Marinela Ivanova

Luxurious yet unconventional, The World is the largest privately owned, residential yacht on earth, boasting 165 opulent residences. As well as offering a diverse range of expeditions since 2002, the lavish ship also provides a diverse exploration of the palette through its six restaurants. Winner of the Best Cruise Line/Ship Wine List award, Marinela Ivanova, Beverage Manager at The World, tells us more.

Where does your love of wine originate from?

Wine has always been part of my life. I grew up on a farm in Bulgaria. Where I come from almost everybody has a small vineyard and makes their own wine; so did my father, my grandfather and their fathers. Wine in moderation has always been, and still is, part of the fabric of everyday life of our people.

What do you think has influenced your taste in wine?

Many factors; my upbringing, the sommelier school I attended, the other professionals I met and shared knowledge with but most of all my travels. Having worked on ships for 18 years now I have had the opportunity to visit many wine producing countries and regions. These visits formed my emotional connections to the terroirs, and the people of the land and their wines. Consequently, they help me to better understand and appreciate why the wines taste as they do.

Where was the last place you visited? How did it inspire you?

I visited Bordeaux last May. As always, I was impressed by the people, by their commitment to their history, traditions and continuous striving for high quality. They take pride in all of this. I had the privilege to meet the owners of Chateaux Ducru-Beaucaillou, Figeac, Ausone and Pavie. The experience was very genuine and humbling. The love that the Bordeaulais have for their land is awe inspiring. Although many top chateaux owners run multimillion euro operations, they do not perceive themselves as powerful businessmen. They perceive themselves as vignerons; custodians of their land inherited from their ancestors. They work hard to create a strong legacy.

What makes the wine list at The World stand out?

The first impression is the breadth and depth. The number of positions varies depending on our Ship’s destination; currently we carry close to 1,400 labels hand-selected from 18 countries. Our most important feature is diversity. We feature many countries and regions, not just the traditional wines one would expect. We are only able to do so because we focus on purchasing wine locally on our travels, availing of the personal contacts and friends we have made over the years.

What food and wine trends are you seeing at the moment?

Chefs and Sommeliers have come full circle and are “back to basics”. Chefs strive for a more minimalistic approach to let the food components express themselves. The focus is on experimenting with local and authentic ingredients, rather than using overly sophisticated recipes to explore. Sommeliers seek wines that are made with more traditional techniques, of autochthone and often obscure grape varietals. Our head sommelier, Mia Martensson, and I follow the “natural wine” movement with interest. Sustainability is a trend close to my heart. Our priority is always quality, style and terroir expression.

Which restaurant do you think boasts the best wine list in the world today?

I could not possibly choose one list. In my opinion the best wine lists today support local producers, have a selection that matches the chef’s style of cuisine whilst also including a good selection of wines from emerging and classic wine regions.

Is there a young sommelier that you believe will go on and do great things in the industry?

I like to think that my generation (I have been over 20 years in the business now) has managed to change the image of our profession. The pompous sommeliers who look down on their guests and lecture them about what wine they should drink are long gone. Our focus is on hospitality and extending the selection beyond Old World wines. I have a lot of faith in the new generation. Our profession attracts talented and passionate people who are enthusiastic in their support for young winemakers, engaging in projects that preserve natural techniques, and promote the culture of wine.

What do you think is the most important element of a good wine list?

It has to be orientated to the preferences of the guests who visit the restaurant of course and the wines featured need to offer good value. At the end of the day we are in the hospitality business. Everything we do is for our guests. It’s all about balance between the various countries and regions represented, between wine styles (modern and traditional), between price ranges and between mature and younger wines.

What is next for you?

I am currently studying for a Diploma in Wine and Spirits at the Wine Academy of Rust, Austria, a subsidiary of WSET British Wine & Spirit Education Trust. I anticipate graduating next year. Going back to school helps me to keep informed about the newest trends in viticulture and viniculture and exchange ideas with educators and like-minded colleagues. I intend to continue sailing aboard The World, exploring the world of wine and sharing the knowledge I have acquired over the years.