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RetiredMustang

James Suckling’s Guide to Great Wines

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Posted (edited)

I am currently on Zuiderdam, and this is the first cruise I’ve encountered the new James Suckling wine list we’ve been told for a while was coming.  I posted it on my live blog, but I think the new wine list might have enough general interest to stand alone in a thread.

 

The new list is a booklet, about the size of a tablet computer.  Here is a photo of the booklet:

 

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I have a portable scanner and was able to scan the pages.  I have cropped a lot of the decoration and page numbers to allow for the print size to be a good readable size. (I did not scan and post page 16, as it was just an ad to ask your attendant for the wine packages brochure.)  

 

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Dave

Edited by RetiredMustang

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As you can see, outrageous prizes, what JS might recommend is not what a Hal passenger might want to spend..

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Notice none of the JS wines by the glass come within even the elite beverage package.  Wonder if they apply at happy hour?  (Although to be honest, most don’t appeal to me - I only see potentially 2 that would appeal to DH or myself and at those prices, we aren’t going to try them to find out).

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41 minutes ago, Sir PMP said:

As you can see, outrageous prizes, what JS might recommend is not what a Hal passenger might want to spend..

Although the wine list is quite interesting and certainly more complete than the previous one, it is quite obvious that Mr Suckling has never been on a HAL ship and walked through the MDR to see what people were drinking and willing to pay for wine on the ship.  The dynamics of paying for a bottle of wine one night in a land restaurant are quite different than doing it every day for 20 or 30 days in a row on a ship.  

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I guess we need to find some new favorites (and/or find a good wine shop in Auckland!), but at least they have a few of the moderately nicer choices available by the glass.  We'd much rather have a glass of a nicer wine than share a bottle of a much lesser wine!

But "fine wine" is our thing, and it's a shame that one can no longer hand-carry wines on a plane.  We used to bring a bottle or two (or four?) by hand from our collection, where we have some real favorites.  

 

OTOH, if we can find a good wine store, this will be a good time to try a few bottles of some nicer Australian wines (at less than the $$$$ price on the HAL list).

 

Are there ever separate lists of wines that are in short supply on board?

 

Thanks.

 

GC

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1 hour ago, RetiredMustang said:

I am currently on Zuiderdam, and this is the first cruise I’ve encountered the new James Suckling wine list we’ve been told for a while was coming.  I posted it on my live blog, but I think the new wine list might have enough general interest to stand alone in a thread.

 

The new list is a booklet, about the size of a tablet computer.  Here is a photo of the booklet:

 

1866817614_winelistbooklet.jpg.d73520f116978ce473c0a956cb981aea.jpg

 

 

 

Dave

thank you for taking the trouble for sharing this.

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21 minutes ago, taxmantoo said:

Although the wine list is quite interesting and certainly more complete than the previous one, it is quite obvious that Mr Suckling has never been on a HAL ship and walked through the MDR to see what people were drinking and willing to pay for wine on the ship.  The dynamics of paying for a bottle of wine one night in a land restaurant are quite different than doing it every day for 20 or 30 days in a row on a ship.  

It's not just a cruise ship.  I know several who have been bar managers at country clubs or better restaurants.  They all tell the same story.  They say it doesn't pay to stock the finer, more expensive wines.  They say most clientele order white like this:  If they're having fish, the order one of the least expensive whites, if they're having beef, then they  order a cheaper red.  If they stock the more expensive wines, they only gather dust.   Considering the number of posts/threads on cruise critic about how to save money by bringing your own water, etc., etc., I'm pretty confident that the average cruiser would behave the same.

 

If you want good wine on a cruise, then carry it on and pay the corkage.  It's far cheaper. 

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6 minutes ago, RocketMan275 said:

It's not just a cruise ship.  I know several who have been bar managers at country clubs or better restaurants.  They all tell the same story.  They say it doesn't pay to stock the finer, more expensive wines.  They say most clientele order white like this:  If they're having fish, the order one of the least expensive whites, if they're having beef, then they  order a cheaper red.  If they stock the more expensive wines, they only gather dust.   Considering the number of posts/threads on cruise critic about how to save money by bringing your own water, etc., etc., I'm pretty confident that the average cruiser would behave the same.

 

If you want good wine on a cruise, then carry it on and pay the corkage.  It's far cheaper. 

I checked a couple of prices:

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet is $29.97 at Total Wine.  It's $79 on HAL.

La Crema Pinot Noir Russian River is $34.99 at Total Wine. It's $71 on HAL.

I'm not surprised people gravitate to the cheaper wines.

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6 minutes ago, RocketMan275 said:

I checked a couple of prices:

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet is $29.97 at Total Wine.  It's $79 on HAL.

La Crema Pinot Noir Russian River is $34.99 at Total Wine. It's $71 on HAL.

I'm not surprised people gravitate to the cheaper wines.

That is the approximate price range at which it starts making sense to purchase at Total Wine and pay the $18 corkage fee onboard the ship to have a wine you like. 

Anything below that price does not make much sense once you add the corkage fee.  

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, taxmantoo said:

That is the approximate price range at which it starts making sense to purchase at Total Wine and pay the $18 corkage fee onboard the ship to have a wine you like. 

Anything below that price does not make much sense once you add the corkage fee.  

Explains HAL pricing.

Edited by RocketMan275

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I’m actually surprised they haven’t come up with a wine package with the reasonably priced JS wines or at least a beverage package for those that want to experience it.

We’re certainly not buying a $500 bottle of wine but we don’t buy the cheapest on board.

 

We’ll probably bring some on board even with the Signature Beverage Package and order the wine packages (our wine steward was shocked last time) since you can only drink so much of the wine choices with the SBP. 😉 

 

I usually end up dropping the SBP but our cruise price has gone up, not down so we’ll just wait and see.

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This new wine list is exactly what we hate with this type of format. Say I want a Chardonnay.  I found them under 7 different headings and then they were not all listed together but mixed in with other varietals. We experienced this type of list on Celebrity years ago. Hated it then and hate it now! 

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It’s easy to put a wine list together at these prices anyone can recommend a $100 bottle. It a challenge to put together 25 or 30 wines at $30 to $35 dollars. 

If this is the direction I will board with a case of two of shore bought wine. 

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I was presented with this "expert's" wine recommendations on the Westerdam.  Not sure, but some version of this was also available on the Nieuw Statendam in January.

 

Not a wine "expert", but I do know what I enjoy drinking.  My past available Sauvignon Blanc on HAL vessels, by the bottle and not by the glass, was been Villa Maria, a quality New Zealand wine at a reasonable price at my wine store as well as aboard a HAL ship.

 

Both Princess Cruises and HAL have changed wine offerings.  A Bartender and a Wine Steward, on two different ships, told me it was due to a "different wine distributor".  Translation in my language:  Mr. Suckling and/or HAL is "earning" more profit from this change in the wines available in the interest of "improving the guest's experience".  

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Later this month I'll be on Maasdam, sailing out of Sydney and up the coast of New Zealand. I can't for the life of me think why I'd want to be in an area of really excellent wines and drink wine from Italy, at whatever price (and the prices above are just silly). I'll be bringing on Aussie and Kiwi wine from our port stops and paying the corkage gladly in order to drink local.

 

I do appreciate seeing the JS list, though. 

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We just came off the Niew Statendam a couple weeks ago.  We usually bring our own wine when we cruise but this time brought 8 bottles for our 14 day cruise. We enjoyed the wines on the new list and also some from the Pinnacle.  Even in the MDR if you ask they will bring a Pinnacle selection.  There was only one wine we did not like(Sokol). Yes, the price points are high, just like any restaurant.  I’m more concerned with having a nice selection to choose from.  Cheap doesn’t help me if it’s lousy wine.

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Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz, Barossa on special in Australia for Au$10, pay corkage Au$34 compared to US$51 on wine list.  I can bring two on board for about  the same as the HAL price and this is NOT a premium wine.  Like your idea IslandThyme.

Edited by dillpickle48

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Beringer White Zin as a "rose" by the glass??? Come on.  How about another true rose, like AIX or Hecht & Bannier?  Decent price point retail ($20-25/bottle).  Grgich Hills Chard but no Zin?  Grgich Hills is all about the Zin, the Chard is OK, but not worth highlighting.  As far as all those Chards on the list - do we assume that the beverage server is going to know which are oaked vs un-oaked?  That would have been nice to have on the list.  

 

I travel solo, so it is usually  by the glass for me.  I really didn't see anything on the list that would excite me.  Yes, I could buy a bottle and have it held for me, but I may not be interested in that wine the next night.  

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51 minutes ago, slidergirl said:

 Grgich Hills Chard but no Zin?  Grgich Hills is all about the Zin, the Chard is OK, but not worth highlighting.  

I am a big fan of Grgich Hills Estate and agree that their Zinfandel is beautiful (Even have a visit planned for next year at Mike Grgich's vineyard in Croatia to taste some great Plavac Mali, the ancestor of Zinfandel).

However you may want to review your facts on their Chardonnay.  Out of the 4 vineyards they own in California, approx 170 acres are planted with Chardonnay while only 21-22 are planted with Zinfandel.  Don't forget that Mike Grgich was the winemaker of the famous Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the 1976 Judgement in Paris tasting.

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Rather disappointed in the offerings by the glass that are included even  with the Elite drink package. Cannot even get a decent glass of sparkling wine anymore. In the past, I was able to get better wines with the Elite package then what is currently offered. Since I just bought the package today, I may have to rethink it. 

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5 hours ago, slidergirl said:

How about another true rose, like AIX or Hecht & Bannier?  Decent price point retail ($20-25/bottle).  Grgich Hills Chard but no Zin?  Grgich Hills is all about the Zin, the Chard is OK, but not worth highlighting.  As far as all those Chards on the list - do we assume that the beverage server is going to know which are oaked vs un-oaked?  That would have been nice to have on the list.  

 

An excellent steakhouse in my community always has the Grgich Hills Chardonnay on their list and it is very over priced.  The restaurant's owner likes the wine and disagrees with my assessment of the wine.  

 

Your comment about whether the wine is oaked vs un-oaked has drawn very puzzled looks with ignorant responses from several wine stewards when I have asked.  One area of dining service in which Princess excels as compared to HAL of today is the ready availability of a Head Waiter for one's dining section who seems to know wine.

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22 hours ago, taxmantoo said:

I am a big fan of Grgich Hills Estate and agree that their Zinfandel is beautiful (Even have a visit planned for next year at Mike Grgich's vineyard in Croatia to taste some great Plavac Mali, the ancestor of Zinfandel).

However you may want to review your facts on their Chardonnay.  Out of the 4 vineyards they own in California, approx 170 acres are planted with Chardonnay while only 21-22 are planted with Zinfandel.  Don't forget that Mike Grgich was the winemaker of the famous Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the 1976 Judgement in Paris tasting.

OK.  I have always been in love with their different Zins.  I have visited the winery up in Napa several times and was lucky to go to a wine dinner with Mr. Grgich - he kept coming over to our table (a girlfriend and I - gave this to me as a birthday present) and filling up our glasses and inviting us up to the winery to help with the crush.   Yes, I knew about Chateau Montelena -my girlfriend drank this all the time.  I'm not just a Chard fan.  I don't do red meat, so I don't visit many steak houses.  

If you like his Zin, try some of the different Zins produced by Ridge.  Yummy.  

My F&B manager turned me on to that Hecht & Bannier Rose this summer.  A really good "Summer Sipper".  I went to buy more at the store, but it was gone and the warehouse wasn't expecting more for awhile.  Had the AIX suggested to me as a replacement.  It went really well out in the forest on my camping trip - who knew Rose went with s'mores??? 😉

 

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I love HAL and am a big fan, but we have to remember it's a business.  Wine is going to cost more than at your local wine shop while on board.  You can bring your own always and pay for corkage.      I recommend folks get a Sommelier wine package, especially if you are a 3-5 star Mariner where you get a great discount.   It's cheaper than ordering by glass.  I think it's important to focus on you experience and enjoy the cruise as much as you can, but sometimes you just need to enjoy and not overthink the wine cost.    That's not realistic for everyone, and that's perfectly ok.  They do include some affordable wines by the glass.    They just are not the the Suckling recommended wines (which are way way overpriced in this case).   

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Enjoying the discussion.  We will be visiting wineries in Croatia and Sicily.  Thinking corkage is the way to go! 

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10 hours ago, MeandtheSea said:

They just are not the the Suckling recommended wines (which are way way overpriced in this case).   

It is a well known fact in the wine world that James Suckling is a notorious over-rater when it comes to rating wines.  His scores are consistently 5 to 6 points above those of other wine writers and judges.

Edited by taxmantoo

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