Most things in the Maldives are comfortingly formulaic. The pashmina-soft sand, gin-clear sea and romantic villas are the very reasons people go there. But with around 90 islands to choose from, visitors also expect something that sets apart their particular piece of paradise.
The twin isles that make up the Conrad Rangali Island haven (www.conradmaldives.com) stand out in many ways. You could happily spend your days getting some alone time, a rarity in a place so popular with honeymooners, shaping up with a health plan or indulging without one. In pursuit of the latter, it helps that the hosts take their wine very seriously. The resort has devoted two rooms to tasting, and both make delightful alternatives to the classic meal on the beach. (See reviews for 50 American wines.)
In the underground Wine Cellar restaurant, up to 12 guests can meet around one table for a lively, informative degustation dinner hosted by the head chef and the executive sommelier. Video screens pop up from the table to serve as occasional teaching aids. The wines lining the walls were originally selected by Ron Georgiou, one of just 264 Masters of Wine in the world, and the restaurant regularly attracts special guests who put their own twist on the wine list celebrated German wine-maker Egon Müller popped in last year.
The five-course menu changes for each twice-weekly dinner, according to seasonal availability and the wines being showcased. Menus are never repeated, making each experience unique. At one dinner, a fresh, flowery Alsatian Riesling accompanied seared scallops with tomato fondue and Parma ham. At another, a voluptuous Australian Pinot Noir highlighted the flavors of crispy pigeon breast with fennel puree and saffron-vanilla sauce. Three mystery glasses are served with the main course a fun guessing game for beginners and oenophiles alike.
If dinner leaves you thirsting for more of the resort's 10,000 bottles of wine, head to the Wine Bar, where you can enjoy informal tastings with sensational cheeses selected by the maître de fromage or, even more tantalizingly, various types of chocolate. Forget the beach and sun this Maldivian holiday, and give your taste buds a buzz instead.
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