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Drinking wine with chilli

Question from Heath: My partner loves any chilli Asian dish but we always struggle with the wine match. What do you recommend?

In a nut shell – Go with a fruity or sweet white wine (aromatic Riesling) or a red wine with low tannin (Pinot Noir, Grenache, Beaujolais) and make sure the wine you pick is relatively low in alcohol.

In a clam shell – Good question! Chilli food is always tricky to pair with wine. We pair particular wines with particular foods because if we get it wrong your wine is going to taste bland and flavourless. Read more

Age it or drink it?

Question from Peter: Your post on how to cellar wine got me wondering – what are the best types of wine to age?

In a nut shell – Most wines are made to be drunk within the first few years and very few wines will improve with age. As a general rule if they’re high in acid, tannin, sugar and/or alcohol you’re on the money. Even better, if they’re expensive and French (I’m not even kidding)! More on that below.

In a clam shell – True story! You’ve always thought the longer you age a wine for the better it will taste. I’m going to bust that myth and tell you that most wines will deteriorate with age rather than improve. Read more

Old world, new world, what world?

Question from Gloria: What’s the difference between old world wine and new world wine?

 In a nut shell – Old World wine is from Europe and New World wine is from everywhere else.

In a calm shell – Well that’s a bit of a lie (sorry) but it’s not that simple. Read more

Cellaring wine without a cellar

Question from Claire: We can’t afford to dig out a cellar under our house (just yet!). Is there a cheaper alternative? 

In a nut shell – Save your pennies because a cellar under your house would be ace but in the meantime I’d suggest a wine fridge. More on this below.

In a clam shell – If you’re ageing wine for any period of time, you want to make sure it’s done correctly or you’re going to be very disappointed when it comes to cracking that long awaited bottle. Read more

Are old vines the new black?

Question from Marcus: What’s the deal with heritage vines? Why do older vines make better wines? I had both an apricot tree and a lemon tree growing up and they both stopped producing fruit eventually. Why are grape vines different?

In a nut shell – They’re not really. Old vines stop producing fruit just like apricot and lemon trees do but grapes grown on old vines produce more intense, richer and complex wines than grapes grown on new vines and hence all the fuss. But to be honest, I think it’s largely a marketing ploy so be warned and read on.

In a clam shell – There is a general acceptance that wine from old vines will taste better – more balanced, more concentrated, bolder, richer and more interesting but there is absolutely no legal agreement, anywhere in the world, defining ‘old’. Read more

Pinot’s price tag

Question from Hannah: I really love Pinot Noir, it’s my favourite tipple when it comes to wine! But why oh why does it have to be so expensive? It seems much more expensive than other red wine varieties. Could you please explain why?

In a nut shell – It’s true, Pinot Noir is one of the most expensive wine varieties because it’s a pain in the arse to grow and it’s not going to get cheaper any time soon.

In a clam shell – Pinot Noir is such a princess – if the conditions aren’t perfect it’ll crack the poos and throw the towel in. It only likes cool consistent climates which allow the grapes to ripen slowly. It loves a chilly night but a nice warm sunny afternoon (don’t we all?). It’s so damn fussy that any variable (too much rain, frost or heat) will ruin it. And the grape itself has very thin skin which adds to its sensitive nature including its susceptibility to diseases. Read more

Turning into a tomato

Question from Rebecca: Recently I have noticed with some wines I develop almost a hot rash even after one glass. I have spoken to some of my friends about it and apparently they experience the same. Is this due to an ingredient in the wine, and if yes is there a brand I can drink to avoid having this happen?

In a nut shell: Unfortunately it’s not a simple answer. There are a number of compounds you could be reacting to – sulphites, histamines, tyramine, tannin or alcohol (heaven forbid). Read on for all the nitty gritty.

In a clam shell: Common wine allergies include flushed skin and rashes (in your case), itchiness, headaches, migraines, congestion and asthma which can be attributed to all different compounds so figuring out what you’re reacting to might involved a little trial and error. Before you read on ask yourself a few questions. Do you get that hot rash whenever you drink alcohol or is it just when you drink red wine? Do you get headaches too? Do you get short of breath? Read more

Ageing screw cap wine

Question from Win: Do I age a screw cap bottle of wine on its side or upright?

In a nut shell: It doesn’t matter, either on its side or upright is perfectly fine.

In a clam shell: Wine under cork needs to be aged on its side to keep the cork moist. If it’s stored upright the cork will dry and shrink, eventually letting air in and spoiling the wine. Also, you’re going to have a very hard time removing a dried cork. Read more