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Wine Basics

Gosh… there’s so much to know about wine but I’d recommend to start with the basics:

  1. How to store wine
  2. How to open and pour a bottle of wine
  3. Where to get more info on wine

1. How to Store Wine

I think one of the most important things to realise about wines is that they can go off, and easily if you’re not careful. When handling bottles that are potentially worth 100s or more dollars we should try to keep their quality intact, which isn’t always easy on a moving ship with a variety of temperatures and humidity ranges. 
A main reason why wine could spoil is when oxygen enters the bottle. This can happen when the cork shrinks and air enters. The main way we can avoid this is by keeping the bottles horizontal. This way, the wine will keep the cork moist and we can avoid the cork from shrinking. Have you ever noticed that most cellars, restaurants and those nice wine fridges you find onboard hold the bottles horizontally? Now you know why! 

Ideally, you would also keep your wines somewhere on board with little temperature changes. On one of my yachts, we didn’t have the luxury of having a wine fridge, so we kept most of the wines in the saloon and master cabin as the A/C would run there most of the time. 

These areas where also chosen as they were more aft and thus would move around less (this was a sailing yacht may I add). Imagine storing the wine somewhere near the bow and you go on a choppy ride, apart from increasing the chances of breaking the bottles… I’m not sure how a severely shaken up 20 year old wine would taste like. 

2. How to Open and Pour a Bottle of Wine

Here’s how I go about it:

Once you have opened your bottle, you want to present the guest who ordered the bottle of wine with the cork (they might not want it, in that case, simply leave it next to where you will leave the bottle – in case they want it later). Pour a taster for the guest and wait for their approval. Next, serve all the other guests and finish by topping up the glass of the guest who tasted the wine. Sorted!

3. Where to get more Info on Wine

It’s important to know about wines when working on boats. It might seem intimidating and a lot of info at first but the more you know, the more confident you will feel whilst serving wine and that will translate into a better guest experience. 

So, where does one start?

1. Your wine merchant. I have my go-to people in different parts of the world and they have -touch wood- never failed me. If you have a quality wine dealer and guests with specific requests, your wine guy or gal should be able to assist. I always ask them for a few options and forward these to the guests so they can make a final selection. 

2. Wine courses! Depending on how long you’ve been in the industry, you might have heard about the WSET Level 2 course. This is an introductory 3-day wine course that is worth your time and money. I attended a course at their London headquarters where we tasted probably over 30 wines or more (you do stop counting at some point) and discussed them all in detail. They teach you how to taste and evaluate wines through their “Systematic Approach to Tasting” method. One of the main benefits is that they teach you the “vino lingo” and you will straight away sound way more knowledgeable by saying things like “there’s definitely a hint of fennel here” and “I love this wine’s amber colour”. Want to pick up some vino lingo, then check out WSET’s tasting chart and look into booking a course sometime soon. 

3. The World Wide Web: One can find so much information online these days, it would be a shame not to have a look at what’s available. For more links to websites and apps, have a look at the section on wine in the iStew. 

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