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 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
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 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 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
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
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 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
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 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 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 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
Question from Tahnee: I feel like this is a stupid question but what’s the difference between oaked and unoaked wine? I’ve come to learn that I don’t like white wines that have been ‘oaked’ but why?
In a nut shell – Oaked wines take on toast and nutty flavours because they are aged in either an oak barrel or have oak planks or chips added (if they are aged in stainless steel barrels).
In a clam shell – If you know you don’t like oaked wines it’s safe to say that you probably don’t like that toasty nutty flavour. Many wines are matured in oak but you mightn’t pick it up because the flavour intensity depends on how long the wine stays in contact with the oak for. It’s also more obvious to taste in a white wine than it is in a red wine. You’re probably drinking oaked reds all the time and just not realising.
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