A part of stew's job involves serving wine from some of the world's most prestigious terroirs to discerning owners, so understanding wine is something every Stew should be confident with.
Still, wine can sometimes be an intimidating and daunting subject. With so many different regions, grapes, confusing labels and vintages, it is easy to get confused. Not to worry though, it's all manageable, you just need to build up your confidence in the right way. Here to help is a certified wine expert and consultant, Hannah Lunn.
Hannah's passion is wine and she loves working with Yacht Crew: consulting, teaching WSET and creating bespoke courses for onboard and online training. The idea is to help junior Stews understand the basics and feel more confident serving wine to guests and to help more senior Stews utilise their budgets to keep a better wine inventory and develop in-depth wine knowledge.
Here is a quick guide on red wine, full of helpful tips and info to get you started!
Most popular grape types every Stew should know
You are almost inevitably going to come across the following grapes when working on board: Cabernet Sauvignon (e. g. Margaux, Bordeaux), Merlot (e. g. Pomerol, Bordeaux) and Pinot Noir (e. g. Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy). Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot also play a part in some of the most sought-after Super Tuscans! Masseto, anyone?
You should also know about Syrah (e. g. Hermitage) - known as Shiraz in Australia, Nebbiolo (e. g. Barolo and Barbaresco) and Sangiovese (e. g. Chianti) as these are very popular on-board choices.
How to store red wine
Red wine, like any wine, should be stored at a cool and consistent temperature away from direct sunlight or artificial lighting. Between 10-15°C is ideal; if temperatures are too cold the cork might harden and shrink allowing oxygen to pass through and damage the wine, if temperatures are too warm you risk ending up with an unpleasant 'cooked' wine.
A wine storage unit with an anti-vibration feature is a bonus! A stable wine is a happy wine.
Tips for tasting red wine
When tasting red wine, follow the 4 x S rule: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip.
See: a wine's appearance can tell you many things! First you want to make sure it isn't unexpectedly hazy as this could be a fault. Next you want to check out the colour; young red wines tend to be ruby or purple whilst older reds will be garnet or tawny.
Swirl: swirling the wine around in the glass helps aerate it and encourages the aromas to come forward. This can be done on a hard surface if you're worried about spilling! It should be swiftly followed by...
Sniff: once aerated, bring the glass to your nose so you can sniff the aromas. This is your introduction to how the wine is likely going to taste. It takes practise and experience to be able to define everything going on but the best way to begin is by starting big and going small (e. g. Can I smell fruits? Yes. What kind? In reds it is typically red or dark fruits).
Sip: the good part! This is where you get to slurp like a pro. Take a small amount of the wine into your mouth and making a tight 'O' shape with your lips (think blowing candles out on a cake) inhale several times, moving the wine about your mouth as you do. This helps you get a full understanding of it! Different parts of the tongue detect components like acidity, sweetness and bitterness, your gums help assess the tannins and your nasal passage translates everything into flavour, which is why you want to make sure it reaches the back of your mouth!
How to serve red wine
Lighter red wines such as Pinot Noir should be served lightly chilled, around 13°C. Medium-full bodied red wines such as Bordeaux should be served at room temperature, around 15-18°C. Too cold and they can taste bitter, too warm and they can taste flabby and alcoholic!
Most red wines benefit from being decanted with younger, fuller bodied wines needing the longest decanting. This enhances flavour and softens the tannins. In terms of glassware, a larger glass with plenty of room for swirling is best for reds.
Tips for pairing red wine
The pairing possibilities with red wines are endless and whether a certain dish will work with a certain wine depends on many factors. A wine's age, structure and flavour profile have a huge influence on the outcome of a pairing, as do the levels of acidity, salt, sugar, fat and protein in the food. And that's just the beginning!
As a general rule, lighter reds are the most versatile and can be paired with leaner red meats, poultry and meaty fish like salmon. Fuller bodied reds work best with more robust dishes that are equal in texture and flavour intensity. If pairing a red with steak, be mindful of any sauces being used as these will take centre stage in the pairing.
Important tip! Fuller bodied reds are often higher in tannins, which are responsible for many of the negative reactions in food and wine pairing. Avoid serving these bolder wines with soft cheeses, creamy sauces, oily fish, spicy food and any dishes with a sweet element.
If you're not sure whether the wine is full or light bodied, have a look at the alcohol %. Lower alcohol often indicates a lighter bodied red while anything over 14% will likely be full bodied!
If you've read this and have no idea what tannins are, don't fear! They're a compound found in the skins of the grape, which are used to make red wine (and not white) as they also contain the colour!
Hannah is a Wine Consultant and WSET Certified Educator with over 8 years experience in the Wine Industry of which 3 have been spent working with yacht crew. She offers bespoke training and masterclasses both online and in person.
In Genoa on the 12th or 13th April?
Why not book onto one of the courses she's leading at the Genoa Superyacht Hub! The perfect addition to your CV. Visit Genoa Superyacht Hub website for more info.
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