There is something plain celebratory about looking out onto the sea from the attractive vantage point of a yacht, so often the first choice will be Champagne. We all have our favourite, from the illustrious Maisons like Dom Perignon’s 2010 to the new generation artisan growers like the fabulous Frerejean Frères’ Blanc des Blancs. It is also worth considering top bottle-fermented fizz from Lombardy’s Franciacorta, south of the Northern Italian Lakes, such as Monte Rossa’s Cabochon. Then of course are the new wave of English sparkling wines from the chalky clay soils of southern England – Exton Park come highly recommended, as do Hoffmann & Rathbone.
A good choice of interesting whites is essential and it is an interesting though unsurprising fact of vinous geography that local wines pair well with your chef’s locally-sourced ingredients. Many of the world’s greatest vineyards hug expanses of water, where offshore breezes cool the vineyards, moderating temperatures and helping grapes to maintain enough nail-biting acidity to keep you feeling refreshed at sea. Over in Crete trailblazers Lyrarakis produce an excellent Vilana that matches perfectly with locally caught fresh fish, whilst Vermentino di Gallura, a Sardinian speciality, goes especially well with a netful of crustaceans. Meanwhile Sicilian Carricante (especially if you can get it from Tenuta di Fessina) has enough weight and texture to stand up to the North African inflected local cuisine.
You’ll also want some Rosé of course, and your starting point should always be the south of France, preferably with the Cazes family of Lynch-Bages fame who make a great Provencal Rosé under the name Domaine de L’Ostal. Outside of France there are high class pinks emerging from Piedmont by Villa Sparina, as well as the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon where Massaya make a fabulous Cinsault. Don’t be too concerned about chilling rosé, irrespective of quality, to just above freezing, even refreshing a slightly tepid glass with an ice cube or three.
With reds, even if you are the proud owner of a Lafite 1982 or Cheval Blanc 1947, you should always be cautious when opening older, tannin-rich wines at sea. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot make many of the world’s greatest wines – First Growth Bordeaux, Napa Icons and so on – but the ebb and flow at sea tend to throw up the sediment within the bottle, imparting a gritty bitterness to the wine. Decanting and the equipment involved (funnels, muslin cloths, candles etc) may be impractical on-board and can remove the spontaneity of opening a great bottle. Keep your 1982 Lafite for dry land.
Younger reds and those with lighter tannins have a much better time, with Pinot Noir being the obvious choice. Although Burgundy is situated quite far inland, there are few places in the universe where it would be inappropriate to open a great bottle, especially if it was made by RVF Negociant of the Year Jane Eyre. New World discoveries can be found in Sonoma or the Southern Cape where Pinot thrives and also Australia’s Yarra Valley where Timo Mayeris making waves.
There are still occasions that can only be met by a big, juicy, hedonistic red, and some are equally palatable served cooler than normal: Amarone from La Giaretta and others with a percentage of dried grapes is a very good example, as is top-quality Argentinean Malbec such as PerSe’s Inseparable. They have sufficient layers of sweet, fleshy fruit, and soft, ripe tannins, to be served at fridge temperature. Given their high alcohol and residual sugar, these are best drunk sparingly, especially in hot, dehydrating weather.
Tom “WineChap” Harrow
For 20 years, Tom “Wine Chap” Harrow , ‘the nattiest dresser in the wine trade’ (The Spectator), has met and written about the world’s greatest wines and winemakers for a variety of top luxury and business titles, including regular columns for FT How To Spend It, On Board and Yacht Investor. He puts together fine wine portfolios for clients around the world; and organizes extraordinary wine and gastronomic experiences with select partners that have been described by the Financial Times as, “Sideways on steroids.” Co-author of “Wine In The Sky” with VistaJet (the ultimate guide to what to drink on your jet), published by Assouline, he is listed in SPEAR’s 500 (top advisors to HNW community), and was profiled on Channel 4’s “World’s Most Expensive Foods”.
Honest Grapes offers the quality, value and customer service of a great local independent merchant, supporting independent growers and artisan producers, with an industry-leading online user experience and a roster of popular and, critically-acclaimed tasting events (featured amongst others in FT How to Spend It, Guardian, Cosmopolitan, Metro, Condé Nast Traveller, The Telegraph – “Top Five Online Wine Tastings” and Square Mile “Ten Ways to Upgrade your Lockdown”). Honest Grapes has won a number of awards in recent years including The Independent’s best Online Wine Shop (three years running 2019-2021), The Drinks Business Green Award 2018 & 2020 (runner up in 2019), and Decanter’s Best Subscription Wine Club and Outstanding Retailer of the year 2020.