Rules are made to be broken – and that includes those regarding wine. Our expert Peter Grogan debunks the myths around one of our favourite tipples. Just click the myths to find out the facts!
You know the world has changed when a Bordeaux producer puts one of his top clarets into a screw-cap bottle. Well it’s happened and frankly, these days, anything other than a screw top for everyday, early drinking wines is a bit irritating. It’s fair to say screw tops were originally used for the cheapest wines, but that’s ancient history now. Some people love the ceremony of drawing a cork and some countries – such as Portugal, the home of the cork – will probably never use screw caps. But I reckon corks mess with the contents of about one in 20 bottles. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable and thankfully the ‘Waiter, this wine is corked’ nightmare is rare – but five per cent of duff bottles is still too many for me.
Jackson Estate The Stich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, £12.99
Well reviewed and much loved by wine writers, this high-end New Zealand wine will impress guests or delight in front of the telly. Superb with olive oil-drizzled tuna steaks.
Like pretty much everybody else, I don’t pay enough attention to temperature when it comes to getting the best out of a wine. We serve our whites too cold and our reds too warm. Most light reds –Beaujolais and Pinot Noir, for example – benefit from an hour in the fridge before drinking, to bring out their crisp edge and smoky, sophisticated side. Putting a bottle of red wine in a fridge seems to make many a strong hand tremble but the lightest reds should actually be served cooler than the biggest white Burgundies and Bordeaux. That’s because the smell of the alcohol can mask the aroma of the wine. Ever tasted a big Aussie Shiraz that’s been sitting in the sun? I rest my case.
Tiger Horse Old Vine Cinsault, £6.99
This juicy, light, cherry-spice South African red definitely earns its stripes. It’s fruity and refreshing but elegant and quite delicate. Brilliant with burgers and steak sandwiches and best enjoyed lightly chilled.
Not a myth, this one – ever noticed how big New World reds often taste better the next day? It’s the way people let their wine breathe that’s the problem, because simply uncorking a bottle an hour before you plan to drink the wine isn’t going to make any difference at all. It only makes sense if you open the bottle and sloosh the contents into a jug then back into the bottle. It’s called ‘double decanting’ and it works wonders, even with whites. (I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see a top South African winemaker pour out a glass then give the bottle a really good shake up and down. It’s always good to find out you’re not the only one…) In the meantime, relax with a cold beer and give the wine that vital half hour to get the magic working.
Smith & Hooper Merlot, £9.99
Melted chocolate flavours mingle with dark berry notes to produce a fine wine for fine dining. Balanced and sophisticated, this silky Australian has spent years in oak barrels to give it a mellow texture.
Acidity and sweetness are as important as body when it comes to food matching. I used to steer clear of drinking wine with Oriental food but now I only opt for beer when I’m eating the fieriest of Indian curries. Look for wines that have a little sweetness to balance the natural acidity of the fruit. These ones are perfect with Thai and Chinese curries that also mix opposing flavours like sweet and sour. Gewürztraminer is always a favourite, as is Viognier. Rosés are another good option – most have some sweetness and don’t clash with many flavours. Sometimes the unlikeliest food and wine matches work perfectly – fortified wines like Marsala and Madeira go really well with ‘umami’ flavours such as soy sauce, so try them with Chinese or Japanese food.
Yalumba The Y Series Viognier, £8.99
A full-bodied wine that has floral aromas with apricot, almond and a hint of woodsmoke. Ideal with white fish or poultry in creamy or herb sauce – and a surprisingly good match with Oriental takeaways.
You can make white wine – like most Champagne – from red grapes. You can make rosé from ‘white’ grapes. We need to get over it: colour’s not so important – it’s size that matters. Thinking about the ‘body’ or ‘weight’ of a wine is the way ahead when it comes to food matching. This is not woolly wine-speak. It’s literally about how big or heavy a wine is and how much solid matter is held in suspension. You can see it in the glass: a full-bodied wine swirls more slowly around the glass and clings to the sides. And where there is body there is flavour. I’ve often paired Italian whites like Gavi and Fiano, Pinot Gris from Alsace or a white Rioja with red meats, especially those dished up in a cream sauce. And if serving red wine with fish gives you the heebie-jeebies, try a light Northern Italian like Dolcetto, or a red from the Loire with salmon or a white fish in a tomato-based sauce and you’ll soon calm down, dear. So chuck out the rule book and start having some fun experimenting.
Dal Nostro Meglio Gavi, £8.99
To many, this fruit-driven dry white is Italy’s best-kept secret and a lot of experts consider this Cortese grape to produce the country’s premier dry white wine. Superb with sushi and works well with many red meats.
MEET OUR EXPERT
Wine expert Peter Grogan is a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and the author of Grogan’s Companion to Drink – the A to Z of Alcohol.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
Have you tried any of the wines featured here? I’d be interested to know what you think of them and what food matches work for you. Click here to email me your feedback.
|Red wines||White wines*|
|Medium Light||Medium Dry|
|Medium Full||Medium Sweet|
|Full bodied||Sweet luscious|
*These taste guides also apply to rosé and all sparkling wines