Wine Aboard: Life is Too Short to Drink Bad Wine! SAIL Magazine, April 2012

SAIL Magazine published one of my articles in the April 2012 edition.  Here’s the original article.


Wine connoisseurs to box wine junkies and all of us in between agree that life is too short to drink bad wine!   But wine can be difficult to keep under less than optimum conditions such as the realities of living aboard a sailboat.

The debate rages over bottled wine versus box wine.  Today many box or screw cap wines are palatable and even enjoyable.  Traditionalists swear by corked bottled wine. The rest of us just know what we like.  All different types of wine packaging can store safely on a boat.

We have the best luck with young, less expensive wine – the boat motion seems to age the wine and may actually improve the flavor.   We weren’t sure if it was just our imagination, but several online websites confirm that movement ages wine – good for young wine, not so good for well aged wine!

Boxes have obvious advantages. They are easy to store and the vacuum bag keeps wine airtight, even after opening. There are two types of box wine … those with the bag in the box such as The Black Box and those found in other cruising locales such as Clos liter box wines found in Central America.  Clos is a Concho & Toro Chilean wine that comes in a liter box like a juice box.  From personal experience, I know Clos will keep aboard … sometimes for two years if a box gets lost in the bilge!   With bag in a box wine, you can remove the bag, discarding the box if you prefer.   But be careful where you store it to limit chafe to the bag.

Storing Wine – Six Easy Steps

  1. Find a safe place to store the wine.  By storing bottles in white athletic socks, we can easily store two cases in our “liquor locker” behind the aft third of our starboard settee.   Others swear the socks take up too much space and are unnecessary.   Glass clanking makes me nervous so I’d recommend using socks, bubble wrap or old towels, especially for rough seas … or inconsiderate ICW wakes.
  2. Wine changes composition with light or UV infiltration so store it in a dark place.
  3. Corks dry out if stored for a long time upright.  Our bottles are stored on a slant and have never been in the liquor locker long enough to have a cork dry out.
  4. Consistent temperature and high humidity are good for wine. Cooler is better and in the tropics, cooler is a challenge.  Below the waterline is cooler and never near the diesel or generator!
  5. Strong fumes can permeate a cork, a box or bag, so never store wine in an area with strong fumes.  No diesel fumes especially but even onions or garlic can have adverse effects.
  6. A boat floating is constantly in motion.  Not moving wine just doesn’t work.  You can try to limit the movement by placing it amidships and/or centerline or as mentioned earlier, less expensive and younger wine actually ages quite nicely with boat movement.  Obviously fine wines close to their optimum drinking age, might not fare as well!

Buen provecho, bon appetit or just ENJOY!



  1. Jan,
    Great article and congrats on getting it published! It’s good to know that the younger, inexpensive wines are better for storage on a sailboat….as well as our budget!

    Katie and Mark

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