Let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t call ourselves a wine expert by any means. No amount of swirling and sniffing is fooling anyone. It’s about time we all learnt more about our beloved bottles of red, white and pink. Lucky for you, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge right on our doorstep, having two Master Sommeliers within the Merivale team (there’s only 6 in the country, and 249 in the world!)
We sat down with our very own, and Australia’s very first MS, Franck Moreau, who happily shared his top tips so you can impress your date, friends and workmates with your wealth of wine knowledge.
Get to know the classics
Sparkling and champagne
Traditionally more of an aperitif (served before a meal to stimulate your appetite), “it’s all about the complexity and freshness of the champagne and the elegance and fine-ness of the beads,” says Franck.
What kind of bubbles float his boat? “I always look for one made with chardonnay – I like the freshness and power of it”.
Oh, and quickly, sparkling wine can only be called champagne if it comes from the Champagne region, France.
Franck’s food match: Great on its own as an aperitif but also perfect with seafood (fish, oysters, caviar), poultry and mild creamy cheeses.
Sauvignon blanc – saw-vee-nyon-blahnk
“The classic is a fruity version. People want an explosion of fruit character”. If you’re sipping on sauv blanc, you’ll most likely taste tropical fruit and passionfruit with a floral character.
Franck’s food match: Perfect with asparagus, goats cheese, prawns and crustaceans.
Pinot gris and pinot grigio – pee-noh-gree and pee-noh-GREE-joe
“These are very popular at the moment. Pinot gris and pinot grigio are made from the same grape, it’s just the style that makes them different – pinot gris is richer, spicier, a bit more textural, pinot grigio is drier, fresher, lighter, a bit more neutral. A classic pinot grigio from Italy should be crisp, with crunchy pear and apple characters,” Franck says.
Franck’s food match: Delicate dishes such as crab salad, fried calamari and antipasti.
Pinot noir – pee-noh-nwahr
“This is huge at the moment. People want their reds lighter, fresher,” Franck says. “It reminds me of a woman – delicate and elegant.” What are the characteristics of a good pinot? “Pure red fruit characters, ripe strawberry, raspberry, with a bit of a red floral base line.”
Franck’s food match: Great with gamey meats such as duck and venison.
“This is always popular in Australia. Shiraz is typically medium to full bodied, with blackcurrant and blueberry characteristics. It’s lovely and peppery, with a bit of spice.”
Franck’s food match: Perfect with your classic beef pie or rib eye steak.
Cabernet Sauvignon – cab-er-nay-saw-vee-nyon
“Full-bodied, masculine, more tannins” (naturally occurring, textural element that make the wine taste dry). Franck adds: “Cabernet is usually aged in oak which brings out a cinnamon vanilla character, with a bit of herbal flavour as well.”
Franck’s food match: Lovely with lamb, as well as hard cheeses.
What are the rules when it comes to sending back a wine when you’re out?
Franck suggests being, well, frank.
“Don’t be afraid to say you don’t like it. We all have a different palate. It’s better to be upfront about it straight away. It could be a fault with the wine – if it’s smelling like wet cardboard, dirty socks or vinegar, or people can simply change their mind – a good restaurant and sommelier will try to accommodate every guest.”
Wine too warm?
We love a sunburnt country, but our wine does not. Do Aussies drink our wine too warm?
“Definitely, and it’s something I want to change and I’m working hard at the moment. The room temperature generally in Australia is not same as in Europe,” he says. So what’s a rough rule of thumb?
“Serve wine a bit chilled and it will warm quickly in the glass. 16-18 degree for red wine, white around 12. But don’t get too chilled -‘it closes the flavour of the wine.”
Put down the Seinfeld mug circa 1999 and invest in some good wine glasses.
“Everyone can try this at home, put the same wine in a water glass, a cheap glass and fine glass – it will taste different,” says Franck. “And if you really want to impress, buy a decanter – this separates sediments in older wines and will aerate younger wines, opening up the flavours more quickly.”
Most common mistakes
Older ain’t always better.
“A lot of people believe a young vintage is not as good. Winemakers are producing wine these days that’s younger, ready to drink and more approachable earlier, before it was not the case.”
Spend smart not big.
“Don’t think because you’re spending a certain amount of money you will get a better wine. People pay for the brand, when it’s not necessarily the best one. Speak to the sommelier – they might recommend something that will be better value than the brand you know.”
Franck’s final words of wisdom:
“Have fun. Discover new things and don’t drink only what you know. Ask questions and try something new every week.”
A great place to find your next favourite drop is at The Bottle Shop. We’ve got locations in the CBD, Enmore, Bondi, at The Newport and Vic on the Park.