Author: Shireen Khalil
THIS guide to which wines you shouldn’t have with certain meals can help you cheat the latest foodie trend of wine knowledge.
HOW many times have you been in a situation where you have no idea what wine snobs are talking about?
“Oh yes, yes you can really taste the hand-picked fruit in this 18 month-old wine which has been aged in barriques of French oak” — is usually how it goes as they swirl around their oversized glass, sniffing into it.
But it can also be said that a lot of the time, they probably have no idea what they’re talking about — and we have all been there and done that.
Wouldn’t it be nice to one day, perhaps at you next fancy work event, turn to one these know it alls and be like, “No Gary, the food you’re eating actually doesn’t go with the wine you’re swirling.”
Christine Ricketts is the type of person you want in your corner at any wine discussion —
she is one of Australia’s first full-time wine educators, and is among a select group of people in the country to be a Wine and Spirit Education Trust qualified teacher. In fact, she trains 700 people a year in all levels of wine.
In other words, she knows exactly what she’s talking about, and not in a snobby way.
“One person’s flavour clash is another one’s flavour smash,” she jokes.
Ms Ricketts, who is the cellar director at wine retailer Cellarmasters, tells us that the simple rule when it comes to wine pairing is that white wines tend to go better with lighter foods such as veggies, chicken or fish, while red wine needs protein like meat.
She said one of the most common mistakes people make is thinking all Sauvignon Blancs go with any type of food because it is a wine that is drunk all the time.
“The other one is high alcohol red wines with spicy food … they are the two worst matches,” she said.
“You can have fruity red wines that are low in alcohol with hotter foods, but you want to be very careful with heat as it really does counteract and you just end up with a very hot mouth.
“When you pair your meal with the right wine, it really heightens the flavours of both the food and the wine itself. But equally, some wines can bring out the worst characteristics of a certain food and vice versa.”
Ms Ricketts has given us a list of the worst wine pairings to help equip you with all the wine knowledge when attending any swanky wine event.
For the record, her perfect food and wine match (for the past 20 years) is a sparkling shiraz with gorgonzola (cheese) and a drizzle of truffle honey over it. “It’s amazing, and has always worked.”
Now, here’s what not to pair, according to Ms Ricketts.
Sauvignon Blanc & blue cheese
The sharp flavours of a mouldy blue cheese when paired with the pungent flavours of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can make the wine taste more tart than it really is. Instead, enjoy blue cheese with a glass of Champagne, and when it comes to cheese, Sauvignon Blanc and goat’s cheese is considered a match in wine and food heaven.
Champagne & chocolate
Although chocolate and champagne sound like a match made in heaven, the sweetness of milk chocolate brings out the acidic taste in champagne making it clash. When it comes to dark chocolate, champagne brings out the bitterness and can make it taste downright unpleasant.
Riesling & steak
Although Aussie Riesling is incredibly food friendly wine thanks to its high acidity, the delicate white wine easily gets overpowered when matched with big proteins, like a beef steak or a tuna steak. A muscular red like a Shiraz is better suited to match steaks, as the tannins in red wine bind to the proteins and salt in red meat, thus softening the tannins in the wine.
Barossa Shiraz & spicy food
Red wines such as warm climate Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache tend to have a lot of heat (which is another word for high alcohol), and make for a bad pairing with spicy food, as the alcohol actually intensifies the spiciness of the food! Instead, a crisp Aussie Riesling is the ultimate pairing to spicy food. Alcohol increases the burning sensation of the chilli — however, some people enjoy this effect!
Mataro & seafood
Avoid having bold red wines, like Mataro or Cabernet Sauvignon, with lighter seafood dishes and light fish like oysters, sashimi and scallops. The tiny amounts of iron in red wine latch onto the fish oils and stick to the palates, causing a fishy, metallic aftertaste. Enjoy with a crisp rosé instead.
Green salad & Cabernet Sauvignon
Dishes high in bitterness, including leafy greens such as kale, will emphasise bitterness — which are the tannins — in wine. Tannins is the bitter and dry taste found in mainly red wines, and are mainly made from grape skins, and provide structure to a win. Instead, consider a white wine or a low-tannic red like Pinot Noir.
Chardonnay & Mackerel
Oily fish like mackerel paired with buttery, oaky Chardonnay makes an overpowering, almost greasy impact, with the oak bringing out the metallic in the fish. Instead, enjoy it with a crisp, fresh fruit-forward wine like Pinot Grigio.