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Wines of the Riviera

It’s that time of the year again, where the ports between Imperia and St Tropez start to fill up with incoming yachts returning from tropical off-season adventures in the Caribbean or further afield.

As we prepare for another summer season, charters are booked, itineraries are created, and preferences sheets are filled out. When it comes to the wine selection onboard, many guests understandably stay true to tried and tested favourites: Champagne (a pre-requisite), a good Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) or white Burgundy (Chardonnay), a mix of Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot), Burgundy (Pinot Noir) and Rhône (Syrah/Grenache) for the reds, and a crisp, dry rosé from Provence.

Cassis - boats in harbour

Cassis

Yet, chances are, wherever you cruise in the Mediterranean, there’ll be a local wine scene to discover. This is especially true of French and Italian Riviera yacht charters, where long established traditions, stunning scenery and exotic grape varieties await.

Liguria may be one of Italy’s smallest wine producing regions but it boasts over 100 unique grape varieties and some of the world’s most vertical vineyards, many of which can be appreciated from the deck of your yacht as you cruise the coast of Cinque Terre. The charming fishing ports surrounding Portofino are most famous for their Sciacchetrà, a medium-sweet wine made from dried grapes of local varieties Bosco, Abarola and Vermentino. Look for a bottle from the Buranco vineyard.

The village of Dolceaqua in Italy at night

Dolceaqua

Heading west from Cinque Terre towards the French border and inland from the pretty ports of Sanremo and Imperia Oneglia, you’ll find Dolceaqua, a wonderfully preserved medieval village with a dominating fortress sitting and a famous bridge that the likes of Claude Monet have immortalised on canvas. Dolceacqua is also famous for a red grape variety that bears its name: Rossese di Dolceacqua, a light, soft, spicy red wine which is dangerously easy to drink on a summer’s day. Terre Bianche is one of the finest producers in the valley and an easy day trip from the Ligurian coast or Monaco.

Superyacht in Nice, France

Superyacht in Nice

Along the French Riviera, the ports between Monaco and Cannes offer the chance to discover Nice wine! Yes, such a thing does exist. Hidden in the hills of the Riviera’s largest city is the appellation of Bellet, one of the oldest and smallest in France. There may only be 60 hectares of vines in total, split across 11 vineyards, yet this urban appellation boasts two indigenous red grape varieties: Braquet and La Folle Noire. The former is the main ingredient in a Bellet rosé; spicier and deeper than most rosés you are used to. The latter must make up the majority of a Bellet red wine, a rich medley of black fruits and subtle oak flavours. Château de Bellet, the oldest vineyard in Bellet, is a highly recommended day trip.

The monthly wine blog for Bespoke Yacht Charter is written by Chrissie McClatchie, an Australian freelance wine professional and writer who has been selling fine wine to superyachts since her arrival in Nice in 2007. Today she also teaches WSET wine courses and conducts guided visits through Nice’s AOC Bellet. You can follow her travels at rivieragrapevine.com

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