I just uploaded an exclusive interview with Hilbert Sluiter, who is the chef aboard the 147-foot Hakvoort motoryacht Trust. He'll be featured as June's "Chef of the Month" on CharterWave beginning later today--and deservedly so, based on the fantastic luncheon he prepared for me at last month's charter yacht show in Genoa, Italy.
During that luncheon, I noticed that the wine pairings were particularly outstanding. I asked Sluiter how he selects wines for charter guests, and he told me that he works in tandem with Trust's chief stewardess, Rosa Rodriguez (at far right in the photograph), and sous chef, Tinasih Keeven. I was fortunate to sit down with all three of them for a conversation in which they revealed that Spanish wines are their personal preference.
If you've ever wanted to know more about Rioja and value labels, I think you'll enjoy the following talk as much as I did (and you might want to consider a charter aboard Trust).
Rosa, you are originally from Spain?
I am from the city of Madrid. I grew up with wine on the table. I have the knowledge of my country in my mind, in my mouth, on my tongue.
And Tinasih, you are from Northern Holland?
That is correct, but I also have a home in Burgundy, France, so I have learned quite a bit about the French wines from that region. I enjoy them, of course, but like Rosa, I prefer Spanish wines. They're like the Spanish people. They have character.
Chef Sluiter, you also are Dutch, but you told me that you like Spanish wines the best. Why is that?
Without insulting the French, I have to say that I find French wines to be like French cooking. It’s good, but they’re a little bit arrogant. They think that they’re the best, but that’s because they don’t look around past their own country.
The three main regions for wine in Spain are Rioja, Catalonia, and Ribera del Duero. Should people interested in fine Spanish wines look to one versus the others?
Rosa: I think for the best values, go for Rioja. It is a good place to start, and you can taste a lot of wine for not a lot of money. It is quite difficult at 11 euro to get a good-quality wine in France. In Spain, for 11 euro, you can find very good Riojas.
Is that what you buy for guests when you provision before a charter, Tinasih?
We buy the wines that guests prefer. They usually go for well-known labels. But we have had situations where we served lower-priced Spanish wines in carafes, and the guests liked it until they knew what it was. They would get upset that it was a 13-euro bottle of wine, when a minute before they were happy. It can be crazy.
Rosa, when you are at home in Spain, what do you buy?
I think you cannot go wrong with a Rioja Reserva that has been in the bottle at least two years and that costs at least 12 euro. With those characteristics, you will go right almost every time. It will be a medium-bodied wine that goes well with red meats and hard cheeses. At home, we drink it with chorizo, a smoky sausage.
The Ribera del Duero wines are made from the same grape as Riojas, but they are full bodied. Normally, the better ones are older. Drink it with lamb. It will be excellent.
Is one region better known than the other for top quality?
Sluiter: One is not better than another. It is about personal tastes. People just need to be willing to try something beyond French and Italian wines, something they have not tried before.