Food & Wine

Emerging Wine Trends for Guests on Board

3 May 2021By Sara Ventiera
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Written by

Sara Ventiera

Sara Ventiera is a contributing writer and former stewardess who covers food, travel, and other topics. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, Food & Wine, NPR, Eating Well, and BBC Travel.

Emerging wine options, including orange wines and natural wines, may have guests and crew alike rethinking their favorites on board. 

Yacht chef Victoria Allman always jumps at the chance to learn about the next big culinary thing. When the Florida Wine Academy offered a class on orange wines, she signed up as soon as she could. Same for natural wines and some of the lesser-known growing regions that have earned acclaim across the wine industry in recent years. 

To broaden the options for guests, Allman has brought many of these specialty wines on board but has had a tough time getting anyone to try something new. “I’ve presented these so many times and everyone wants the same brand recognition bottles on board,” she says. “As much as I’ve tried to push the new things, they haven’t flown.”

The yachting industry is not known for being broad-minded or experimental. Many yacht owners prefer to stick to their usual destinations, long-established flavor preferences, and regular routines. Let’s be real: how many cases of Super Tuscan or Napa Cab do you have stocked on board?

“I’m afraid that although orange wine and natural wine are certainly on the rise for several years in the world of wine, this is nothing we see in yachting,” says Louise Sydbeck, master of wine, wine consultant, and WSET educator with Riviera Wine in Antibes. “We have not seen any new trends in our industry, and it has always been a very traditional sector when it comes to wine.”

However, as a younger generation of yacht owners continue to enter the industry, those stews and chefs who keep up-to-date on what’s happening in the larger wine world will be better positioned to impress hipper, more cosmopolitan guests as these trends continue to grow in cities, from New York and Paris to, even, Helsinki and Denver, and beyond.

So, what’s happening in the world of wine outside of yachting? Here’s what you should know.

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Rosa Dei Venti
Courtesy of Alessandra Esteves, Florida Wine Academy

#RoséAllDay is Starting to Change

Those curvaceous bottles of Domaines Ott may still be filling up yacht cellars, but many of the wine drinkers who once pledged allegiance to the rosés of Provence have been broadening their blush-hued horizons for the past couple of years now. Deeper colored rosés from Rioja in Spain, as well as Italy, California, and Oregon have been gaining in popularity — both in the broader wine world as well as in the yachting industry to some degree.

“Because rosés can be made in different ways, you can have a dry, light refreshing style that’s good with an appetizer or a heavier, darker color rosé with a big piece of steak,” says Alessandra Esteves, director of wine education at Florida Wine Academy. “I saw with classes and buying, especially during the summertime in South Florida, people were asking me for rosés from Portugal or Italy to Lebanon.”

That global explosion of rosé has also become a stepping stone to other light and versatile wines.

That global explosion of rosé has also become a stepping stone to other light and versatile wines. Light, bright, and extremely versatile chilled reds from across the globe, such as German Trollinger, Spanish Mencía, and French Gamay, have been growing in popularity over the past year or so.

“I’ve been drinking chilled reds for some time now, so I’m happy to hear it’s becoming a trend!” Katie Nelson, senior director of winemaking for Columbia Crest told SheKnows this past summer. “It’s a great opportunity for people to enjoy wine on even more occasions. Anything with a lighter body, higher acidity, and no oak is nice chilled — varietals like Pinot Noir and Gamay. They’re great to pair with charcuterie boards and appetizers or a hearty salad like arugula with flank steak, parmesan cheese, and cracked pepper.”

Gravner Ribolla Gialla is a skin-contact (orange wine) natural wine.
Courtesy of Alvise Barsanti

Orange wines have been increasingly replacing traditional rosé in hip cities, like Los Angeles and New York. “For Art Basel last year, we had a big order for orange wines here in Miami for a yacht,” says Esteves. “It’s this kind of trendy week with art, so you have trendy people who wanted to taste something different.”

Kind of like rosé on steroids, orange wine gets its coppery hue from skin contact. Generally, the skins of thicker-skinned white grapes are added to white wine fermentation to gain color, texture, and deeper flavor.

Bottles tend to take on an amber or orange hue and richer, tannin-like texture that somewhat resembles the look and mouthfeel of an older white wine. Depending on the grape, these wines can have more or less aromas of fruit and flowers, but they always tend to have a fuller body and more complex flavor profile. “The way you make white wine is by separating the fruit from the juice, so you don’t have contact from the skin,” says Esteves. “Orange wines can extract a lot more flavor.”

Kind of like rosé on steroids, orange wine gets its coppery hue from skin contact. Generally, the skins of thicker-skinned white grapes are added to white wine fermentation to gain color, texture, and deeper flavor.

This style of wine is far from new. It’s been made for centuries, millennia even, in the country of Georgia, but it has been rediscovered in recent years.

Starting two decades ago, Italian winemaker Josko Gravner has helped to usher in a new wave of orange wines from his family winery in Oslavia, a small town in the Collio region of northeastern Italy. But the style has blown up over the past few years in the United States with an orange wine week and newfound interest in wines from Georgia. “It is a trend that we will see that growing in importance probably in the next few years,” says Esteves.

Alvise Barsanti

Lesser-Known Growing Regions are Gaining Steam

“French and Italian reds and whites are still seen as something of a gold standard and very few orders are made for anything other than a Provençal rosé,” says Ruth Kirwan of Essentials Provisioning, the VSF Palma branch. “Thanks to a lot of positive input from the critics, people are realizing that Spanish wines offer great quality to price ratios and so hopefully this trend will encourage a bit more experimentation in the future.”

Yacht owners and guests can afford to drink whatever pricey brands of wine they’d like to buy, so they are often reluctant to try the wine trends that become apparent in less monied populations; however, many yacht crew are keen to explore themselves. “The whole idea of experimenting with wine and suggesting new food and wine pairings is something that has attracted many of the chefs on yachts,” says Esteves.

Southern hemisphere wines from South Africa, Argentina, and Chile have been growing in popularity — especially in Miami — as have less familiar regions of Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

“Red wines from Douro Valley are spectacular, and Portugal is going to continue being a hotspot for travel and for drinking,” James Beard award-winning sommelier Belinda Chang, told Shondaland earlier this year. “And lesser-known regions of Italy are great — I think it’s really fun that you can see a Bianchetta Genovese by the glass on a wine list in a lot of places in America.”

Graver Pinot Grigio Riserva 2006
Alvise Barsanti

Eastern European growing regions in countries like Georgia, Moldova, Croatia, and Greece have been finding their spots on forward-thinking wine lists across the globe.

For some, like Allman, different growing regions have been one of the emerging trends she’s been most excited about. “There are some really phenomenal wines from Lebanon and I brought in a Mexican wine from Valle de Guadalupe for when we do Mexican day,” she says.

Allman has kept a small stock from these lesser-known regions in the yacht’s house wine cellar and she makes a point to draw attention to them on the list as guests and the owner pour through the options. On days she’s serving Mediterranean or Mexican fare for lunch, she’ll suggest a wine pairing from the area, as per the age-old food and wine adage, “What grows together goes together.”

But, she says, “They often nod their head and say, ‘Yes, yes, yes’ and then they pick a bottle of Whispering Angel rosé.”

Natural, Organic, Biodynamic Are the “It-Girls” of the Wine World

From Paris and London to Melbourne and San Francisco, some of the hottest places to eat and drink focus on sustainable, natural wines that are produced organically with little to no intervention in the fermentation process.

Environmentally conscious yacht crew have been clamoring to learn more, says Esteves, “In previous years, our Napa seminars were sold out, but in the more recent years we’re seeing natural wine is the big trend.”

Eric Zeziola

Theoretically, these bottles are better for the environment, as the low intervention philosophy should extend to the vineyard and the whole production process. Many natural winemakers employ sustainable methods such as recycling water, foregoing synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, using lighter bottles to reduce the carbon footprint in shipping, and limiting overall waste.

But buyers must beware of marketing claims. “There is no legal definition for natural wine,” says Esteves. “We do have rules for organic wines and biodynamic wines, which fall under the big umbrella of natural wine.”

To be organic, producers must go through a multi-year, costly process to get certified. To do so, winegrowers and makers must seriously curb the use of synthetic products, especially in the vineyards. Sulfite additives are prohibited, and commercial yeasts must also obtain organic certification to be used.

Biodynamic wines follow all of the organic rules and then some, “Adding to that a philosophy with phase[s] of the moon and different things as well you do in vineyard and winery,” says Esteves. “Nowadays, we have biodynamic wines from very cheap to very expensive.”

Louis Roederer now offers biodynamic Champagnes that sell for around $300 a bottle and Chateau Palmer, which goes for $600 or more a bottle depending on the vintage. “It’s not for marketing,” says Esteves. “These producers truly believe the quality of the grapes in the vineyard have improved in the years since they become biodynamic.”

Courtesy of Louis Roederer

Even though the food and drink cognoscenti of the world have increasingly been gravitating toward different styles of wine from farther-flung regions of the world over recent years, it must be addressed that 2020 was far from what everyone expected it would be. A lot of wine consumers gravitated back toward more of what feels safe and affordable.

“Last year, people were saying millennials were drinking less but drinking better,” says Esteves. “This year everyone wanted to drink bottles that cost less than $20, not just because people lost their jobs or were furloughed: consumption has increased. People were just drinking more during lockdown.”

As was the case with life in general, a lot of the trends that were forecasted to grow stalled, but eager-to-learn crew like Allman enjoyed taking the time to explore new things while stuck in quarantine. Once the world goes back to some semblance of normalcy, Allman wouldn’t be surprised to see crew, if not the owners, explore some of these emerging wine trends that have become more popular across the globe. “The guests often go to the places that are written up in People Magazine,” she says. “The crew themselves find lots of different things.”

This article originally ran in the February 2021 issue of Dockwalk.

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