cruises about a decade ago, too, and it was the same thing back then, a Globe party on the high seas. The other thing that distinguishes these cruises is the presence of some of my esteemed Globe colleagues, great journalists who frankly are some of the sharpest and funniest public speakers I’ve ever heard.
How will you be preparing for the cruise, and what type of experience do you plan to deliver?
I’m working out some of the wine selections for the ship as well as pairings for many of the dinners onboard and in Lisbon and Porto that Tara O’Brady, our columnist and culinary expert, has been arranging. I’m also planning on-shore excursions to a couple of excellent wineries on the dramatic hillsides of the Douro River. There might be a speech or two along the way, but I promise to make sure everybody’s wine glass is full before I open my mouth.
What part of the itinerary are you most looking forward to?
I think the cork factory and Douro museum will be fascinating. And the visit to Quinta do Crasto winery as well as the private dinner at Graham’s lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia will be awesome. If time permits, I may also take advantage of the optional canoe outing on the Sabor River – making sure to keep my wine drinking to a minimum beforehand.
What makes Portuguese wine unique?
The indigenous grapes. There are hundreds of varieties in Portugal, virtually all of them not grown anywhere else. You often won’t even see the grape names on labels because the wines tend to be blended from several varieties, so they’re relatively unknown to the outside world. As a result, the flavours never taste like a cliché. Portugal is blessed with glorious sunshine, which imparts ripe-fruit flavours and gives the reds in particular a full-bodied roundness that most people love. The Douro Valley in particular has been undergoing a revolution. Traditionally known to the outside world only for fortified Port, it now crafts splendid dry table wines from the same grapevines and from the magnificent hillsides that we’ll be sailing through.