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 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 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 Heath: Can I freeze Champagne?
In a nut shell: No way man! NEVER freeze champagne and/or sparkling wine, you crazy cat you!
In a clam shell: Champagne and sparkling wine is best served chilled but don’t go putting it in the freezer to speed up the cooling process! Why? 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 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
Question from Heath: I’m in a sticky situation! I really don’t like sweet wines; I like a more dry wine (like my personality). I was at a restaurant the other day and we had a degustation with matching wines. It was lovely until dessert! The wine was so sweet I couldn’t drink it! Can you recommend something that goes with dessert that isn’t sweet?
In a nut shell: I sure can but you’re going to have to be specific about what you eat for dessert. No more crème brûléefor one thing and forget about chocolate cake! You’re going to have to stick to fruits and berries if you want to drink dry wines with your dessert.
In a clam shell: Lots of sugar was the reason why you were served a super sweet wine with dessert and that’s absolutely what you should have been served (sorry). A dry wine would taste bitter, sour, tart and would lose all its flavour if paired with something sweet (and there’s no point drinking that). Your wine should always be sweeter than the food it’s paired with and hence why we drink super sweet wines with sweet desserts. A sweeter wine with a sweet dessert should taste less sweet than if you had have drunk it on its own but still fragrant, aromatic and delicious. 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 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 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
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
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