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
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
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
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
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
Question from Kathy: What wine should I serve at a party?
In a nut shell: Keep it simple and inexpensive and… Read more
Question from Lauren: I’m a serious lover of wine but won’t be drinking it for a while as I’m pregnant. Could you recommend any worthwhile non-alcoholic wines?
In a nut shell: I’ve got some great news for you. There has been a lot of talk of late about non-alcoholic wines becoming the next big thing as they still contain all the antioxidant heath benefits that alcoholic wines do (well actually more I guess as there’s no alcohol so you can drink till your hearts content). But does non-alcoholic wine stand up to the taste test? Read more
Question from Win: Can you make sparkling wine with a SodaStream?
In a nut shell: Yes it is possible but be extremely cautious – a mass explosion is more likely than not! Read more
Question from Anthony: Why do some wines give me a headache and how can I avoid them?
In a nut shell: The culprits are histamines which are present in fermented and aged products. Unfortunately you’re probably deficient in the enzyme that breaks them down which results in an allergic reaction – headache, runny nose and flushed face. But there is a way you can prevent this allergic reaction and still drink wine… Read more
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
Question from Nick: Why is there sediment at the bottom of some bottles of wine but not others and what is it?!?
In a nut shell: It’s a by-product of the ageing process so will only form in old bottles of red wine. It’s totally harmless but best not to consume it because it doesn’t taste very nice – muddy and bitter. Read more
Question from BK: Hi Lauren, I often find myself on the dance floor with a glass of red wine and then the inevitable happens… I spill the wine on my clothes! Why the heck is it so hard to get red wine out? I’d dance naked to avoid this situation, though it might get awkward.
In a nut shell: Get off the dance floor, dash to the bathroom, remove your clothes, rinse toughly, dab dry and apply a thick layer of salt (just make sure you pick the salt up from the kitchen before heading to the bathroom or you might have to do a nudie run). Not very practical hey? So what’s a convenient alternative? When you get home, after a steamy session on the d-floor, apply an Oxi product, soak overnight and wash off the next day. Ta da… stain removed. Want a few carpet/couch tips? Read on… Read more
Question from Michael: We’re hosting Christmas lunch this year. Help! What wine should I serve?
In a nut shell: Let’s go with the simple order of light nibbles followed by seafood entrée, meat main and pudding for dessert. Nibbles will pair perfectly with Sparkling or Champagne. For a seafood entrée slick with a light white like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio. For main pair with a light red like Pinot Noir, Grenache or Beajolais and for the pudding sip on a Muscat, Port or Pedro Ximenez. That’s pretty general – read on as I get a little more specific depending on how rich the food is. Read more
Question from Chris: What wine should I decant? How long should I decant it for and what should my decanter look like? Thanks!
In a nut shell: Decant cheap wine, young wine and big reds (cheap or expensive) like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Syrah and Italian reds like Barolo, Chianti and Montepulciano d’Abuzzo. Acidic wines like Pinot Noir will develop in a decanter too.
Sometimes your wine should be decanted and drunk immediately but mostly it should be left for up to two hours (you’ll get the detail in the clam shell). When buying a decanter make sure it’s clear (I prefer glass over crystal because the facets can hide the sediment) with a narrow neck and wide centre. Read more
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Question from Marcus: I’d like you to explain oxidisation and the effects of oxygen on wine. I guess it all ties in with decanting/aerating your wine before serving.
In a nut shell: You decant wine to develop aromas and flavours but be warned that decanting aged wine for too long can actually ruin it. A little more on oxidisation below.
In a clam shell: Oxygen is both good and bad for wine. We decant wine for two reasons (and when I say decant wine you don’t need some fancy pants expensive decanter, a water jug will do). The first reason we decant wine is to separate it from the sediment (shit bits you get at the end of a bottle of wine that has been aged for a while) which can make the wine astringent. We also decant wine to aerate it. As wine is poured it’s exposed to oxygen. The wine sucks in all that delicious oxygen which opens up the aromas and flavours of the wine and enables the wine to develop. This is particularly useful for young wine or wine with high tannins (that chalky, mouth drying feeling that Cabernet Sauvignon gives you after a big gulp). Read more
Question from Nathan: When someone starts telling me that the wine is full bodied with high tannins and low acid what on earth are they talking about?
In a nut shell – They’re probably talking about a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz. Both wines are generally full bodied with high tannins and low acid. How do you tell? Read on, it’s actually pretty simple.
In a clam shell – ‘Winos’ have a language of their own and assume that normal people who like wine can understand their crazy talk. Little do they know, to the average punter it’s boring and intimidating and gives their beloved drink a bad name. I’ll translate into plain English and once you’ve got the basics you too will be able to talk a little wine wank. Read more
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
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