Enchanté: Creating a top-shelf wine program

Feb 20, 2023 by Chef Patricia Clark

Create a top-shelf wine program on board

Some yachts offer elaborate wine rooms, floor-to-ceiling glass champagne lockers, and even library-style collections with massive leather-bound menus.

Most yachts are tight on space and offer one small wine fridge that holds a daily rotation of the day’s offerings. Stews must balance proper holding temperatures with chef suggestions, guest requests, and an owner’s private collection.

Guests may be wine savvy and know exactly what they want to have served with each meal and for any day drinking, while other groups depend on the chief stew and/or the chef to curate an appropriate selection. Preference sheets aren’t always informative, or even accurate, but if you follow a few simple guidelines, you can provide great wine that will cover all situations and tastes.

Guests often underestimate how much they will consume during a week on board. If you can preorder a general assortment to stock up boat stores you may save yourself the headache of sourcing in remote locations.  

The best mix includes a range that may be on offer throughout the day. A basic guide would include the following:

  • Champagne
  • Additional sparkling
  • Crisp, semi-dry whites
  • Dry rosès
  • Light, chillable reds
  • Medium bodied reds
  • Heavier, earthy, full-bodied reds
  • Dessert wines

A quick meeting to discuss the week’s menu and any information found on the preference sheet will help inform a good variety. It is also important to find out from the primary guest, or the charter broker, how much money per bottle you should use as a guideline.

Now comes the fun part: choosing great tastes from around the world!

Some categories of wine must come from a designated region, such as Champagne, Barolo, Chablis and Rioja. If you want purity and an easy way to pair flavors, go for wines that have specific designations of terroir. These are easy companions to the same regional dishes.

  • DOP/DOCA (Spain)
  • AOP (France)
  • DOC/DOCG (Italy)
  • QmP/QbA (Germany)

Pairing food to wine can also come down to playing up tastes, such as earthy, spicy, and specific fruits that offer a balance to any dish. Asian flavors are very popular and pair well with wines that accompany the sauces found in the dish. A high-acid Albarino works with sashimi; a dry Riesling pairs well with Thai dishes; and a low-tannin red such as Gamay is an excellent pairing for anything with Sriracha or other chilis.

Yachts are often in hot climates and day-drinking guests are looking for chilled beverages. If you have an enthusiastic wine group, great all-day wine options include not only standards such as Champagne, Chenin Blanc, Gavi di Gavi, and Domaine Ott Rosè, but also the Basque region’s Txakolina, a Sicilian Frappata, and a South African Cinsault.

Age also comes into play when selecting wines, and the recommended years vary greatly depending on the wine. According to Sommelier Vincent Mosso, a private wine buyer out of New York City, “traditionally a Barolo shouldn’t be touched for at least 10 years, while Malbecs are great around year five and Zinfandels before year eight.” 

Regardless of age, wines should be stored lying sideways in a cool dark place with no exposure to sunlight. Once opened, any wine that remains in the bottle should be stored upright with as much oxygen removed as possible.

When it comes to dinner wines, smart pairings are especially important. Some wines can dull the flavors of a dish and vice versa. If your chef is serving multiple courses, it is nice to pair wines that take guests on a journey along with the food. A gradual natural progression from a cleaner wine with the first course to the introduction of more complex flavors with each subsequent course could look something like this:


Lamb Confit

sweet potato crisps, apricot chutney

Pairing suggestion: Muga Bollicine


Pumpkin & Sweet Pepper Bisque

with saffron oil

Pairings suggestion: Chenin Blanc or Dry Reisling


Roasted Corn Risotto with Parmesan Cream

Pairing suggestion: Dry Reisling or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc


Butter Poached Halibut

white asparagus cream, zucchini, basil oil

Pairing suggestion: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Vermentino 


Chicken Roulade

leeks fondant, sweet peas, parsnip purée

Pairing suggestion: Côte du Rhône or Barbera 

Hot Veg

Butternut Squash Terrine

kale, cashew cream, balsamic and smoked salt

Pairing suggestion: Côte du Rhône or Mourvèdre

Cold Veg

Shaved Vegetables

radish, fennel, apple, walnuts, mandarin dressing

Pairing suggestion: Cabernet Sauvignon or Super Tuscan

Palate Cleanser

Gin & Tonic Sorbet

Cucumber, basil, lime


Fresh, Soft Ripened, Washed Rind, Pressed and Bleu

with seasonal accompaniments

Burrata, Robiola, Murcia al Vino, Gruyere and Gorgonzola Dolce

honeycomb, red wine preserves, blackberries, grapes

Pairing suggestion:  Sweet Reisling, or Sauternes


Roasted Pear Tatin 

honeycomb ice cream, port caramel

Pairing suggestion: Vin Santo or Amaretto or Sauternes


About Chef Patricia Clark

Patricia Clark is a chef and guest writer for Triton News.

View all posts by Chef Patricia Clark →