Discover Wine at P&O's Online Tastings with Olly

September 9, 2009
Online Wine Tasting (7:09 p.m. EDT) -- Saturday Kitchen's Olly Smith -- P&O's exuberant wine expert and the man behind The Glass House, the wine bar that will appear on Azura -- will star once again this Thursday in a five-minute online tasting romp through two wines that you probably wouldn't normally buy. Both will be on sale by the glass onboard when the ship launches in April 2010.

I did the first session last Thursday, which took a fair bit of preparation, involving trips to both Sainsburys and Waitrose to buy the wines -- Springfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc South Africa 2008 and Tinto da Anfora Red 2006, a Portuguese red -- an overall investment of £14.98. (Note: If you missed the first session, you can still check it out here.)

I felt pretty lonely, sitting at my computer with two glasses, waiting for Olly. Surely half the fun of a wine tasting is to interact with other people and come up with daft, flowery descriptions of the wines? Still, I perked up a bit when he burst onto my screen, declaring that he'd been "scouring the planet to find 32 absolute stonkers" for The Glass House.

We started with the sauvignon (actually, I'd already started while waiting for the video to roll). "It's searingly intense!" shrieked Olly. "It's a real wake-up juice in the morning! It's rock ‘n' roll freshness!" It was decent enough, I suppose, and like he said, fragrant and a bit zingy, but not a wine I'd normally quaff during the evening. But I finished it the following day with a really spicy chilli and it was spectacular and most importantly, something different from my normal Bridget Jones-style chardonnay. So for me, a find.

Next, the red. Olly took a huge swig and gushed, "It's genius! A night at the opera for the price of a busker!" And you know what? I agree. The wine was amazing, smooth and velvety, infinitely drinkable with or without food and at £5.99, a real discovery that I shall buy again.

So although I don't rate solo wine tasting in front of the PC as an activity in itself, thanks, Olly, for the encouragement to be more adventurous with wine after only one session.

I was hoping for a bit of interaction with other tasters after the video, but just one lonely comment appeared, saying "concise and interesting," which was hardly going to inspire debate. As I write, the video has been played 956 times (so sales of these two wines must have peaked last week) but there's still not a lot of feedback.

There are no prices for The Glass House yet, either. Prices for house white onboard P&O's other ships start at £2.65 for a 175 ml glass. We asked you how much you'd be willing to pay for a glass and the majority -- 47 percent -- say no more than £4, with 25 percent saying they'd prefer to buy a bottle (which will also be possible in The Glass House). But given the relatively modest prices of Olly's choices in the supermarkets, I predict that P&O will get the price per glass right or people simply won't use the bar.

You can discover more for yourself on Azura's 16-night maiden voyage on 12 April 2010, which is still showing availability in most cabin categories. Olly will be onboard for part of the cruise, hosting informal tasting sessions in The Glass House in his inimitable style. Meanwhile, charge your glasses for the next three wine tasting sessions online -- being held this Thursday at 7 p.m. and then at the same time on September 17 and 24.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor