Whisky and Champagne

Yes they do go together and we sure proved it. Liz and I presented a lineup of 6 french Champagnes each with a matching single malt. With a brief introduction into each we enjoyed them together with some exciting surprises. The Whiskys needed a good splash of water to soften them and bring out the flavors. The Champagnes were terrific with my fav being the Delamotte Blanc de Blanc which was matched with a Highland Park from Murray McDavid finished in a Yves Cuilleron Viognier cask!

I have some more matches to add here shortly.




A visit to South Australia

Last week I was fortunate to spend a week being hosted by Fosters in Australia. The weather for the trip was divine – 30+ days for the majority of the week, with a light breeze.

There were many highlights over the week, it’s hard to know where to start – perhaps the beginning! On our first night, we dined at Vintners in the Barossa. Our host for the night was Leo Buring Winemaker Peter Munro, the wine for the night – Riesling – from start to finish. First up was the 2008 vintage Leo Buring Medium Sweet Riesling, this is somewhat of a masterpiece and one of the highlights of the visit. A winery that indicates the sweetness (perceived) on the front label and has the international Riesling scale on the back – pure Brilliance. Now if only more winemakers could do this, I’m sure that Riesling sales would sour as consumers would finally know what style the Riesling is in. When then moved inside and tasted through the Eden and Clare Riesling and Leonay, their top release. For dinner I ordered the Quail to start, it came with strips of preserved lemons and hummus – a perfect match with the 1977 Riesling. I was expecting a sort of kero nose from this older Aussie Riesling, instead found it whilst obviously older, fresh and fragrant. The next day we headed up to the Clare Valley to meet the Annie’s Lane winemaker Alex Mackenzie and taste through the wines. The old Quelltaler winery in the Clare Valley’s south is the region’s oldest and most important winery, dating back to 1863. The winery is no longer a producing winery, but rather home to the cellar door, all the wines are produced at the large Wolf Blass winery back in the Barossa. Annie’s Lane wines are very good value for money, the wine that stood out for me was the Cabernet Merlot 2006.

From Annie’s Lane we headed back to the Barossa and to the Wolf Blass winery. This state of the art facility has to be seen to be believed. One of the highlights of the visit to the winery was the bottling plant – the technology and capacity is unbelievable. The afternoon was spent tasting the Wolf Blass, Seppelts and Yellowglen ranges of wine. Dinner that evening was at Appellation, deservedly listed as one of the top 50 restaurants in Australia. It’s quite unusual to sit down to a meal and be unable to choose what to eat – the entire menu appealed. I started with a tomato, prosciutto and local fresh cheese salad, then the duck three ways – confit, breast and pâté. The third course was Lamb, also three ways – a small lamb pie, lamb tongue and fillet. Local cheeses to follow and a good night’s sleep. The next day was all about Penfolds, culminating on the Saturday night with dinner at Magill estate, more about that in my next post.

Aged wine

I recently had the opportunity to taste a very impressive line up of old wines, all of which had been perfectly stored and were served in ideal conditions, (Riedel Sommelier glasses). This got me thinking about ageing wine, the benefits and the pitfalls (although there weren’t any this particular evening). Most tasting evenings that I host, the questions on ageing is always asked, (if not a few times) – ‘how long will this age for’. It does seem that there’s a perception that wine gets better with ageing and it’s the ‘right thing’ to do with wine.

Whilst certain wines can definitely be aged, whether it’s beneficial for them is an interesting discussion. It’s often more about personal taste and the anticipated experience. Then there’s whether the wine in fact can age.

There are many components in wine that affect its ability to age. Tannin is one of the key parts, tannin in a wine comes from the grape skins and the seeds, the different grape varieties have differing levels of tannin. Tannin is also found in tea – try making a very strong cup of tea, take a sip, that dry feel in your mouth is tannin. Over time as wine ages the tannin in the wine dissipates and the fruit comes into balance, as this occurs the wine displays a lot of harmony. Does this change improve the wine? It depends on how you like to drink the wine, it certainly does change the wine.

Such a large part of all wine produced is made in a style for drinking now. Last night, I was at a re launch of Matawhero wines (a very historic New Zealand wine company – it’s great to see them back on stream) and was talking with Kim Crawford about making wines for drinking now vs. the production of wines designed to age. With alarming stats on how quickly wine is consumed once it leaves a retail store, making wines for young consumption sure does make commercial sense.

If you are going to age wines, the storage conditions are off course very important, a constant temperature, very little vibration and consistent humidity are essential. The condition of the wines before going into the cellar is also key, purchasing off a reputable shipper that imports all of their wines in refrigerated containers is very important, even the best cellar conditions won’t make up for incorrect handling during transport to NZ, the retailer and their storage. Before going to all this trouble though, it’s wise though to work out whether you will in fact enjoy the experience of aged wines. I’ve always been a large fan of aged wines, preferring the aged, developed characters, particularly in Bordeaux.

So back to the impressive line up, here’s the wines we tried;

  • Laflaive Chevalier Montrachet 1983
  • Chateau Laville Haut Brion 1961
  • Chateau La Fleur 1982
  • Chateau Petrus 1971
  • Chateau d’Yquem 1967
  • Chateau Filhot 1949

Picking a favourite from this line up is very tricky. The Laflaive was very good, the age perfect for my taste, the nose expressive and the palate perfectly intergrated. The La Fleur was instantly impressive, it showed very quickly in the glass and had amazing hits of violets. The Petrus took a little longer to show it’s pedigree, these two were served together and in the end for me the Petrus won out. The Sauternes to finish were fascinating, the d’Yquem was a dark golden colour, rich syrupy and luscious. The Filhot, almost brown, was an excellent wine to finish with.

Single Malt Club – October

Glengarry Malt Club – hosted by Michael Fraser-Milne
Whisky and Food Match, 13th October 2009

Yet again we were fortunate to be entertained and enlightened by Michael Frase-Milne from Christchurch with a wonderful lineup of single malts matched to cheeses and nibbles from Dida’s Food Store. The full house of 50 sipped and yarned through a very special lineup and this was one of the highlight evenings of the year. Thank you Michael for such a wonderful night from all of us.


Glendronach 18 YO ABV 46% – Retail $155.00
Matched with Chocolate and Barry Bay Maasdam Cheese, sweet and nutty made in Akaroa

Bright deep gold with a tawny centre. Sweet aromatics of fudge and sugar. Fruit compote and glacier morello cherries. Rich dark and seductive. Flavours of stewed fruits and all-spice together with aged Oloroso and tasted walnut bread and chocolate orange. Complex and long finish.

Breath of Islay from Adelphi, 16 YO ABV 56.6% – Retail $195.00
Matched with Te Mata Port Ahuriri Blue cheese, cows milk blue, strong and creamy

Deep golden hue colour. Fresh and maritime, with salt air and fresh sea-weed, backed by the fragrant scent of bergamot. Taste is sweet with a shake of salt, then masses of scented smoke and some putty in the finish.

Knappogue Castle 1995, Irish Malt ABV– Retail $110.00
Matched with French Ossau Iraty Pur Brebis cheese, mild pale Ewe’s milk, semi-soft

A heady mix of overripe banana, big oaky notes. Soft honey, ripe and pepper. Taste: big booming start, very rich, oily and mouthwatering, with a hint of oats. However to the middle there is a sweet, coppery texture. Long, hard and brittle finish. Chewy with licorice and a hint of chicory.

Bladnoch from Signatory Vintage 1992 ABV – Retail $110.00
Matched with Lemon citrus Tart

Colour, yellow with cream ridges. Body, oily and good. Nose: Grassy, lemon grass and damson. Palate, Citrus, very floral with a touch of coconut. Finish, shortish a slight linger of the lemons

Glenfarclas 15 YO ABV 46%– Retail $120.00
Matched with Pigs on Horse Back the prunes were soaked in Glenfarclas as well

A rich golden amber hue. Nose is complex, sherried, deliciously peated, light butterscotch aromas with a hint of dried fruit. Full bodied flavor with super balance of sherried sweetness, malty tones and peaty flavours. Finish is long lasting, gloriously sherried, sweet, gently smoky and distinguished.

Laphroaig from Old Malt Cask, 15 YO – Retail $175.00
Matched with Smoked Salmon

Colour, light gold. Body, big and bold. Nose, fresh, sweet, barley sugar with layers of medicinal peat/smoke. Palate, mouthwatering/coating, liquorish again sweet big ozone, sea character. Finish, Long with sweet smoke.

Castillo Perelada Returns

Spanish Cava Castillo Perelada

When have you sipped on a glass of bubbles and had such a surprise that you could only smile with joy. Such was the feeling when we all tried the new Spanish wine hero in town. Perelada Brut and Rose a Cava with attitude! The Cava that is mostly consumed in Spain has just arrived back in New Zealand after a long absence and it is sure to be here to stay being of such high quality. The Brut is dry and austere with a fresh zingy palate which is quickly gathering a following. But the Rosé wow it is a stunner, big gutsy style with strong rich flavours and big mouth filling richness, this is a rosé that is begging for some tasty cheese or even more stronger tasting foods as it has a lot of body and weight. At the same time very refreshing and a very exciting style of Sparkling Rosé that can only be described as really great. This is a Glengarry exclusive brought in for your pleasure and great value at $16.90 everyday price and the Brut is on Special this month at $14.90 a steal. Check it in store now or why don’t you order up a mixed case on the web now.

Glengarry Tasting note:

Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva Cava NV

They take cava very seriously in Spain, for not only do they produce and export gazillions of gallons of it, within the dusty borders they’ve been known to knock back a few fizzies themselves. Perelada proudly proclaim that ‘we only add the charisma,’ a testament perhaps to this wine’s pure, clean apple and citrus flavours, or a poorly-translated attempt to articulate sustainability. We don’t care; this rocks and bubbles like the Poly pools and is far less messy.

Castillo Perelada Story

Since its foundation, Castillo Perelada has been recognised for its commitment to quality through the great international popularity of its wines. In the 1960’s, the success in the United Kingdom of what at the time was called ‘Champagne Rosado de Castillo Perelada’ made the sparkling wine producers of the Champagne region in France appeal to the courts to obtain exclusive rights over the use of the name. They won, so the other regions had to look for alternative denominations. In the case of Spain, this gave rise to the Cava D.O. Over the decades the wines of Castillo Perelada have had the honour of being chosen for official banquets of unquestionable historical significance, such as the coronation of King Juan Carlos I, the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Asturias or for the visits from United States presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford

A Unique Culinary Experience

What an evening. In September we spent three weeks holidaying in Spain, our time was spent in the North of Spain exploring the treasures of Rioja, Priorat, Navarra and much more. We’d been lucky enough to secure a booking at the World’s best Restaurant – El Bulli.

That day we drove from Gratallops, in the Priorat wine region through to the Costa Brava and up to Cadequez, which is about an hour an a half north of Barcelona. We spent the day looking around this beautiful seaside village and relaxing on the beach. It was 33 degree and the sea was a pleasant temperature. Our booking was for 8.30pm, on arrival we were offered a tour of the kitchens, an obvious ‘yes please’. A quick photo with Ferran Adria and then a look around, we were in for a treat. El Bulli is located on a remote beach between Cadequez and Roses, we started the evening outside on the deck over looking the beach.A glass of Cava first, whilst taking time to review the extensive wine list. We decided on the Aalto 2002, Aalto is a winery located in Ribera del Duero, with winemaker Mariano Garcia (long time wine maker at Vega Sicilia) at the helm. We also selected a very fragrant Albarino to match the first part of our menu – all 35 courses.

Prior to going to El Bulli, there had been many discussions, what to expect, the format, the experience – what was it all about. Ferran is a very talented Chef (an understatement), when you look back at much of his early work and look around Restaurants around the world (and here in Auckland) you realise the impact he’s had on the culinary world. To dine at his restaurant and explore his current creations is a unique experience. It’s a little like going to a Haut Couture fashion show and leaving not sure if you would wear the clothes, dining at El Bulli leaves you wondering how anyone can have the imagination to present food in the way Ferran does.

Penfolds and Magill Estate

Penfolds is one of the first wineries that I became completely obsessed with, over recent years this has become somewhat subdued, but was re kindled with my visit there in October. On the 28th October, the day started early with a helicopter flight over the Barossa Valley. The aerial view of the Barossa gave me a greater overall understanding of the area.

We were joined in the helicopter by Andrew Baldwin, Red Wine Maker for Penfolds. He noted the different Penfolds sites, the types of plantings and the soil differences from the air. The soil differences were most profound, from the lighter soils to the deep rich red. Once back on firm ground, we headed to the Kalimna Homestead for a tasting. The tasting was presented by Kym Schroeder, white wine maker for Penfolds and Andrew Baldwin. Kym went first, Kym’s father, uncle and brother all worked for Penfolds and in fact there’s been a Schroeder working at Penfolds for more than 50 years. Kym is very passionate about his white wine making and in fact left little time for Andrew at the end.

Throughout both the red and white tastings the experimental wine making theme, that is the foundation of today’s most iconic Australian wine, Penfolds Grange was evident. Alongside the commercial wines that Penfolds make, there’s plenty of small parcel experimental wines being produced, that may just be the ‘Grange’ of the future. We started the tasting with Bin 51 Riesling, from the 2008 vintage, 100% Eden valley, a very restrained style. Next was Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay 2008, often referred to as ‘Little baby Yattarna’ This wine would have to be one of the finds of the tasting, retailing for around $20, it’s very good indeed, when you note that anything that does not go into Yattana ends up in this wine, it’s easy to see why. We then went on to taste;

Penfolds Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2008
Penfolds Bin 07A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2007
Penfolds Bin 08 A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2008
Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2006 – Bin 144 – representing the 144 trials before it was eventually released.

We then moved onto the red wines;
Penfolds Thomas Hyland Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Penfolds Thomas Hyland Shiraz 2008|
Penfolds Bin 138 GMS 2007
Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna 2006

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2006
Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2005
Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2006
Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2006
Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon
Penfolds Grange 2004

Following this amazing line up, when then tasted three more red wines (we needed more red off course). All three wines were from the 2008 vintage and highlighted the amazing colour and intensity that this vintage when released will deliver.
On the Saturday night we were lucky enough to dine at Penfolds Magill Estate.

I had previously eaten at Magill Estate back in 2000, at the time, the food was exceptional, very classic in style. A lot has changed, the food is still exceptional, although anything but classical. Executive Chef, Luke Stepsys presented a brilliant Degustation Menu, blending together local produce, classic technique and a lot of the new textural techniques coming out of kitchens like El Bulli. It was fascinating after having dined at El Bulli earlier in the year to see the techniques incorporated so well into a full degustation.

Fish with ‘a touch of smoke’, horseradish snow, tomato, nasturtium petals and herring roe Bresaola, seaweed sponge, poached marron, radish, soya beans and dashi consommé
2007 Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling

Pork, toasted fennel seeds, liquid cauliflower, morcilla, turnip and compressed green apple
2005 Penfolds Reserve Bin 05A Chardonnay

2005 Penfolds Bin 144 Yattarna Chardonnay
Rabbit, butternut pumpkin ‘tears’, candied lemon, bacon, dates and bitter coffee jelly

Squab cooked sous vide with foie gras, celeriac cream, pineapple, liquorice and gingerbread
2007 Penfolds Cellar Reserve McLaren Vale Tempranillo

2006 Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz
Lamb, goat’s milk cannelloni, black olive dust, carrot, rosemary and roast potato water

2004 Penfolds Bin 95 Grange
Strawberry, freeze dried raspberries, yoghurt powder, meringue, rhubarb and orange peel

Mint, aerated chocolate, mandarin ‘cloud’, pistachio soil and cardamom infused chocolate
Penfolds Grandfather Rare Tawny

Espresso coffee and petite fours

Penfolds Magill Estate is definitely one of the top restaurants in Australia and well worth a visit.


Ardbeg Tasting

Ardbeg Single Malt Tasting

The Glengarry Single Malt Club gathered together once again to try a line up of Single Malts from Ardbeg. Kerry the piper summoned the lads from the neighbouring waterholes with his Bag Pipes wailing. With one last march up the street to Sales St bar to round up a few stragglers he marched through to the front of the tasting room giving us a fitting opener for a night of whisky tasting. Ardbeg is a big favorite of Kiwi Malt lovers and it has been rare to see anything other than the mainstay 10 year old. But in recent years they have released a few special bottlings some of which we were about to taste and the star dram of the night is their new Supernova a heavily peated Ardbeg at cask strength.

Blasda was the first in the line up and it was also used in the little whisky sour our guest speaker Reece Warren from Ardbeg had wipped up for us as a starter. This limited release bottling was no more than an experiment to test the market for a lighter style Ardbeg. It has a lower strenghth of 40% ABV is chill filtered and has a lower peating level coming in at only 8ppm phenols compared to the 10 year old at 30ppm. The lightness was not everyones cup of tea but we all agreed it was a delightfully fresh style, citrus notes and creamy on the palate. A perfect starter and so it was the old work horse 10 year old next. This was a treat and a number of new members had not tried it. Everyone loved it, the sweet rich smokey peatiness balanced with bready barley flavours makes this the perfect dram for lovers of peaty whisky. At $100 a bottle it is great value as well.

Now next the Uigeadail named after the little stream that supplies water to the distilery. This is a rare whisky and one that will be hard to follow as they have aged this in Sherry barrels for the last 2 years of its 10 year sleep in wood. The darker colour is evidence of this and the flavours of Vanilla and fruitcake are strong. It has a little punch in the back palate adding more power to the big sweet peaty mouth full. This was the peoples choice on the night and certainly my favourite. The next dram was the completely unpronounceable Airgh Nam Biest again another wee stream that flows out of the foothills behind Ardbeg supplying them their water. This whisky had a more uplifted and gentle feel about it, still peaty and rich of course but more accessible and complex than the previous two.

And then the one we had all been waiting for Supernova! With much debate about the name we approached this one with intrepidation. A cask strength Ardbeg at 58.9% ABV and a reported 100ppm phenols it was to be respected and a beast surely. But the colour was pale and this didnt give anything away so to the nose, fresh peaty briny , seaweed as in drying in the sun on the beach..Into the mouth it went with eyes closed waiting for the fireworks! but no it was beautifully refreshing bursting open with fresh liveliness, the peaty smoke balanced by rich barley and clean pure freshness. I was really surprised and by the look around so were many others, “this is easy to drink”, “oh I could drink this anytime” I heard people say and so we sat and enjoyed the last of these wonderful whiskies. Thank you to Moet Hennessy for giving us the chance to try these all together and fortunately the boys didn’t take all the stock I had been allocated of these rarities so if you missed out I strongly encourage you to get on down to Victoria Park Glengarry and grab some quick as they will not all be available for resupply.



Pinot Noir in New Zealand is a phenomonem deserving its own Club

Tis indeed an intangible, ethereal beauty that attracts those of a Burgundian bent. Pinot Noir has so many things ‘not’ going for it, in a sense, that you sometimes wonder why its fans, drinkers and winemakers alike, don’t cash in their chips and settle on something more consistent and reliable. Like beer. Or at least Cabernet. But extol the virtues of claret to a Pinot fan, and you’ll get a reaction of either vitriol, disinterest or outright laughter that one could even suggest the two are interchangeable.

‘Cabernet for the head, Pinot for the heart’ has long been the catch-cry, and while one can’t dismiss the possibility that romantics may drink Cab Sav, there is a certain truism in such a statement.

Because the elements of Pinot Noir that would ordinarily turn producers and drinkers off are the very ones that engender its allure and extraordinary degree of respect.

Difficult to grow, incredibly temperamental and sensitive to changes in terroir like no other grape, the production of Pinot is a minefield, an experiment in clones, soil-types, aspect and climate that can take years to get right. If the vintage is slightly cool the fruit can lack flavour development; too hot and it bakes to insipidity.

And even if it’s finally achieved, such are the vagaries that it is susceptible to, both in the vineyard and the winery, and such is the detailed coaxing required to get the best out of the stubborn little fellah that, for us, the drinking public, Pinot Noir tends to be inordinately expensive.

Well, until the New World got hold of it. While Burgundy often remains out of the reach of most ‘gator skin purses, Australia to a degree, and New Zealand, to a very marked degree, have begun to produce exceptional Pinot Noir and, more recently, these wines have been in the ‘affordable’ bracket. While rivalling some of the great French wines in quality, they have their own individuality and character that unmistakeably marks them out as New World. Whereas the French wines tend to have layers of subtle complexity, the local ones can be more about purity of ripe fruit,upfront flavours that develop the earthiness of their Gallic counterparts only with time

Talking about Pinot is a little like dancing about architecture – get in and pull some corks, screw some tops and flip your lid. Pinot is an experience; those who know it well probably skipped this verbiage and went straight for the wine knife. If you are yet to be introduced to its charms, be warned: a more intoxicating and addictive wine is unlikely to pass your lips.

Come and enjoy some Pinots with like minded enthusiasts, we have a Pinot Club every month, check out our website www.glengarry.co.nz/tastings

See you soon


Wine and Food Matching

Food and wine go together. Wonderfully. Whether relaxing after work with a bottle or entertaining clients at lunch, the permutations are endless which is why so much has been written on the subject.

Much of it, as with much wine writing, is impenetrable and unpalatable to the amateur. This no nonsense guide to matching wine and food however will enable you to hold your own in dining situations with friends and work colleagues, and help you display a grasp of the basics when entertaining clients.

While wine and food and matching is entirely subjective, being dependent on your own opinion, tastes and preferences, different world cultures have also developed their own unique cuisine and wine styles to match.

In Italy, local grape varieties such as Sangiovese are selected to make the perfect wine to consume with local produce. The same goes in Spain with Temparanillo and in France with Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Other varieties, like Shiraz, have found homes across Europe and throughout the world.

Brave new world
In New Zealand we are fortunate in enjoying a great cross-section of cultures created from the customs and traditions of the immigrants who have settled here. These influences have created a huge selection and variety of cuisine.

We are blessed with a climate that produces some of the best raw ingredients in the world – including seafood, vegetables and meat. Add to this our global outlook as a nation and we are willing to explore eclectic tastes when it comes to wine consumption, seeking out wines of different styles from around the world.

But to the budding wine enthusiast, trying to select a wine for an occasion or meal can be overwhelming.

Here are some basic guidelines for food and wine matching. But do not let them stop you from experimenting, be bold! You will be rewarded with wonderful and personal taste experiences. And remember, the only rule is that there is no rule!

White with white, red with red
A basic truism is white wine with white meat, and red wine with red meat. While a cliché, it’s a good starting point. Let us consider red wines first.

The general rule that red wine should be served with red meat has some basis in truth. Red wines have a tannin structure that comes from the skins of the grapes and the stalks. It’s like a drying taste in your mouth – next time you eat some grapes chew the skin for a while and you’ll see what I mean.

Matched with red meat, the tannin structure in red wine helps to break down the fatty proteins in meat. Tannins are not so prevalent in white wines.

Different red wines have different tannin contents. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most tannic wines due to the thickness of the Cabernet grapes and the colour extracted by extra contact with the skins.

Pinot Noir is generally less tannic with the exception of some of the more extracted styles now coming onto the market. With less tannin, Pinot Noir matches well with lighter red meats like spring lamb. Matching a red wine with the perfect tannin structure for the meat allows the two to marry and cleanse your palate, leaving you ready for the next course.

Of course there are exceptions, like veal – a red meat that is often best matched with white wine – particularly a Chardonnay. While a red meat, veal is very delicate in texture and does not stand up well to the tannin structure in red wine. So a white wine is a better accompaniment.

Spicy red meat dishes also don’t work with tannic wines. Spice and tannin just don’t match. You are better served by a sweeter wine – which will complement the spice – like a Riesling, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer, or even a cold beer if you’re having a curry.

With fruity aromas and flavour, lighter reds such as Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot , Sangiovese and Temparanillo offer a large array of accompaniments like wild meats from game birds and rabbit, as well as pork and lamb.

New Zealand lamb and Pinot Noir is a classic match, but try tuna, salmon and trout for some additional culinary magic. And, don’t forget the pizza and pasta dishes that have been washed down with Sangiovese wines for centuries by the Italians.

The red grape varieties of Grenache, Merlot and Mourvedre fall into the group of medium-bodied styles of red wine with fruity, spicy and oak influences. These wines are made for the stronger meats – try beef, lamb, game birds, venison and sausages. You can also enjoy spicy dishes, hard cheeses and Cheddar with these reds. The many blended red varieties of Merlot and Grenache also fit into the medium-bodied red category.

Full-bodied reds made from Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon suit all of the meats mentioned, plus stronger variants of sausages, salami’s and hot dishes.

These wines are often more tannic than other red varieties, with bite and a hard, rough texture, so meaty pasta dishes and curries are great partners. These big full-bodied reds can be drunk with hard strong cheeses. Classic full-bodied wines like these develop over time and turn into silky and smooth reds.

Rosés are becoming increasingly popular. Fun and easy drinking summer wines, they are usually medium-sweet and best consumed young. These lighter wines are slightly sweet and fruity and go particularly well with chicken, but my own favourite pairing is with oysters or other shellfish. Spicy Asian and Japanese cuisines are also good pairings. Roses can be made from various different varieties with Pinot Noir and Cabernet increasingly being used these days in the blends. While rose wines are often better with soft cheeses, you can also have fun with hard ripened cheeses.

Match Like with Like

• Match heavier weight foods with heavier weight wines. Beef stew with a rich powerful wine, a delicate fish dish with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc

  •  Spicy dishes with a Spicy wine – Indian with Gewurztraminer
  •  Sweet wines with sweet food – a late harvest wine with apricot tart
  •  Butter sauces with a creamy buttery chardonnay
  •  Acidity with acidity – a salad with a lemon dressing, match it with an acidic white – a young Riesling. Acidity subdues acidity.

But there’s an exception – salt. Salt is no friend to wine. Sweet wines though do balance salty foods, so a sweeter pinot gris with a saltier dish. Or if you are brave and many chefs are, you can match completely opposite tastes with some stunning results but be pre warned this can turn into a disaster!

All Whites
The tannin structure of red wine leaves white meat looking pale in comparison. As a general guideline;

  • Light Chicken Dishes Light Style Chardonnay
  • Creamy Chicken Dishes Heavier Chardonnay
  • Fish and Seafood Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Viognier, Pinot Gris

Lighter variants, often referred to as aromatics because of their strong perfumey aroma, include Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. These wines pair well with pork and shellfish, as well as with vegetarian dishes and salads. Feta and goat cheeses also match nicely. Aromatic wines are good for starting a meal. Non-vintage Champagne also makes a great starter!

Medium-bodied white varieties
Verdelho, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and Viognier are best accompanied by chicken and seafood. The softer styles of cheeses also pair well. While the New Zealand wine industry produces many styles of Pinot Gris, they tend to be fuller and more austere than the aromatic style of the rest of the world.

Viognier can be found in both medium and full-bodied styles. Fuller styles have a fruity apricot textured flavour. The white variety Viognier (originally from the Rhone in France) is often blended with Shiraz (5%), to create a very exciting lighter red style.

All of the white wines mentioned above are suited to Japanese, spicy, Asian, pasta and Chinese dishes, though some wine drinkers may prefer to match more aromatic dry wines with delicate Asian foods, and the heavier, fuller whites for extra spicy and flavorsome dishes.

When it comes to sweeter white wines, lighter styles like Muscat and Riesling are still suitable to drink with shellfish and perhaps takeaway and vegetarian food. They are even better with desserts; fruit salads, ice creams and puddings and soft cheeses including blues.

The heavier Sauternes and stickies with intense rich flavours are best suited to fruitcake and soft cheeses.

Short cut – Food and Wine Matching

1. Red wine with red meat

2. White wine with white meat

3. Match like with like

4. Drink what you like

5. Don’t forget to experiment

Finishing touches
To finish off there is port, a perfect after dinner nip with cheeses and Muscatelle raisins and my favorite blue cheese. Or do as the French do and have a soothing glass of champagne to finish off the evening. This also cleanses the palate.

Short cut – The one bottle meal
Matching one wine with an entire meal or matching wine with a buffet becomes a little tricky. Try these guidelines;

  • White wine is more flexible than red wine
  • Beaujolais is as flexible as a white wine

Choose a wine that matches the meat component of the meal

A little of what you fancy
Everyone’s tastes are different, so what is a perfect match for one person may not be as good for you. These are guidelines, but at the end of the day, if you would prefer a Sauvignon Blanc and you are having steak – go for it. Drink what you like and enjoy!

Don’t forget to experiment
Matching food and wine to enhance each other can truly enhance your dining experience. As your taste is uniquely your own, don’t forget to experiment and work out what is best for you.

Game set and match
These are not the last words or hard and fast rules. How can they be when there are so many variations of wines and foods? My advice is to use these guidelines as just that; a guide, and if you’re feeling particularly inclined, take note of the combinations you experiment with. You will soon be musing over your own perfect match.