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Posts from the ‘Europe’ Category

Pairing wine and pizza

Question from Harrison: There’s heaps of info out there on what wine to drink with restaurant food but what about everyday meals? What wine should I drink with my Friday night pizza?

In a nut shell: Return to the mother land of pizza and grab an Italian red. When in doubt it’s best to go for a wine that comes from the same place as the food. Although I know buying an Italian red can be daunting for us Aussies so read on for plenty of common grapes you can pair with your pizza. Read more

Understanding an Italian wine label

Question from Amy: It’s so damn delicious but there are so many things that confuse me about Italian wine! My main beef is the name of the wine which is rarely the same as the grape variety! Why?!? When reading an Italian wine list 99.9% of the time it’s a lucky dip as to what grape variety you’re going to get. Could you run me through the common names and what grapes are used?

In a nut shell: As far as Italian wines go, every now and again the name of the wine is the same as the name of the grape. But more often than not the name of the wine has nothing to do with the grape. Yes, infuriating! I’ve put together a handy little table below that you can print off and stick on your fridge or in your wallet. It will help you next time you’re confronted by an Italian wine list. Read more

Vintage variation… a dirty word?

Question from Grace: Why does my favourite wine taste different all of a sudden? Like different bad, not different good! HELP!

In a nut shell: Noooooooooooooooooooooooo! The inevitable has happened and life as you know it will never be the same. The vintage (or year that the wine was produced) has changed and therefore it tastes a little different. Read more

Why is Rosé pink?

Question from Sandra: Why is Rosé wine pink?

In a nut shell: Rosé wine is pink because of the grape’s red skin and the skin’s contact with the grape juice during the wine making process. Read more

What’s Bordeaux?

Question from Siew: Now that you’ve explained what Burgundy wine is can you please explain Bordeaux? I find it just as confusing!

In a nut shell: Bordeaux is a bloody great wine region in southwest France that is famous for blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines together. Read more

What is Burgundy wine?

Question from Rob: What’s Burgundy? I know it’s a wine from France but is there more to it than that?

In a nut shell: There is a lot to know about Burgundy and it can be very daunting but like most wines it’s only as complicated as you make it.

The first thing you need to know is that it’s from the French wine region of Burgundy (or Bourgogne if you’re French). The second thing you need to know is if it’s a white wine it’s Chardonnay and if it’s red it’s Pinot Noir. It can be that simple.

Or you can delve deeper into the five regions (or districts) within Burgundy and learn about what each produces best. The other thing you should know about is the strict way wine is classified in Burgundy (ranging from good to extraordinary and everything in between). Knowing your classifications will help you pick a bottle that’ll appeal to your taste buds as well as your budget. Read more

Wine with coq-au-vin

Question from Heath: On the menu tonight is coq-au-vin which I am making with Cabernet Sauvignon. So is that what we should drink?

In a nut shell: I’d actually make it with Pinot Noir because that’s the perfect accompanying wine. Cook with a good Pinot and drink the rest! Read more

Wines to serve at a party

Question from Kathy: What wine should I serve at a party?

In a nut shell: Keep it simple and inexpensive and… Read more

The health benefits of red wine

Question from Peter: Is drinking wine good for you?

In a nut shell: Everything in moderation. First the good news – antioxidants found in red wine can have heart health benefits and fermented foods (grapes in this case) are good for digestion. The bad news – too much of a good thing can bring about some super sucky health problems. Read more

Melbourne’s best wine stores

Question from Bruce: Can you suggest some great independent wine stores in Melbourne that I can try this holiday season. I usually go to Dan Murphy’s for convenience but I’d prefer to support local businesses.

In a nut shell: YES! There are so many great independent wine stores in Melbourne that stock fabulous boutique drops from Australia and abroad. I’m sorry if I’ve left off your favourite wine store and if I have please comment below and share them as I’m always keen to support the new kids on the block! The following are my personal haunts which are mostly influenced by where I hang out – I swing by them on my way home from work or on my way to friend’s houses, dinners and/or parties. Tell me your favourites! Read more

German vs. Australian Rieslings – let the games begin!

Question from Gillian: I am in love with German Rieslings! Why does Germany rock in the Riesling department? But I would love to buy and support local, can you recommend a great local off-dry Riesling? Love your work by the way.

In a nut shell: Germany rocks in the Riesling department because of its dynamic microclimate and location which allows for a longer ripening period than most other countries. This extended sunshine ensures the perfect level of sugar and acidity (the two most important elements in a good Riesling). Also, the unique soil of slate rock produces distinctive aromas and flavours found nowhere else. Lastly, Germany produces high quality wines because, by law, they must be made naturally with no additives or chemicals. With that said, Australia produces some amazing Rieslings too which I’ll get into later… Read more

Drinking Champagne on a beer budget

Question from Shannon: Hi Lauren, I love Champagne but have no idea what to look for in a good drop. And why is Champagne so expensive? I’m saving at the moment and can’t afford to always pop the Dom. What do you suggest?

In a nut shell: You’re in luck! It’s hard to get a cheap Champagne (for all the reasons I’ve listed in ‘in a clam shell’) but if you know what to look out for it’s super easy to get a cheap Sparkling that tastes like Champagne! Here’s my hot tip – when buying Sparkling wine (rather than Champagne) make sure it’s made in the Traditional Method (which is the same way Champagne is made) and it will have those delicious yeasty, creamy flavours you like in the French drop. Read on because there are details below that you want to know and I’ve suggested a few delish bottles to try too.

In a clam shell: So when you said you loved Champagne I’m assuming you meant the French sparkling wine from Champagne – which you want to drink more of for less – but we all know it’s hard to get a cheap bottle of Champagne! Right? Right! Read more

A match made in heaven

Question from Jo: Should I buy the wine first, or the cheese?

In a nut shell: The best thing about pairing cheese and wine is that there is a cheese match for every wine and a wine match for every cheese so in short it doesn’t really matter. If you’re craving an oaky Chardonnay start with the wine but if you’re dying for a stinky blue let the cheese do the talkin’.

*disclaimer – please excuse the glass… I was desperate… I had cheese, I had wine, I had a water glass… it was better than nothing.

In a clam shell: There are a lot of grape varieties out there and a lot of cheeses too so where do you start when pairing cheese and wine? Thankfully, there are a few general rules you can follow to ensure the perfect match. Read more

Does price equal quality?

Question from Alice: Does price really dictate the quality of the wine?

In a nut shell: Always, never and sometimes. This is such a hard one to answer because wine enjoyment is so objective. What tastes amazing to me might taste rubbish to you and vica versa. This I cannot answer with a yes or no so you’re going to have to read the ‘clam shell’ where I’ve listed all the factors that bump up the price of wine (which the cheaper bottles lack) and then you can decide for yourself if these qualities are what you like in a wine. But the bottle line – if you enjoy drinking your staple $10 red then why stop because it’s not a ‘quality’ bottle. What a heap of codswallop! If you enjoy it then it’s a ‘quality’ bottle to you and that’s all that matters!

In a clam shell: If we’re to talk about the factors that bump up the price and ‘quality’ of a wine then unfortunately your $10 bottle is probably not going to cut it in terms of the textbook definition. That’s not to say that you should stop drinking that $10 pearler – if you can’t taste the difference between your $10 bottle and a $150 bottle you are VERY lucky! Embrace this for as long as you can. I want to be you! Read more

French wine on a budget!

After nearly two weeks exploring France’s stunning wine regions it’s time to shun the fancy pants (aka expensive) areas and focus on the tracks less travelled. I’m talking the hot dry south-eastern parts of France and everything this area has to offer.

If you’re looking for a cheaper French drop (who isn’t?!?) stick to wines from this part of France, particularly from the regions of Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence (for your cheapest French wines) and the Rhône Valley (for quality wines at reasonable prices). Read more

I’m in Burgundy baby!

Burgundy, where do I begin? Heaven on earth (if you ask me). No patch of land is without grapes – it’s just vine, after vine, after vine (and a random road running through the centre to get you from vineyard A to vineyard B). I’m going to sound like a wine wanker here but it’s truly spectacular.

This is my first blog post without being promoted by a question but after spending the last few days in this little pocket of paradise I have a lot to share. Read more

Understanding French Wine: Part 2

Question from Pippa: I want to get into French wine but I’m overwhelmed by the wine label and have no idea what it all means. Do you have any helpful tips to understanding French wine?

 In nut shell: In my last post (Part 1), I looked at the Appellation d’Original Contrôlée system (if you have no idea what I’m walking about you need to read this blog post first). This week I’ll look at everything else you need to know when understanding French wine and a French wine label. This week will be much more straight forward than last week I promise but I can’t summarise it in a nut shell. You’re going to have to read the clam shell, sorry.

In a clam shell: So now we understand what Appellation d’Original Contrôlée means we can look at everything else that will confuse you when trying to pick a French wine.

Read more

Understanding French Wine: Part 1

Question from Pippa: I want to get into French wine but I’m overwhelmed by the wine label and have no idea what it all means. Do you have any helpful tips to understanding French wine?

In a nut shell: I’m going to have to do this in two parts (one this week and one next week) because there is a lot to learn and I don’t want to bore you! Baby steps. I’ll look at Appellation d’Original Contrôlée today (you’re not meant to know what this means yet, I explain below) and everything else next week.

Understanding French wine is incredibly confusing for us aussies because we call it by the grape (e.g. Pinot Noir) and they call it by the region (e.g. Burgundy). So how do you know what you’re getting when there is no grape variety in sight? It’s a little complicated, there is no short answer and there are always exceptions but I’ve done my very best to simplify things for you. Take this little cheat sheet with you when you’re picking a French wine to ensure your next vin is très bien.

In a clam shell: What on earth is appellation something something contrôlée or AOC?

This is the most important piece of information you’ll need to know when selecting a French wine. The region that the wine comes from is generally sandwiched between the words appellation and contrôlée. For example Appellation Chablis Contrôlée means that the wine is from the region of Chablis, which is in Burgundy, France. It’s going to be 100% Chardonnay because that’s the grape you have to grow if you own a vineyard in Chablis. Read more

Vintage and non-vintage and why it matters

Question from Nick: I know vintage means old but what exactly does it mean in the context of wine and why does it matter?

In a nut shell – Vintage in the context of wine means the year that the grapes were harvested (i.e. picked) and it matters because every year the climate is a little different to that of the previous year. This difference in temperature, rainfall, sunshine etc. can significantly change the wine.

In a clam shell – So we’re happy that ‘vintage’ on a bottle indicates the year that the grapes were harvested. Simple! If there is no vintage date we can assume that the wine was made from grapes harvested from several years (but more on that later). 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

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

Avoiding dairy and eggs doesn’t mean sobriety

Question from Claire: Bonjour! I feel silly asking, but here it goes – is wine vegan?

Question from Laura: Does wine contain eggs and/or dairy?

In a nut shell – So I figure these questions are very similar and hence why I’m answering them together. Unfortunately, wine is not vegan and does contain traces of dairy and/or egg but don’t put down your glass just yet. It’s not that simple. Read on!

In a clam shell – At the end of the wine making process most winemakers will clear out the floaties and remove any unwanted flavours left in the wine (yeast, protein, cloudiness) before bottling it, by ‘fining’ the wine which involves adding a fining agent. The problem here is that fining agents are animal based products, namely isinglass (fish bladders), gelatine, casein (milk protein) and egg whites. Read more

The sweeter side of wine

Question from Jacqui: I’m not a huge wine drinker and usually stick to sweet ciders so I would probably like a sweet wine. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

In a nut shell – We’ll get you started on sweet wines and you’ll be downing the drys in no time! Stick to Asti (sweet sparkling), Muscat and some Rieslings (more on this below). You’ll probably love dessert wines too but they’re crazy sweet so you wouldn’t drink these unless you’re eating dessert.

In a clam shell: If your best mates just got engaged and everyone is drinking sparking but you don’t want to whip out your sweet ciders stick to Asti. Asti is a sweet, fruity sparkling wine from Piemonte in northwest Italy. It’s made with the Muscat grape, which is very fruity (think peach) and very floral (think roses). Read more

Gris and Grigio, please explain!

Question from Steph: I always get confused when I am ordering Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. They seem quite similar to me but what’s the difference?

In a nut shell – Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the exact same grape variety but it’s the way they are made that’s different.

In a clam shell – How confusing is it when you’re looking at a wine list with a Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio option! What to do, what to do?!? Read more

You say Shiraz, I say Syrah

Question from Jacqueline: What is the difference between Shiraz and Syrah?

In a nut shell – Absolutely nothing! This black grape is known as Shiraz in Australia and Syrah in France.

In a clam shell – I don’t have much more to say except that Shiraz is quite unique to Australia so when you’re jet-setting (you lucky thing you) they’ll probably say Syrah and not Shiraz. It’s simple my friend. Read more

Duck for dinner and a little Pinot talk

Question from Heath: I’m trying to impress someone special and am cooking duck for dinner but I have no idea what wine to have with it? Help!

In a nut shell – I don’t know what you plan to do with the duck so the safest bet here would be Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir and duck make the perfect pair! Want to know why? Keep reading! Your special someone is in for a treat!

In a clam shell – Tannin, I’m about to talk about tannin. Keep reading, I’ll make it simple! Tannin is that chalky, drying feeling in your mouth after a gulp of red wine. You know the one? When you feel like you’ve just sucked on a wet tea bag? If you’re still confused, do it and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Tannins are found in grape skins and are in higher levels in thick-skinned grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah). Also, the longer the skin stays in contact with the wine, during the making of it, the higher the levels of tannin. Read more

The best things in life are bubbles

Question from Sheryl: Besides the obvious, what’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?

In a nut shell – Well here’s the obvious for those that aren’t sure what the obvious is! They both have bubbles but what sets them apart is where they come from. Like zucchini and courgette. Champagne comes from a region in France called (wait for it) Champagne. It’s about 1.5 hours north east of Paris. Sparkling wine comes from everywhere else. It’s that simple!

In a clam shell – The chalky soil and cool climate in Champagne creates the perfect conditions for growing those delicious grapes but what’s also different is the way they make their bubbly. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to drink Champagne you’ve probably noticed a yeasty, bread-like taste (some people love it, some people hate it) which is a direct result of the way it’s been made – more on that later. Read more