Swish experience in vino vault

MICHAEL FERRANTE goes underground, kind of, for an unforgettable wine tasting

It’s all in the name — Penfolds Wine Vault — it conjures images of being underground in a chamber. The Penfolds Wine Vault is not quite that but it’s small and cosy, it’s hidden ... it’s exclusive and I’m in there.

It’s my first evening aboard the Dream Cruises’ Genting Dream ship. I am travelling with a small group and the prospect of sampling some fine wine at the Penfolds Wine Experience while getting to know each other creates a buzz — an ideal start to a cruise even before we’ve set sail from Singapore.

Greeting the group outside the vault is sommelier Erdal Uysal, from Turkey, dressed impeccably in velvet black, as he is throughout the voyage ... it’s his signature.

The first thing that captures my attention is the sea of crystal glasses set on the long table in the centre of the vault before my interest turns to the huge glass cabinet display cradling an array of Penfolds red and white vintages.

My tastebuds click into gear as we take our positions around the table and I see a beautifully presented tasting plate — a work of art with morsels of prawns and beef satay.

Erdal pours the first red into a Riedel handmade crystal decanter with the care and precision of a lab chemist and it’s as entertaining as it is educational. Erdal explains the process of aeration to bring out each wine’s unique aromas and flavours as he thrusts the circular Double Magnum decanter back and forth, with purpose. Erdal commands the space in front and behind him right now — he means business.

Wine begins to flow so now’s the fun bit — the sniffing, swishing and sloshing.

I use every tastebud to pick up subtle tones of oak, berry and spice, then pair each wine with the food.

The other decanter — the Riedel Horse, with its almost metre-long spout, draws much laughter and banter from the group, of course, but in practical terms it’s ideal for filling glasses on a long table.

My favourite, Barossa Valley Penfolds Bin 389 2015 cabernet shiraz, was one of the cheapest on the list at $148 a bottle.

With a tasting plate and dinner-style set-up with a group, the experience is authentic, and more fun than a traditional cellar-door tasting.

Fact File

Penfolds Wine Experience is an optional extra aboard the Genting Dream and World Dream ships at $S28 per person.