Dockwalk - From Stew to Sommelier Untitled Page

From Stew to Sommelier

Sep 30th 09
By Di Thompson

Professional interior crew need to be confident in their sommelier skills – especially as many of the guests they host on board are experienced wine connoisseurs, some with a pricey cellar at home to prove it. Stews know the importance of making an impact on guests by pairing an excellent selection of fine wines with the cuisine served aboard their yacht.

Peter Panousis, the regional manager of Mezzanine Wines for Queensland, Australia, has more than 25 years’ experience in all areas of hospitality. He has owned and operated five-star restaurants, lectured on hotel management at Griffith University and is food and beverage consultant to several Gold Coast charter yachts. Panousis wrote the book on how to plan a menu, highlighting the details of matching international cuisines and fine boutique wines. (Check out for more information.)

“On food and wine matching,” Panousis says, “there are no strict rules, only traditions – and such traditions are always in the process of change.” However, he offers some general guidelines to keep in mind:

Dry before sweet; white before red; younger before older; lighter styles before fuller-bodied; chilled before room temperature.

Always serve wines at the appropriate temperature:

    • Sparkling: 4° – 8° C
    • White: 8° – 12° C. If a white wine is too cold, it will lose its flavor.
    • Red: 15° – 18° C. Reds should be neither too hot nor too cold.

      Decant aged red wines before serving. Ideally, they should be open 30 to 40 minutes prior to pouring.

      The general food-pairing approach should be to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the dish. Full-bodied wines will ruin finely flavored dishes. A delicate wine like a riesling or semillon perfectly complements a delicate dish such as scallops, oysters or prawns.

      Team the wine with the dominating flavor of a dish; for example, a spicy shiraz with a spicy Indian curry.

      Try not to limit yourself to the typical “white meat with white wine, red meat with red wine” mentality. A pan-fried Mahi-Mahi fillet may go well with an earthy, light-bodied red.

      Make sure to ensure the wine is sound for drinking by checking for any faults before serving:
      Sight – Young whites may have a green tinge. If this is the case, it may be too young to drink. An older white with a golden/yellow hue may have strong characteristics, unsuitable for delicate foods, so save these for heavier dishes. White wine should be clear and bright; any indication of cloudiness may mean it is faulty.

      Smell – Should be clean, fresh fruit for young wines. Older styles may have a more dull and lingering scent. An aroma of sulfur, acetate or mold means there is a fault with the wine, so do not serve it. Older wines under cork may have a musty smell that may “blow off” within a few minutes of being opened.

      Taste – This is traditionally done at table by one of the guests. However, if you suspect a fault with the sight and smell initially, taste-test a small sample yourself, checking any unpleasant chemical flavors, before serving.

      Have a reasonably large selection of wines on board in order to suit all people, dishes, occasions and levels of connoisseur expertise and offer alternate styles along with your main selection. Add wines that represent the best of the regions you are visiting. It may mean you will have to be very creative with your storage space, but it will be worth the trouble.

      While most charter yachts emphasize the prowess of their chef over the size of their cellar, pairing the right wines with food provides the finishing touch to a memorable yachting experience.

      Do you have any wine-pairing pointers to add?
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Tags: Essentials Stews Chefs 

Rating  Average 4.5 out of 5

  • Is it really that HARD to type the word STEWARDESS instead of the absolutely awful and lazy 'Stew'. And 'ablonde', the Chef onboard my yacht knows ZILCH about wine, as have many previous. But what he doesn't know about food, especially the molecular gastronomy he does onboard, is not worth knowing.....bit of a sweeping statement that Chefs should be involved in the wine the Chief Stewardess onboard I am way more qualified than he is. Perhaps what should be done is the Chefs and Chief Stewardesses discuss the food and wine pairing together before the Chief Stewardess communicates this to the we have done on our boat for over 3's not rocket science people!
    Posted by KMiller 26/02/2010 14:00:11

  • No Chief Stew worth her (sea!) salt will ever let a charter or owner trip start without prior discussion of their wine requests. Sometimes it is a near impossibility to find their high end wines in for instance, Russia, Turkey and Greece. It is crucial to be open and honest about not being able to find it, and often, after explaining the problem, guests are happy to fly in their own expensive wine choices on the jet when they fly out to meet the yacht. Having said that, after a while you learn that you must always have a few cases of "contingency" high quality wine on board.
    Posted by Isobel 04/10/2009 08:15:56

  • Let's not forget that that many readers are Americans with not so hot math skills, Fahrenheit temps alongside the celsius would be a good idea! Apart from that my own experience has been that often the true wine connoisseurs, be they owners or charter guests, tend to involve themselves with the purchase (no surprise!) and the selection with the meals and courses.

    It is one of the biggest reasons that chefs should be in phone contact with the client so that ideas and wine selections can be discussed in advance.
    Posted by ablonde 30/09/2009 23:29:42

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