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Posts from the ‘Understanding Wine’ 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

Spit or swallow… at a wine tasting

Question from Chris: I’ve been invited to a wine tasting on the weekend and I notice at these kinds of events people spit their wine. It seems crazy to me but is it uncouth to swallow? What is the wine etiquette here?

In a nut shell: Spitting at a wine tasting is common because the drunker you get the less you can taste which kind of defeats the purpose of going to a wine tasting in the first place. But there are definitely some instances where it would be rude not to swallow (or at least I think so anyway)… 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

Pairing wine and chocolate

Question from Zoe: I love chocolate and I love wine but together I struggle to make them work. Can you suggest a delish chocolate and wine pairing for Easter?

In a nut shell: To be totally honest I’d avoid the two together. Chocolate and wine should never really be paired. They compete to impress the same taste buds and in doing so butt heads and fall over. The only time you can enhance the flavours of both is if you find a wine that’s sweeter than the chocolate you’re eating, which isn’t easy. 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

Why LOVE Chardonnay?

Question from Anita: Why can one Chardonnay taste entirely different from the next. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it so I find myself avoiding Chardonnay all together.

In a nut shell: Chardonnays can taste widely different because of different winemaking methods and the ripeness of the grape. 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

Non-alcoholic wines for pregbots

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

Making sparkling wine with a SodaStream

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

Preventing a red wine headache

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

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

What’s that sediment in my glass?!?

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

Removing red wine stains

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

Don’t freeze Champagne!

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

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

Life without a stem

Question from Charlie: What’s the deal with steamless wine glasses? My sister has asked for wine glasses for Christmas and I’m tossing up between stem or no stem…

In a nut shell: The only disadvantage of steamless wine glasses is that the wine inside the glass (especially if chilled) will heat up quicker than if you’re holding the glass by the steam. But one awesome advantage of stemless wine glasses is that you can chuck them in the dishwasher!

In a clam shell: Australia fine-glassmaker Riedel revolutionised the wine glass in 2004 with the introduction of the tumbler and wine drinkers have been divided ever since – to stem or not to stem?!? Read more

Wine has legs?

Question from Cassy: I’ve got a wino friend who goes on about the wine’s ‘legs’ whenever I’m with him. I have no idea what he’s talking about but I’m under the impression it’s got something to do with how good the wine is? What are wine ‘legs’ and why do they matter?

In a nut shell: Nooooooooooooooooo! It has nothing to do with the quality of the wine and to be perfectly honest wine ‘legs’ don’t matter at all! Whatever he’s telling you is absolute rubbish. Wine ‘legs’ (the droplets that form on the inside of the glass as you move it around) indicate a higher level of alcohol or a higher level of sweetness. That is all. Full stop!

In a clam shell: So ‘legs’ or ‘tears of the wine’ as the French call it are the droplets or streaks of liquid you see streaming down the inside of the glass after swirling it around. 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

Cracking a bottle and keeping it

Question from Emily: How long can I keep a bottle of open wine for?

In a nut shell: Without going into the detail I’m going to say you’ve got three days but it all depends on how you’re preserving the wine. With a few handy tricks you can keep it for around five days (max).

In a clam shell: Initially, when you crack a bottle of wine, oxygen is a good thing. It softens the flavours and opens up the aromas of the wine (and that’s why we decant wine) but then things start to get ugly. As oxidation continues the wine begins to taste unpleasant, losing fresh fruit flavours until it ultimately turns into vinegar. Read more

The do’s and the don’ts of decanting

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

Dessert wine for those with a savoury palate

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

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

The life of a vine

Question from Anita: Everyone tells you that spring is the right time to start your vegie patch which got me wondering about vines. What happens throughout the year to prepare for harvest?

In a nut shell: Harvest (when the grapes are picked) occurs in autumn. In winter the vines go to sleep. They wake again in spring and new shoot begin to grow. In summer the grapes ripen before harvest starts the cycle again.

In a clam shell: Spring has definitely sprung! As we’re shaking off the frost from winter and soaking up those delicious rays of sunshine those vines are doing the exact same thing. Waking up from a long sleep and preparing for the glorious seasons ahead!

Read more

Tell me about Terroir

Question from Anna: I have recently started getting into French wine and hear the term Terroir used a lot. After hours of googling I still can’t seem to figure out what exactly it means. Can you simplify it for me?

In a nut shell: A French wine producer in Bordeaux described it to me as, ‘a combination of climate, soil, terrain and the work of the winemaker which together produces a wine unique to only one vineyard.’

In a clam shell: The term ‘Terroir’ (pronounced tare-wah), which literally means ‘a sense of place’, is thrown around in France like croissants and baguettes but has no single equivalent word in English and hence the confusion.

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

More than a glass…

Question from Claire: Does the wine glass really make a different?

In a nut shell: Absolutely! The more surface area of wine that comes in contact with oxygen the better. There are always exceptions (like for super old wines which don’t like much oxygen) but put simply, that’s your answer… absolutely.

In a clam shell: If it’s a cheap bottle of wine a mug is perfectly fine. What you taste is what you get and it’s probably not going to get any better with the assistance of the right glass but if it’s a decent bottle and you want to smell and taste all that it has to offer go with the right glass. Read more

What’s the deal with buttery Chardy?

Question from Caroline: I find Chardonnay incredibly frustrating. I love that creamy rich flavour that some Chardonnays have but often when I open a bottle I get fresh citrus fruits. How do I avoid this lucky dip?

In a nut shell – That buttery flavour comes from a special winemaking technique and not the Chardonnay grape itself which, on its own, is quite citrus driven and fresh. The oily texture and creamy flavour is created through a special kind of fermentation.

In a clam shell –With a buttery Chardonnay, after the wine is fermented (yeast is added to grape juice and as the yeast eats the sugar, alcohol is produced) the wine undergoes an additional fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation which is used to soften harsh acidic flavours (think Granny Smith apples, lemons and limes). A different kind of yeast from the initial fermentation feasts on the harsh malic acid in the wine and farts out lactic acid which is softer and more creamy. So if you’re a fan of a buttery Chardonnay (I am!) look for Chardonnays that have undergone Malolactic Fermentation or MLF (no not THAT MLF). Read more

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