Food & Wine

Basics of Red Wine for Yacht Stews

28 July 2023 By Kylie O'Brien
red wine bottles on rack
Credit: arismart/iStock

Kylie O’Brien has worked on some of the world’s most magnificent vessels with amazing people for more than 13 years. A graduate of The Australian College of Applied Psychology, she is the author of Crew Wanted, The Stewardess Bible, The Chief Stewardess Bible, The Inside Job, and has been a monthly contributor to Dockwalk magazine for more than five years.

I recently returned from a short vacation in the magnificent Margaret River wine region of Western Australia. The area is quintessentially Australian – kangaroos skip freely, and artists find inspiration in the ever-changing landscapes. It’s a place where surfers honor the waves and the luxurious wine grapes are cradled by the cool sea breeze off the Indian Ocean.

In essence, the climate in Margaret River is Western Australia’s answer to France’s Bordeaux region. And I must admit that I savored every delicious sip and morsel put in front of me!

That said, Margaret River inspired me to take a closer look at the wine we all love, from how wine is made and how best to store the wine aboard a superyacht.

Winemaking Basics

Grape cultivation and harvesting for wine is known as viniculture. Many locations worldwide share the same grape-growing climate paradise that Margaret River has. The top wine-producing areas are found in Italy, France, the U.S., Spain, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Chile, Germany, and other lesser-known areas such as Portugal, Romania, and Israel.

Because wine is a precious agricultural product that can go bad quickly, the storage recommendations make a lot of sense. But honestly, some just are not feasible on board a superyacht.

Now for some winemaking vocabulary. The manufacturing of the wine, from growing the grapes in the vineyard to the fermentation process, ending with the bottling of the wine, is known as vinification. And production of this delectable drink happens in a winery.

The steps in the winemaking process seem relatively straightforward, starting with choosing the right grape type, growing and then harvesting them, crushing and pressing the juice, fermenting the liquid, then clarifying it, and ending with the bottling and aging procedures.

Winemaking may seem uncomplicated, but there is fundamental skill and science behind it. Luckily for the winemaker, also known as a vintner, they have many years of knowledge to draw upon as the first known production of red wine dates back as early as 6000BCE.

Red wine is made by leaving the skin on during the fermenting process. This method uses dark grapes, ranging from a dark red color through purple hues to what looks like black grapes, with the wine’s colors coming from the grapes’ skin.

Photo: BenGoode/iStock

Although the basic steps to making wine remain the same, the techniques used to produce the wines are numerous and to discuss here, as it is up to each winemaker as to how they want to complete this process.

However, an important point to note is that the skin provides much of the aroma and flavors. And, although Mother Nature plays a pivotal role in making fantastic wine, the real magic is left up to the winemaker, who must choose the correct grape type (of which there are thousands) and then harvest the grapes at a precise time that affects the wine’s sugar levels and ultimate taste.

Wine Storage

There is a certain amount of misinformation floating around that red wine should be stored at room temperature. Many experts suggest avoiding polarizing temperature variations – the approximated recommended storage temperature is between 14°C and 18°C, with a moderate humidity level of approximately 70 percent to keep the corks happy. While this may be achievable if you have a purpose-built wine cellar, for most superyacht stewards, the challenge is to keep the wine at a steady temperature.

Another recommendation for storing red wine is to lay the bottles on their sides to keep the corks moist and avoid decaying, which will allow air to enter and contaminate the wine. The next suggestion is to prevent vibrations so that the chemical composition of the wine doesn’t get disturbed by the build-up of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. And the last standard wine storage recommendation is to always keep your wine out of direct sunlight.

Superyacht Adaptations

Because wine is a precious agricultural product that can go bad quickly, the above recommendations make a lot of sense. But honestly, some just are not feasible on board a superyacht. For example, the advice to avoid vibrations is impossible on a moving vessel. So instead you must do what you always do and prepare well. For example, place the wines that the boss or charter guests order in the wine fridge, paying close attention to the temperature settings. Unfortunately, many stewards overlook this fundamental element as often the fridge is set to a lower white wine temperature.

For the wine that can’t fit in the wine fridge, you can store it safely in an indoor cupboard or under-bed storage away from sunlight. It won’t go bad if stored in an inside locker for a short period of time as long as it is not too warm.

Lastly, if you’re keeping the number of bottles stored in the interior to a minimum, I recommend knowing the location of the closest wine shop should you run low. This will ensure your guests keep enjoying their favorite wine while making memories to last a lifetime.

This article was originally published in the April 2023 issue of Dockwalk.


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