Have you ever wondered why there are times when your favourite wine seems to have a personality change when you take it to dinner.
Sometimes it even happens right before your eyes. Usually, it will happen with the wines that offer massive fruit in a glass that may be good drinking while you are sitting talking with friends or a glass while waiting for dinner. Sometimes, wines that make good aperitifs are not necessarily the wines that work well with food.
Two of the usual culprits are the pungent and herbaceous very ripe sauvignon blancs, often coming from New Zealand and high alcohol, incredibly rich fruited and powerfully bodied shirazs or zinfandels. Or perhaps it is a flamboyantly, sweetly spiced oak Chardonnay. Or is that straight up fruitilicious boldly coloured pink wine….
These are the type of wines that are big and bold with lashings of sweet fruit. However, just like an over-loud friend, these wines tend to overshadow the food that we eat and not offer many synergies with what is on the plate. They tend to take over and make everything else seem to lack flavour in that moment.
All grape varieties produce wines that marry well with food. There are some great examples of sauvignon blanc and shiraz that are very food friendly indeed. Examples such as a sauvignon blanc from Sancerre, Pouilly Fume or Alto Adige for instance or a shiraz from the Hunter Valley or more cooler climes such as the Grampians or Hilltops in Australia or a Cornas syrah.
Wines that work well with food tend to be wines that have elegance at their core. They are better proportioned, more medium bodied than proportioned like a sumo wrestler, and will often have a savoury edge or will be textural just to add some interest. These are wines that do not fight with the flavours and aromas of the dish in front of you. Instead, the wine adds additional dimension and character to the conversation without elbowing everything out of the way to become centre stage.
This is why red grape varieties such as fragrant pinot noir, a savoury sangiovese or a ripe malbec and white wines made from lightly oaked chardonnay, marsanne of any age and zesty fianos and vermentinos are good all-rounders when it comes to matching the dish of the day. Often, a blend of grape varieties is an even better choice and here are some suggestions.
Not sure where to start?
If in doubt, look to wines from areas known for their fine food culture as these are the wines that have evolved to match food. There is a reason that Italian wines have a high level of acid, often to match the food that has a base of acidic tomatoes, or oily seafood. French and Spanish wines often share this acidic profile.
These are also often wines that will find more friends around the table too, as these wines have a good chance of beguiling even those stuck in a ‘I only drink ….’ rut.
Here are five to try tonight:
Savoury whites rate very highly:
Turkey Flat Barossa Valley White – A marsanne led blend of ripe nectarine fruit that has been emboldened with a soft spiciness here. There is a zestiness here that keeps the wine fresh, the key to being a good match with food.
Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc – Chenin Blanc is a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and often has a crisp apple and lemon quality to the riper stone fruit. A savoury spiced take on the classic Loire grape, this South African Chenin Blanc comes with lush tropical fruit in abundance.
Don’t underestimate the pale pinks!
Chateau Coussin Famille Sumeire – A ripe fruity rosé that has a tautness and a silky texture. A pink like this is not just good as a drink with friends, it rates highly on the foodability scale, whatever the season.
Some well proportioned reds:
Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz – This is one of Australia’s cooler climate wines that is a little gem! Welcome to the peppery side of shiraz! Pepper lifts lashings of blackberry and blueberry fruit with a lick of liquorice and plush, powdery tannins that give a shapeliness to this wine.
For a special occasion, try the Mount Langi ‘Langi Shiraz’.
Firriato Le Sabbie dell’Etna Rosso – Warm spiced blackcurrant and plum fruit capture your attention from the first sip & the smoky minerality reminds you of this wine’s origins. This red is ripely plump while still retaining its elegance.