A Trip Around the World Must Always Include Wine!

Retirement is GREAT!!! If I had known retirement would be this great, I’d have done it sooner. OK, probably not, as there is a reason that we do work.

But I am enjoying it now. And so far I have shared with you, through my submissions to The Wine Press, a few of my experiences traveling that, most importantly, have included the delight of wine from many parts of the world. Allow me to do so again.

On Christmas Eve, now two months ago as I write this, Manuela and I embarked on a venture of a lifetime, to cruise around the world. We left from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, heading south to the Panama Canal, with planned stops in Mexico, Nicaragua, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica and then to Los Angeles, before heading west to Hawaii and southern Asia. Well, thanks to COVID, we never made it to Nicaragua nor Columbia. And when we got to LA, guess what? We could not leave the ship the three days we were there. More importantly, we were no longer going to go west to Asia. Instead, we were to go back south to sail along the western coast of South America, around Cape Horn, up to Uruguay – sadly, no stops in Argentina – and then over to the Mediterranean where we resumed our original itinerary in Saudi Arabia. We had just spent the day in Cape Verde, a country of ten islands off the coast of Senegal and we were about halfway through the trip.

Enough about our trip though. The good news about the changes and what I want to share with you is the incredible wineries and wines that we experienced in Chile and Uruguay. Plus, there is another little wine adventure I will tell you about.

I am sure most of you know and enjoy Chilean wines. They are extraordinary and becoming very popular in California restaurants and wine circles. On this trip, we got to go more in depth and learn about Chilean winemaking history and what it means to their wines. For one, did you know that Chilean wine is organically grown and processed? There are strict laws in place that require the vineyards to be managed without chemical treatment. And in further support of this condition, Chile also imposes restrictions on any food or plant materials coming into the country. They enjoy a very healthy grape growing environment in Chile, and they strive to keep it that way.

Our first stop in Chile was in the port city of Valparaiso. From here, some of us took an excursion to a winery in the region known as Casablanca. Know that this region is in central Chile and is in the same latitudes south as the wine-growing regions of California, France, Italy and other wine regions of Europe are to the north, between the 30th the 38th parallels. Thus, this is an ideal growing region for wine grapes. The winery we visited was called Viñamar. While Chile grows and makes the usual vitis vinifera (old world) reds and whites, Chile is known for its Carmenere. Like Argentina’s Malbec, Carmenere originated in France, transferred to Chile and flourished there. Some of the great wines we had in Chile included Carmenere from Viña Tarapacà (my top pick) and San Pedro Castillo de Molina Pinot Noir Reserva. There were so many more.

After several more days of visiting Chile and sailing around Cape Horn, we stopped in Uruguay. Have you heard of Uruguayan wine? Well, I hadn’t either, but it was fantastic.

From our port stop in Montevideo on the mouth of the Plate River that separates Uruguay and Argentina, we visited a winery inland near a town called Canelones. Some more background, the wine region of Uruguay is between the 30th and 35th parallels. It is in the same latitudes as Mendoza, Argentina, and of the Chilean wine region we had just visited a few weeks earlier. That should tell you something!

Once there we were given the grand tour of Familia Deicas Winery. Because we were in the southern hemisphere, it was approaching harvest time, so we observed the field labor teams organizing to hand pick the grapes. In Uruguay, the grape of choice is Tannat, but the usual varietals were grown there as well. One unusual grape was called Lacryma Christi or the Tears of Christ. The fruit was sweet and had a bright red juice. See the picture.

Back in the cellar we enjoyed seven of their wines that included the Tannat, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and another popular white, Albariño. Some were sold under the name Don Pascual. It was a great day and memorable experience!

If you should ever get the opportunity to travel to South America in search of great wine (or otherwise), you will find it in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, for sure.

After departing Uruguay, we headed for the African coast. Along the nine-day voyage I was given a wonderful opportunity. Some background, while we were in the Port of Los Angeles, though we could not leave the ship, I did arrange for several bottles of my homemade Nebbiolo to be brought onboard.

The day after we departed LA was my birthday. So, we celebrated in style sharing my wine with some of the passengers and crew. Well, somehow, I was asked to make a presentation on home winemaking. “I would love to!”  Not knowing exactly what to do though, I reached out to Kevin Donnelly. Wow, he was great! He provided me with his 110-page PowerPoint presentation on home winemaking!  After a few modifications and including a few photos of my own winemaking experience both at home and in Italy, I made the presentation. Wine was provided by the Viking Bar Manager Andrej and Sommelier Dejan while I made the presentation to a packed theater of about 45 people. It was a great success. I have even been made an honorary sommelier on board the Viking Star, and I have the badge to prove it.

We still have 2½ months to go, and we will be hitting many Mediterranean ports which will include more visits to wineries such as in Malta.

So a follow up to this story just might be in order.

– W. Scott Harral,
Contributing Writer