How to Pick the Perfect Red Wine For You
Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by too much choice when it comes to picking a good bottle of red? Are you a novice wine drinker or just not very familiar with regions and specific wine characteristics?
Choosing a good red wine is not always easy as there is a vast number of characteristics that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a bottle of red. Indeed, not only do you have to consider your own preferences in terms of taste and region but also the food you’d like to match it with and, to some extent, the price.
To help you, we’ve listed below the most important things to consider in order to pick the right red for you:
If the wine you purchase is good quality, it should be well-balanced. However, food pairing can affect this balance as dish ingredients can impact the wine’s acidity, sweetness or its tannins bitterness. As a rule of thumb, red wine complements red meat perfectly as well as, simmered dishes, gratins, pizzas, some fish or cheese. Yet, doing your research can go a long way in taking your dish to the next level. We’ve listed below some examples of wine and food pairing to help guide your choice next time you’re looking for the perfect red.
Full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz can be a bit too heavy at the beginning of a meal but light and medium-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir or Merlot can be terrific wines to pair with appetizers. Salmon tartare, tuna salad or duck rillettes on toast are some suggestions for appetizers to match with Pinot Noir wines such as Rahona Valley Pinot Noir or Merlot wines which will perfectly harmonise the flavours.
As mentioned in the introduction, red wines usually pair well with red meats, any simmered dishes, meat gratins, some fish, chicken, tomatoes and pizzas. For example, duck, lamb or beef-based meals can be complemented by quality Bordeaux or Bordeaux- style blends such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. These wines will bring out the aromas in the meat. Intensely cooked roasted tomatoes in a simmered meat recipe, on the other hand, will bring acidity to the dish. The acidity will be better balanced with a light red such as Grenache.
Looking at Aussie favourites, Chicken Parmigiana goes well with Merlot or Barbera, Grenache with pumpkin soup, a full-bodied Shiraz with heavily spiced BBQ chicken, Sangiovese with a lamb roast and light to mid-bodied wines such as Tempranillo, GSM or Grenache with Beef Burgers with beetroot. If you’re a pizza or pasta lover, Sangiovese is always an excellent choice. Why not try the Panton Vineyard Sangiovese on your next pizza night?
When pairing wine and dessert it’s easy to go overboard with dessert wines. Instead, choose a lighter red wine that is less sweet than the dessert. For dark, chocolate, buttery, caramelised, rich or intense fruit desserts, choose a Cabernet or Merlot. Madeira can pair well with red fruit flavoured desserts and Pinot Noir goes particularly well with strawberry. Cooked pears and peach will be well complemented by tannic wines like Bandol, Chinon or Cabernet wines such as Eddie McDougall Wines & Co. Cabernets 2017.
The grape variety defines, for the most part, the body of a wine. Therefore, based on what kind of grape variety you prefer, you’ll be able to understand what type of wine bodies you like.
We’ve listed below some of the most popular grape varieties in Australia as well as their characteristics:
Shiraz (or Syrah):
Shiraz wines are undoubtedly the most popular Australian wines. They can grow both in warm and cooler climates affecting the flavour and body. From medium-bodied peppery wines growing in cool-climate regions to full-bodied spicy wines from warmer regions, Australian shiraz can cater to a wide range of wine consumers.
This grape variety is quite sensitive to intense heat and needs lots of water. The best wines are found in Coonawarra, Margaret River and Yarra Valley. In these cooler regions, wines tend to have a high acidic level and powerful berry flavours. These regions produce medium to full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with firm tannins.
Merlot is the third most planted red grape variety in Australia. Often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, some irrigated and warmer regions such as the Murray Darling have been producing it as a single varietal more recently. Margaret River and Coonawarra also produce Merlot wines. It is sometimes referred to as a chameleon variety as it has moderate acidity and medium tannin levels. This medium to full-bodied wine often appeals to wine lovers thanks to its red fruit flavours.
Other common varieties include Grenache ( medium-bodied with medium tannins and red grapefruit aromas), Pinot Noir (light-bodied with bright acidity), Mourvedre (full-bodied) and Tempranillo (medium to full-bodied with medium tannins and low acidity).
PROVENANCE OR TERROIR:
If you’ve tried a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley and a Shiraz (or Syrah) from Bordeaux you might have noticed they don’t taste the same. That’s because the region the grapes are cultivated in greatly impacts the taste of the wine. Some criteria in explaining the different tastes for the same grape variety include the weather, as the sun affects the level of acidity in a wine, the quality of the soil, the altitude or the fact that the vineyards might be located on a slope.
Some of the best wine regions for reds in Australia include:
Adelaide Hills ( high in acidity):
Only a short drive from Adelaide, the region forged a world reputation for world class wines. White wines are dominant but an increasing number of boutique wineries are starting to produce exquisite light and medium-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir and Syrah/Shiraz with unique and distinctive profiles. The cool climate is perfect for producing quality Pinot Noir and elegant Shiraz. Shiraz wines from Adelaide Hills have typically a more modest alcohol content, peppery fine tannins, are higher in acidity and are more refreshing compared to Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. For example, New Era Vineyards Barrel Select Pinot Noir is the perfect option if you like good acidity and a spicy finish to your wine.
Mornington Peninsula (deep in fruit flavours):
Blessed by a chilly ocean breeze, this cool climate region is located an hour away from Melbourne. The cool climate coupled with high sunshine hours results in powerful red wines, high in natural acidity and fine tannins. Due to the climate, red wines produced in the region tend to be dense, rich and deep in flavour with ripe fruit at their core as the grapes enjoy a cool maritime climate to ripen slowly. Red grape varieties thriving in the area include Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fenian Wines Pinot Noir is a good example of the outstanding fruit flavours found in the Mornington Peninsula’s reds.
Yarra Valley (deep smoky aromas):
This cool-climate region tends to produce light to medium-bodied wines with gentle herbal flavours and fine tannins. Most planted grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines, produced in the warmer areas of the valley, are deeper in aroma than Cabernet from warmer regions of Australia. Pinot Noir wines from the region also tend to be aromatic with fruity or earthy flavours and have soft tannins like Steels Gate Pinot Noir. However, if some of the Yarra Valley Syrah wines are medium-bodied and have a smoky flavour, others are richer and closer to the style of Syrah produced in warmer regions.
Barossa Valley (rich flavours):
Often deemed as experiencing a Mediterranean climate, the Barossa Valley has cool winters and warm, dry summers making it one of the best-suited regions for grape growing. The region mainly produces extremely full-bodied and rich Shiraz. With high temperatures towards the end of the growing season, it’s no surprise that its wines are powerful in flavour. Another characteristic of Barossa Valley Shiraz wines is their velvety soft tannins. Some other red grape varieties produced in the region include Cabernet-Sauvignon, Grenache and Mourvedre.
There are a lot of ways to choose a red wine but if you follow our list, you should be able to find the right one for you may it be a full-bodied shiraz with peppery aromas or a light Pinot Noir with red fruit flavours. One word of advice; try to not focus solely on price as it can be tempting but equally disappointing. Also remember, if you liked a particular red wine, don’t forget to take a picture of it so you can buy it again the next time you want to organise a beautiful dinner party with your friends or want to reward yourself after a busy day at work. ;)