This year’s must-have superyacht accessory? Jonathan Ray reveals why every owner should invest in their very own sommelier...
So, you have your superyacht, your crew and your guests. You have your indoor and outdoor spa pools, your superyacht gym, your library and your dining room that seats 20. You have your prized personal chef – lured at great expense from a European royal house – and your own Vins Sans Frontières-stocked, Andrew Winch-designed cellar for storing wine onboard your superyacht.
All that you lack is this year’s must-have – your personal sommelier. In these days of the celebrity chef, sommeliers have also been elevated to almost rock-star status and no self-respecting yacht should be without one.
“Being a sommelier is more than just knowing about wine,” explains Benoît Gouez, Chef de Cave at Moët & Chandon, sponsor of the Best Sommelier of the World competition. “It’s about psychology and understanding the consumer and his or her expectations. The sommelier stands between the chef and the client and must have exceptional knowledge about wine and be technically adept, too. It’s an enormous challenge.”
This vinous world championship is held every three years and is organised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale. The 2013 finals were held in Tokyo and I was there as a spectator. Sixty or so sommeliers, from the world’s finest and most celebrated restaurants, clubs and hotels, took part in three days of intense competition and I was astounded to discover what was expected of them.
To begin, there was a written exam, a blind tasting and an analytical commentary on a series of randomly chosen bottles, all of which had to be undertaken in a language other than the competitors’ mother tongue. There was a series of set tasks such as choosing, opening, decanting and serving a wine to a table of two judges within three minutes; opening and serving a magnum of Moët & Chandon Champagne into a dozen glasses in equal measures; identifying and describing three wines served blind, discussing their provenance, explaining the best food matches for them and the correct serving temperatures. There was then a further hour-long written exam.
Finally, in front of an array of TV cameras, a specially picked jury and a 5,000-plus audience, the final three were required to open and serve three Champagnes; to identify six spirits served blind; to read a menu and advise a table of six on suggested wine matches; to check a wine list for spelling and accuracy; to serve and decant an old claret and to taste six wines blind, analysing and describing them, identifying them and their vintage. Full marks to Paolo Basso from Lugano, Switzerland, for edging it and becoming the current Best Sommelier of the World.
The wine we drink is no less important than the food we eat, as Basso pointed out afterwards. Install a sommelier on board and he or she will be able to advise you on what to buy, what to sell, what to keep, what to drink, when to drink it and what to drink it with. A top sommelier is a fine investment. After all, if you plan to drink first-rate wine, you might as well have things done properly. There’s a lot more to it than just popping a cork.
How to spend £15,000 on wine...
Enjoy the “Grape Escape”, a luxury 42-day, 12-country private tour of the world’s finest wine regions. Prices start from £15,000 per person (visit winerist.com). For the same price you could buy…
1) 306 bottles of 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Manachiara, Silvio Nardi, a stunning, single vineyard Sangiovese. frw.co.uk
2) 250 bottles of Veuve Clicquot Rich, a new demi-sec Champagne, for drinking over ice. rich.veuve-clicquot.com
3) 241 bottles of 2013 Château d’Esclans Garrus, widely thought the world’s finest rosé. fromvineyardsdirect.com