The What, Why and When of Wine

Want to navigate a wine list with aplomb by the weekend? Here are 6 expert steps for what to sip, why and when!

Stay Seasonal:

Each season has a perfect wine, and as spring is a fresh time of year, wine should reflect this, explains Katherine Cole, author of ‘How To Fake Your Way Through A Wine List'. "Zippy wines with higher acidity evoke that fresh feeling and complement the foods of the season," she says.

Focus On Region:

If you want don't mean to be too daring on date night with your wine choice, stick with familiar regions.  Areas with cooler climates are safe alternatives - such as Victoria's Yarra Valley, a prime producer of gorgeous cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines. When the wine list is full of European offerings, focus on France's Loire Valley, "which produces piercing Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc plus rosé, and lighter reds made from Cabernet Franc and Gamay Noir", Katherine suggests. 

Fake It Until You Make It:

Katherine's tip for being experimental this weekend is to go with drops from the hotspots: the Balkans and Croatia. "Why am I talking about the Balkans and Croatia? Because one of the best ways to 'fake' your way through a wine list is to order the most obscure thing you can find on the menu. You're not going to look like a dummy if you are asking questions about Croatian wine because hardly anyone knows anything about it," she explains. "These are nations with long histories of wine production that in many cases did not export their wines very far until now."

Go The Good Glass:

If you're a big wine geek getting ready to host a dinner party, go ahead and purchase a full range of stemware in all different shapes and sizes, says Katherine. But for those who want to keep it contemporary, only one simple shape of a wine glass is required.  A relatively wide bowl will allow you to swirl and aerate the wine, whereas a slightly narrower mouth will channel the aromas and intensify them, Katherine advises. "Most important, go for a thin-walled glass, with a thin, square-edged lip," she advises. "Nothing dulls flavor and aroma like thick-walled, rounded glass."

Follow Your Gut, Not The Wine Guide:

If you're cooking fresh crab, and you're craving Chardonnay, the chances are good that your body is intuitively suggesting the ideal match, says Katherine. So sometimes you have to throw out the rule book and try some wine and dining partnerships that reflect your personal tastes and personality. 

Match Your Destination with Your Drop:

If you're attempting to impress friends or flirtations with your wine choices, create a theme around the event. So, if you're packing for a coastal picnic amongst the palm trees, consider the great beaches of the world that produce excellent wine. Not just in Australia, but also the volcanic wines of the Canary Islands, the ancient varieties grown in the Greek Isles and the rosés made in France's Sandy Camargue. Alternatively, pair a chilled Christmas Day - complete with backyard cricket - back with wines from cricketing regions - such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, England and even India. "You'll find that it's easier to remember facts about wine regions if they're also regions you're interested in."

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