Choosing a wine like a professional

22 Feb 2016

By Shadforth Financial Group

Choosing a good drop from a restaurant’s wine list can be a battlefield if you don’t know your stuff. More often than not, your decision can end up being based on price alone and, thanks to the significant mark-up on restaurant wines, this tactic can leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.

So, it can pay to do your homework and knowing which Australian regions are most renowned for each of the wine varieties is a good place to start. ARIA Group operate two renowned restaurants in Sydney and Brisbane. ARIA’s Sommelier, Matthew Dunn, believes the best regions for some of the major varieties are as follows:

How to choose

Dunne explains that the structure of a wine list is generally based on three important factors: style, price and region. Decide what type of wine you are interested in based on your mood and what type of food you will eat. Then choose a price bracket you are comfortable with and stick to it. If you are still feeling uncertain, then the best option is to ask the waiter or the sommelier, if the restaurant has one, what they think. A good sommelier will take into account your budget, the food you will be eating and your declared preferences. Another way to broaden your tastes is to choose a wine by the glass. These are becoming an increasingly popular option and allow those who don’t want a whole bottle to access excellent wines.

“When the time comes to make a choice — be daring, be open and try something new,” Dunne says

What to look for

Balance and length on the palate are the qualities you should keep an eye out for when choosing a wine, according to Dunne.

“The sign of any great wine is when you can still taste it 30 seconds after you’ve tried it.”

Food pairing

The main consideration is that the flavours of the food should not overpower the taste of the wine, ideally they should complement each other. Foods with a powerful flavour go well with wines that have a stronger taste. The opposite also applies.

  • For red meat, think Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • For fish, a lighter tasting wine like Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice.
  • Grilled foods go well with Pinot.
  • For salads and other light foods, try Rosé.

Of course, this is just a starting point so you can then begin to map out and explore your own preferences. Ultimately, it should come down to what you enjoy drinking.

Other tips

We’ve all been there — lured to purchase something based on the label. But when it comes to wine, the picture on the bottle isn’t always a good plan. Another trap for the unwary is the bargain bin at the bottle shop — there is probably a reason the wine is being sold cheaply and it is unlikely to be because it is terrific. A more modern way to help you choose is to use one of the many mobile apps available that can read wine labels and offer ratings and reviews. Another tip is to buy a case rather than a single bottle as you can save a significant amount of money and bring previously unaffordable wines into your price bracket. Finally, if you are very enthusiastic to learn more about wine, then joining a local wine club or society is a great idea as you’ll be able to meet like-minded people and get an opportunity to try a wide variety of wines. When it comes to wine, as with many interests, you never stop learning.

A bottle shop’s best

Here are the wines that Matthew Dunne thinks are some of the best in the bottle shop. They are priced in the $20 - $30 range.

2015 Briar Ridge Fiano
Hunter Valley

“An aromatic white with great acidity and dry palate — a good alternative to Pinot Grigio and great for summer.”

2014 Dominique Portet Fontaine Rosé
Yarra Valley

“Juice for the summer season.”

2015 Eldridge Estate PTG
(Passetoutgrains — this is a blend of 50 per cent Pinot Noir and 50 per cent Gamay)
Mornington Peninsula

“Bursting with bright red fruits, lots of spice, light on its feet and very refreshing.”

2014 Hentley Farm ‘The Stray Mongrel’
(Blend of Zinfandel, Grenache and Shiraz)
Barossa Valley

“Medium bodied with lots of spice and dark red fruits.”

Something different

If you want something made in small quantities direct from the cellar door, Dunne also recommends Harkham Wines in the Hunter Valley. They’re organic and preservative free — look out for the Chardonnay and the Shiraz!

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