How to Build and Manage a Wine List?
Given the luxury and prestige of yachting, you would think that having an impressive, carefully selected wine list on board would be standard. That’s rarely the case, however. Over the last 15 years of supplying and consulting in the industry it is clear that finding a great wine selection on yachts is indeed rare.
This is very understandable though. First, yachts do not have sommeliers on board. There is generally nobody on the crew with the time, expertise and knowledge needed to craft a well-planned list, as there would be in any top restaurant. This is not to downplay the great wine knowledge of many crew members, but rather to highlight that the role of sommelier simply does not exist here. Instead, this work tends to fall to somebody like the Chief Steward or Chief Stewardess, who will have many other duties and from whom it would be unfair to expect the sort of in-depth wine knowledge you’d expect of a sommelier or other wine professional.
There is also the issue of crew turnover. Yachts frequently change crew, and so wine selections tend to be incomplete or scattered. New crew members may want to add their preferences to the list, which may not necessarily be in tune with the existing list.
Another consideration is the preference of the yacht’s owner. Some owners have very strict guidelines on which wines to keep on board, leaving the person in charge with no choice but to follow instructions. Owners’ requests are often heavily label-focused, with choices made on perceptions of prestige as opposed to any particular wine knowledge or insight.
That’s not all. Yachts that are for charter may have separate selections for the owner and charter guests. Space and storage are also a major concern. With respect to these and many other issues, it would be impossible to suggest a one-size-fits-all wine list solution. Each yacht has its own combination of variables in play and will need its own approach to wine selection. Instead, I will give guidelines on how to