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Wine Tasting at Sea

Savoring a premium onboard collection

Wine Blog on Ulitzer

Whether at home or at sea, the owners of Paraffin are never without an incomparable wine collection. Here, their wine steward, Laurent Barbier, describes the special design features implemented in the construction of the yacht's wine cellar and dining room, and what he has to consider when serving the valuable stock to guests.

After many years of training in several exceptional restaurants in France, and aboard the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth II, I finally discovered the world of private yachting, first on Rasselas, and for the past seven years, on Paraffin, a 197ft Feadship based in northern Europe in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter. As the owners' personal wine steward, I alternate between Paraffin and their various residences.

The owners of Paraffin are great wine connoisseurs. They have beautiful cellars in all their houses; the one in their primary residence is extraordinary, both in quality and quantity! So it wasn't surprising that when Paraffin was built, there was great emphasis placed on the dining room and wine cellar.

 

 

Ideally, a wine cellar should answer simple but logical criteria. Most recent wines are less fragile than wines produced 40-50 years ago; nonetheless they require particular care. The cellar temperature should not be too high or low, ideally around 12 degrees Celsius. It can of course vary slightly, but significant changes in the temperature could drastically alter the complex aging process of the wines. Too much light will also accelerate the aging process, which is why wine bottles are tinted and sometimes wrapped in paper.

Seventy to eighty percent humidity is ideal; anything above, and mildew will appear between the cork and capsule. On the contrary, if the humidity is too low, the cork will dry out and oxidation will affect the wine.

A good ventilation system is also necessary for the right evolution of the wine. All bottles should be stored lying down, as keeping the cork in contact with the wine will keep it from drying.

White wines should be placed on the lower shelves, as temperatures vary in the cellar - the lower the colder. Ideally, the bottom of the bottle should be kept facing out; it is simply easier to read the label without "disturbing" the wine.

All of these very important considerations were taken into account when designing and building Paraffin's wine cellar. However, many would question (and rightly so) the logic in keeping wine on board an ocean-crossing yacht. For the owner/connoisseurs, it was simply an essential part of their lives that had to be accommodated.

Paraffin was built in such a way as to avoid vibrations in the dining room, and everywhere on board for that matter! Although it's been difficult to escape the heavy swells of the Atlantic - and Paraffin has had its fair share of bad weather - all wine has fared exceptionally well.

 

 

Not to mention the glassware. A great wine collection and a beautiful cellar would not be complete without proper glassware. Paraffin's dining room holds more than 300 wine, champagne, and port glasses, making any gourmet dinner a memorable experience. We can accommodate a party of 20 guests and still serve champagne, three different white wines, three different red, dessert wine, and port without having to change any of the glasses - ideal for a wine taster menu!

Selecting the Right Wines The owners, their guests, and charter guests, alike, have always greatly enjoyed all wines served.

The owners have a special affection for red Bordeaux, mostly from the Left Bank: Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion, and of course, Chateau d'Yquem. We also have "lesser," but sometimes extraordinary, second, third, and fourth growths from the region. These include Pichon Longueville, Cos d'Estournel, Lynch Bages, and many more.

Our white wines are from the Burgundy region, mostly Domaine Leflaive and Louis Latour, but also California chardonnay. Dom Perignon and Cristal champagnes and vintage ports complete our selection. All these wines are arguably the very best. The greater vintages can still be found in specialized "cavistes" or at auction, but at a very expensive price.

When preparing a charter, we like to have as much information as possible from our guests, their food preferences of course, and if possible, a wine and beverage list. Knowing what the guests like (or don't like) to eat makes the wine selection so much easier!

Where and when the cruise is going to take place is important too. The sometimes-cold Baltic, the Mediterranean, or the Caribbean will definitely influence the type of wines guests will want to drink! Wherever they enjoy wine with lunch, they will want lighter or full-bodied reds or dessert wines. Some guests also enjoy sampling local wines during a cruise, for example from the French Riviera to Italy and Spain.

 

 

Typically we present our guests with a lunch and dinner menu sometime after breakfast. I then recommend a wine list. It is important to know their choices in advance, especially for red wines. The bottles have to be placed in a standing position a few hours before dinner, to allow all sediment to settle, but also to bring the wine to the right room temperature, around 19 degrees. This is not necessary if the wine is to be decanted; simply keep it in that same lying-down position, but remember to bring it to the right temperature.

White wines should be served cold, around 9 or 10 degrees. Anything colder and the wine will lose most of its personality and taste. Rose wines can be enjoyed a little colder than white wines.

Always handle the bottle with the greatest care. Follow these simple guidlines and wine tasting will become an unforgettable experience!

Aussie Rules: A Wine Lover's Cruise Through the Med

During summer 2004, Aussie Rules will be based predominantly in the south of France for cruising the western Mediterranean. Captain Maxx Ainsworth knows this region intimately and the following recommended route starts on the ever-popular French Riviera, taking in Corsica, Sardinia, and southern Italy. Not only is this a wine connoisseur's dream voyage, but there is a port of call to suit every interest.

Day 1:
Antibes to Saint-Tropez

 After flying into Antibes, transfer to Aussie Rules, escorted by crew members. Set sail the same afternoon for the bright lights of Saint-Tropez and anchor for the evening.

Day 2:
Saint-Tropez to Pampelonne Bay

After the lively Saint-Tropez nightlife, spend the day anchored off the beaches of Pampelonne Bay. Relax on the yacht, indulge in some watersports, or wander ashore. Then it's back to Saint-Tropez to anchor just outside the harbor.

Day 3:
Saint-Tropez to Cannes

The next destination is beautiful Ille St Marguerite, just off the coast of Cannes. As the evening approaches, move into Cannes harbor.

Day 4:
Cannes to Juan-les-Pins

Spend a relaxing morning off Cap d'Antibes or Juan-les-Pins. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Hotel Eden Roc followed by the trip back to Cannes for the evening's entertainment, possibly a dramatic fireworks display in the bay.

Day 5:
Cannes to Villefranche

A late morning sail takes you to Villefranche and the fashionable nine-mile promontory of St Jean Cap Ferrat. Watersports in the afternoon may be followed by a gastronomic dinner ashore and some nightlife.

Day 6:
Villefranche to Monaco

The next morning, fully rested, make the move to Monaco and devote both the day and night to exploring the treasures of this historic and glamorous town.

Day 7:
Monaco to Portofino, Italy

Get an early start for a leisurely trip across the Ligurian Sea to the beautiful Italian port of Portofino. Spend a restful evening at anchor in the charming harbor.

Day 8:
Portofino to Elba

After a morning in this delightful port, move to a sheltered anchorage for lunch and watersports. The evening meal is taken on board and everything is prepared for the overnight sail to Elba.

Day 9:
Elba to Porto Vecchio, Corsica

Arrive with the sun at Portoferraio on the beautiful island of Elba. After lunch, it's on to Porto Azzurro with opportunities for sport and relaxation. Depart at midnight for "The Beautiful Island" - Corsica.

Day 10:
Porto Vecchio

Head for Porto Vecchio, on Corsica's southeast coast, and spend a day exploring the delightful anchorages of the region.

Day 11:
Corsica to La Maddalena Sardinia
On another day of exploration, head for the La Maddalena archipelago on the northeast coast of Sardinia, following a morning cruise from Corsica. The day and evening are spent at anchor in the glorious Italian waters of the Costa Smeralda.

Day 12:
La Maddalena to Porto Cervo

Thread through the calm waters of the archipelago and approach the fashionable Porto Cervo by midday. The afternoon and evening are spent in this fine resort.

Day 13:
Porto Cervo to Cala di Volpe
Most of the day is whiled away off the beautiful beaches of Cala di Volpe Bay, which provide a stunning backdrop to the evening's anchorage.

 

 

More Stories By Laurent Barbier

Laurent Barbier has been employed by the owners of Paraffin for more than seven years, alternating his time between the megayacht and their residences.

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