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A Royal Wine Cellar at Sea

Cunard's newest liner, the Queen Mary 2, boasts a 35,000-bottle collection.

John Mariani
Posted: February 6, 2004

Cunard's new Queen Mary 2 can claim to be the world's largest (151,400 tons), longest (1,132 feet) and most expensive ($780 million) passenger liner only until a bigger one comes along, but it's unlikely any other ship will soon beat the QM2's claim to have the most extensive wine cellar onboard -- including its sister ship, the QE2.

With 350 labels and 35,000 bottles, the QM2's wine list is, like the ship itself, both broad and deep. The collection is set in two huge temperature-controlled rooms -- one for reds, one for whites -- buried at the bottom of the hull in specially designed stainless-steel bins that slant backwards to keep the bottles from slipping around with the rock and roll of the waves.

"We went through gale force winds on our inaugural crossing, and we didn't have the slightest problem with the bottles moving," said Sture Myrmell, the QM2's food and beverage director. Myrmell, along with chief sommelier Olaf Paulat, put together the list with the help of consultant Michael Broadbent, of Christie's wine department in London, whose commentary on the selections is printed on the list. Cunard deals with four wine merchants in London and one in Florida to keep the cellar full and up to date.

The 26-page list offers 29 Champagnes, including nine prestige cuvées, a strong showing of Bordeaux, dozens of Australian wines, and a solid stock of first-rate, if familiar, California Cabernets and blends such as Silver Oak, Opus One, Insignia, Caymus Special Selection and Dominus. The group of American Pinot Noirs is weaker. Most wine regions, from Argentina to South Africa, are represented, with a half-dozen or so selections from each.

Paulat holds three tastings each week to educate the staff, which includes 26 sommeliers who service more than a dozen restaurants, each with access to the complete wine list. As most of the restaurants are on two decks, they have access to every wine without sending down to the cellar.

Prices are reasonable, especially considering that the U.S. dollar is currently weak against the British pound. (All wines onboard are listed in dollars.) Selections span the price spectrum, from the Antinori Chianti Classico Pèppoli 2000, which costs $28 on the QM2; to the white Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte Graves 1998, at $85; to Dominus 2000, at $135. There are also older vintages, such as Château Léoville-Barton 1982, which sells for $195 onboard.

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