Top 10 wine tips from an award winning sommelier

How long should you store wine after opening a bottle? Does the wine glass really impact the taste of the wine? How do Australian wines compare against the rest of the world's?

Get the answers to these questions with our Q&A with Keystone Group’s award winning Sommelier, Sarah Limacher. She gives us her expert tips on picking the right wine, matching wine with food, best drops for special occassions and palettes, plus much more.


1. What are the things to look out for when picking a wine?

I think the most important thing to realize is that price doesn’t always dictate how good a wine is. I think more often than not selecting a good wine is all about knowing a few great producers from each region. Picking purely based on regionality won’t always get you a great wine, but knowing a consistently good producer whose wine you enjoy is always a good start.



2. What are the key rules you follow when matching wine with food?

Wine and Food are made to be together so there are no steadfast rules. Always have fun with your wine matching and don’t be afraid to experiment! A good rule of thumb is to go with a compliment or a contrast … a complement for example would be a dish such as a hearty cabernet blend with a traditional lamb stew and a contrast would be a dish such as pate or foie gras with a late harvest Semillon. Contrasting the fat and richness of the pate with the sweetness, yet subtle acidity of the late harvest Semillon is a perfect match.



3. What bottle would you recommend for celebrating a special occasion?

Champagne or Sparkling always! Get creative with some roses or blanc de blancs, and if you don’t want to drink French, try Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy or search our own backyard where regions like the Yarra Valley, Tassie and the King Valley are making some serious in style wonderful value for money bubbles! Hit the McLaren Vale or Barossa and search out some sparkling shiraz if you are feeling red wine inclined.



4. What's the most popular wine variety right now?

Aussies still love their Marlborough savvy, but it’s great to see people going back to drinking Riesling and Chardonnay again. People are getting braver and wines from Spain and Argentina are seemingly very popular right now, a lot of, albarinos, torrentes, malbec and tempranillo’s going down a treat in our venues at the moment.



5. There are a variety of wine glasses available on the market, in your opinion how much does the glass you use, impact the taste of the wine?

I never used to be a believer, but yes glasses make a big difference! There is an interesting science behind glassware shape! Every aspect of a wine is influenced by glass shape from bouquet to the balance. I went to a really interesting tasting a few years ago held by Riedel where they poured the same wine into different glasses and the difference was unbelievable. Now I’m not going to whip out my crystal ware when I’m drinking a bottle of chardonnay in front of the TV or at a summer barbie, but if you are drinking a premium wine, the glassware should be appropriate.


6. What type of wine would you recommend for someone after a fruity/sweet flavour?
Some German Rieslings, Sweeters style Loire Valley Chenin Blancs, Gewurztraminers can do the trick and Moscato’s.

7. What wine would you recommend for someone after a dry, crisp flavour?
Pinot Blancs, Clare / Eden Valley Rieslings, Chardonnay’s, Sauvignon Blancs, Sylvaners, Muscadets.


8. How would you rate Australian wines against the rest of the world's?

It gets a bad rap sometimes but this country produces world class wines in every single growing region, there is so much diversity, depth and talent in the Australian Wine industry, its important as consumers we continue to support it. I am as excited as ever about the industry here and as a sommelier I continually see the growth and quality continue upwards.



9. How long can wine be stored after opening a bottle?

I never have half drunk bottles in my house!! But after a couple of days you will see deterioration and after a week or so most wines will be flat. Even if you refrigerate them, use them for cooking if they are no good after a few days.



10. Describe a typical day for a sommelier?

It really depends what I was up to the night before!! Late afternoon you will find me working on the floor, typically I will be in venue at all the Keystone wine bars during the week working dinner service, chatting to the guests, running wine tastings and getting the party started. On Fridays I’m down at our Darling Harbour venues like the loft, bungalow 8 and cargo. There’s always something new and exciting happening so I’m always on my toes! Being sommelier for the keystone group means everyday is different for me. Sometimes I will be in 5 venues in one day! Typically I spend mornings in the office, I will go through emails, read the last days reports from each venue, hear from venue managers if there’s anything urgent they need from me. My afternoons are varied, I can be in tastings, meeting with winemakers and suppliers, in venue running trainings, working on wine lists, working on up and coming events with our marketing and executive team.


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