Wine Whispers


Every glass of wine in the whole wide world has a story behind it: a story of wind, fiery sun, and torrential rain that beats down on a soil that tells its own story of the blood, sweat and tears it has embraced during the good years and the bad. It’s all there in the glass for you to savour.

This month On Board gets a heads up on the best ‘stories’ of last season and the ones to look out for this year. It makes for a pretty good read… so stay with us while we get the oenologists to spin the magic yarns.

Jessica Evans of Onshore Cellars and her husband Ed, started out as yachties and that is where she first took an interest in wines, that later became a passion and now a thriving business. She explains, ‘I was very lucky to be in a position where I could open, serve and sometimes taste the world’s best wines. While on yachts with my husband we started to invest in wine and soon built ourselves a cellar ashore. (Another service we offer crew now with Onshore) The excitement and interest grew and so we decided to make it our life!’ Onshore Cellars saw high sales in Champagne, Provence
rosé, first growth Bordeaux and top Super Tuscans- so not much new there, but the big difference in 2017 was the sale of more Super Tuscans such as Ornellaia, Sassicaia and Tignanello over the first growth Bordeaux’s. A fact most likely due to the Italian wines drinking better at the moment, believes Jessica. Andrew Azzopardi, General Manager of No 12 Fine Wines and Provisions, comes from a background of food and wine lovers. He agrees with Jessica about the Super Tuscans from the Bolgheri, region of Italy.

Mike Shore of Berba based in Monte Negro grew up in Canada. He life-long love affair with wine began at University when he and his European friends drank Antinoir Chianti Classico during study sessions. This affair is one of the reasons he moved to Europe in 2007. The hot summer in the Adriatic last year had the rosé flying off the cellar and totalling 6,000 bottles over the course of the season. Champagne and Prosecco were of course also key players and Mike adds, ‘Burgundy is always a favourite of the Superyacht market and 2017 was no exception, with Premier and Grand Cru whites proving to be as popular as ever.

In 2014 Louise Sydbeck, General Manager of Riviera Wine, became the 100th woman in the world to be awarded the Master of Wine title. She can pinpoint her interest in wine dating back to her childhood where she chose Dom Perignon as the subject for a school project; ‘I have no Idea why as we have never had any real Champagne at home (Swedish countryside in the 70s…), or maybe that’s why, maybe my life lacked some glamour! Anyhow that’s when it all started and since then all I have done professionally has had to do with wine’. The superyacht industry is a conservative bunch when it comes to wine choices believes Louise and not much changes from year to year. ‘In my opinion, the only newcomer that has taken the yachting industry with storm is Chateau d´Esclans with its range of rosé wines, from Whispering Angel to the most expensive rosé in the world; Garuss. However, we have noticed an increase in popularity for top-end Napa Valley Cabernet such as Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle and Hundred Acres’.

Kim Sheffield of Corkers Fine Wines first took an interest in wine when he worked as a charter Captain. ‘One charter guest in particular was a wine fanatic and he invited me to join him for a glass of wine on many occasions – he was drinking Chateau Lafite, Latour, Mouton and top burgundies from Romanee Conti to name just a few. Trying these wines opened the door to the world of wine for me. It also led to my favourite drink of all time: On one of his charters he ordered 6 bottles of Romanee Conti Grands Echezeaux 1991 (for lunch times) – a wine that I will probably never taste again in my life – it blew me away! It was magnificent and now when people ask me “can you really tell the difference between a 100 € bottle and a 2000 € bottle?” the answer is a resounding ‘’Yes!’’’ Kim agrees with Louise about the rosé wines of d’Esclans Garrus and adds Chateau Minuty 281 to the list: Esclan and Minuty have provided the answer to a gap in the market with expensive rosés which are complex and elegant and can be paired with food.

This year, Evans at Onshore Cellars is excited about the launch of the 2015 vintage of the Super Tuscans, which their wine experts Rosie Clarkson and Master of Wine Rod Smith have enjoyed sampling at trade fairs in London. Clarkson describes the Super Tuscan Sassicaia 2015 as incredibly complex with a beautiful structure and likens it to the to 1985 which was until now seen as the best vintage of Sass (100 Parker points). Azzopardi of No. 12 recommends the 2009 Super Tuscans and the ‘underrated’ 2007 Bordeaux. He adds, ‘I also promoting Californian wines this year to support the industry after the wildfires raged across California in 2017. Now is the right time to open the Californian Cabernet you’ve been storing for the past few years’.

I think the underrated Bordeaux 2007 is drinking superbly at the moment, however they are becoming rather difficult to find. On the other hand, it may be time to open your Super Tuscan 2009 vintage since I think they are drinking superbly now. Mike Shore picks the Germans as his top tip for excellent value especially among the top producers like Joh. Jos. Prüm (Mosel) and Dönnhoff (Nahe). Says Shore,’ German Rieslings were the most expensive wines you could buy, costing more than even the top Bordeaux estates. A rather unfortunate 20th century and the diminution of the “Riesling” brand made them unpopular except among top connoisseurs … but quality has a way of winning in the end and good Riesling is being rediscovered — and loved — by more and more people all the time’.

Sheffield at Corkers picks the vintages of high level appellations; 2006, 1999, 1996 and 1995 and suggest steering clear of most 2004s but do drink most 2003s now while the fruit lasts.

Different strokes for different folks and different regions tickle the taste buds of our experts: Sydbeck is impressed by the dynamism and quality of the wine industry in Argentina. There, she explains, the industry has used different sites and soils at different latitudes and altitudes and more modern wine making philosophies to come up with a ‘a new brighter and more fragrant, elegant style of Malbec which in many cases are delicious’.
She is especially impressed with wine from the northern province in Salta where the area of Cafayate is producing stunning Malbec, Tannat and a refreshing aromatic white wine made of the indigenous variety Torrontes. Says Sydbeck, ‘Some of the world’s highest vineyards lies here at over 3000 metre above sea level, resulting in an incredible purity of fruit and perfume’.

Evans stays closer to home and zooms in on the Longuedoc region for elegant and characterful wines by favourite producers from Pic Saint Loup such as; Chemin des Reves and Chateau Lancyre.

Azzopardi is having a bit of a ‘thing’ for the Spanish that dates back to 2014. He is partial to producers Alvaro Palacios who make excellent wines for as little as €25.00 per bottle. He says, ‘I have recently discovered some beautiful barrel-aged ‘‘Viura’’ wines (white) such as ‘’Placet Valtomelloso’’, and the results are a lovely mix of cream, butter, melon and floral flavours: superbly wonderful and complex. I’m curious to see how these whites can age, so I’m storing a few cases in my cellar and I cannot wait to open them in a few years’ time’.

Sheffield’s hot spot is Yarra Valley, Australia where producers are making a refined pinot noir which thrives in a climate that’s only slightly warmer than its original home, Burgundy. He recommends Oakridge 864 Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley 2012 with fruit from the Hickory Downs Vineyard, which has been producing quality wine since 1978. At an altitude of 180 metres, the vineyard sits on an old alluvial bed which naturally produces small crops. The wine is made by gently de-stemming and fermenting 100% whole berries without the aid of added yeast, pumping, plunging or cooling. The fermentation lasts for 15 days before pressing, settling and racking to 500 litre French oak barrels: ‘It is a structured, layered wine with a fine tannin backbone and tremendous length and depth’, he says.

Particularly interior yacht crew looking to have an edge this season would do well to wise up on their wines. And those looking for a professional leg up the ladder and investment in their career have a variety of options: Both Riviera Wine and Offshore Cellars offer Level 2 and Level WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trustwine courses) that offer an internationally recognised qualification. Riviera Wine has trained around 400 crew members since it started in 2007 this year it has launched the first wine book for yachting, The Yacht Cru Wine Guide. The Ebook is available free of charge from the website,

Master of Wine Rod Smith at Offshore Cellars has trained over 500 crew. The company also offers bespoke wine training specific to each yacht. These courses can be held in the Antibes shop or on board the yacht. The Antibes shop also does events for wine and spirit education such as tastings with producers, gin or mixology evenings. No 12 provide WSET wine courses in Mallorca and Malta; find more details on their Facebook page. Corkers is now offering a free worldwide delivery for all wine orders over 3,000 euros (t&c apply).

Azzopardi at No 12 notes a new trend in food for nose to tail cooking, where chefs use as much of an animal as possible. He’s a big fan of the ‘waste not want not’ art of food preparation, but it’s not easy to pair with a wine. He says, ‘Generally speaking, these parts of the animal are often fatty and served with fruit, pickled sauces or have complex tastes. I usually opt for an easy drinking new world Pinot Noir when paired with these foods’. But if the dish has more umami flavours, he would swap the New world for a classic Burgundy Pinot Noir. ‘One can also play on the serving temperature of the Pinot Noir, whereby cooling it slightly would make the wines lighter and more refreshing. Such a beautiful and versatile grape!’, he adds.

With this new found, knowledge we can soak it up in little sips and save it for the season ahead. But will our experts be drinking at the end of their working days? Evans at Onshore Cellars admits being a sweet wine girl through and through! She loves a good Sauternes or another favourite; Klein Constantia Vin De Constance from South Africa. Wines from Montrachet are current favourites for Andrew Azzopardi at No 12 and; ‘I have a special bond with the elegant Joseph Drouhin style’. Meanwhile, we know Mike Shore at Berba likes his German Rieslings but he is also partial do a spot of Sherry, which he says a lot of people are rediscovering thanks to the recent popularity of Tapas bars. ‘A beautiful Oloroso or Palo Cortado from a top producer like Lustau is amazing, and also great value. These can also be easily paired with a wide array of foods… an Oloroso or Cream sherry with dessert is fabulous … but even fish and other light meats pair very well with lighter sherries such as a Fino or Amontillado’, says Mike.

Louise Sydbeck MW at Riviera Wine can’t put her finger on a favourite wine of all time; it depends on her mood, the occasion and much more. ‘But’, she says, ‘All the top wines I have tasted that move my heart and soul come from classical regions from the old world. Sometimes a wine can be such a glorious expression of art that I even get tears in my eyes, it’s like all goes quiet inside and it becomes a somewhat spiritual experience. It’s like the wine speaks to you, or whispers to you in a soft and loving secretive voice! But it’s quite rare, last time it was with Cristal rosé 1996 and Pichon Comtesse 1982. And I have a soft spot for bold Zinfandels from a more hedonistic point of view!’

So, the whispering wines are waiting to tell their stories again this year and all we have to do is take the expert advice from our oenologists, find a place to sit, and then just listen….