Wine 101

An understanding of wine that goes beyond separating whites from reds will not only impress your friends at dinner parties, but also enrich your flavour experience the next time you pour a glass. In consultation with Val Friend, the function and events manager at Gippsland’s award- winning Narkoojee Winery, Georgia Jordan has crafted a definitive guide on the different types of wine.

REDS

Considered one of Australia’s greatest assets, red wine has become synonymous with backyard barbecues and cosy winter dinners. Due to the black grape skins and tannins it contains, red wine varies a great deal in colour (from bright magenta to deep garnet) and flavour (from dry to sugary sweet). Light red wine tastes best when refrigerated for 30 minutes before opening, while rich reds are smoothed out at warmer temperatures, and should be consumed between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius.

Shiraz “Shir-as” (aka syrah “sear-ah”)

Also known as syrah in Europe, shiraz is a full-bodied red wine known for its deep plum colour, middleweight tannins, dark fruit flavours and peppery quality. Shiraz is heavily planted in Australia, with South Australia’s Barossa Valley producing still and sparkling varieties that are celebrated the world over.

Give it a try

Narkoojee Winery’s Isaac Reserve Shiraz is a lovely wine that portrays black cherry fruit and spicy oak characters. “Its ripeness is obvious [and] its colour is dense with crimson edges,” says Friend. “[It] is perfect for Christmas... [and] a must for impressing friends.” Friend recommends matching the Isaac Reserve Shiraz with black olives, truffles prunes, aniseed and black pepper.

Cabernet Sauvignon “Ka-ber-nay soh-vin-yawn”

Australia’s warm climate makes for a beautifully rich and smooth cabernet sauvignon, with the very best hailing from the Coonawarra, Margaret River, Yarra Valley, McLaren Vale and Mudgee regions. This full-bodied old-world classic has powerful flavours that make for an indulgent experience when paired with hearty dishes of red meats or creamy pasta sauces, as well as cheese platters and chocolate desserts.

Give it a try

Mandala Wines’ 2013 Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a supple wine that shows blackcurrant, cedary oak and black olive flavours, warm vanilla spice and delicate rose petal notes, and a leafy, herbaceous lift.

Merlot “Mer-low”

Considered one of the rising stars of the Australian wine market, merlot is known for its attractive primary fruit flavours. An irresistibly soft, velvety texture makes it perfect for causal drinks and new red wine drinkers. Unblended merlot yields are gaining popularity in warmer inland regions, such as Riverina, Riverland and the Murray Darling.

Give it a try

Narkoojee Winery’s Athelstan Merlot is a powerful wine of excellent character. According to Friend, “the 2015 season produced fruit of exceptional quality, which was hand-picked from estate vines late in March and fermented by indigenous yeasts”. The wine is vivid blackberry in colour, with crimson edges. “[It has] a lovely mulberry and black cherry flavour, with notes of black olives, tobacco leaf and spicy French oak,” says Friend. “[It’s] firm, integrated tannins and long finish make it a lovely match with chargrilled steak, roast beef... and lamb dishes.”

Pinot Noir “Pee-noh nwar”

Characterised by red fruit and rose flavours, this light-bodied wine is one of the most challenging grape varieties to grow. Its flavours are hugely dependent on its growing environment, which means a bottle from one region will likely taste dramatically different from another. Varieties from Tasmania, the Yarra Valley and Geelong have garnered a reputation for well-balanced acid and tannin levels that achieve a satisfying herbaceous aroma and meaty character.

Give it a try

Made from the winery’s estate plantings, Narkoojee Winery’s Pinot Noir has a satisfying savoury character. “About 50 per cent wild yeasts were involved in the fermentation,” says Friend. “Showing black tea, forest floor, dried flowers, black cherry and spicy French oak [notes]... [it] is a beautifully-balanced wine with a long, seamless palate and silky tannins.”

WHITES

White wine is a typically still style that can be made from either white or red grapes, as long as the grape skins are removed prior to fermentation. While hundreds of varieties exist, with notes ranging from crisp and refreshing to rich and creamy, a white wine will accompany almost any meal beautifully. Lighter, zesty whites are best served ‘fridge cold’, while oak-barrelled varieties taste better slightly warmer.

Sauvignon Blanc “Saw-vin-yawn blonk”

One of the most widely planted wine grapes in the world, sauvignon blanc is a typically dry wine that’s famous for its broad range of styles and flavours. Considered the ideal seafood accompaniment, its fruity flavours range from zesty lime to flowery peach. Varieties grown in cooler regions show the best green and herbaceous flavours that set the wine apart from the rest.

Give it a try

Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove’s Pennon Hill vintage 2016 Sauvignon Blanc is a sophisticated wine with a savoury textural style. Its citrus zest notes, passionfruit flavours and flinty mineral qualities make for a delicious and interesting wine.

Chardonnay “Shar-doh-nay”

Chardonnay is a classic, dry, medium- to full-bodied wine that was first produced in Australia in the 1920s. It has been one of the most widely planted varieties in the country since the 70s, and can vary hugely in character from herbaceous to tropical and floral. Oak-aged chardonnay adopts spicy bourbon and rich butter notes, while unoaked varieties have a light texture and fruity flavours, such as crisp apple and fresh citrus.

Give it a try

Described by respected wine critic and vigneron James Halliday as a “truly lovely chardonnay”, Narkoojee’s Lily Grace Chardonnay is a Gippsland favourite. Combining beautiful rockmelon, white stone fruit and almond kernel flavours, the wine has a “lovely creamy texture and a touch of mineral acidity to finish”.

Riesling “Reeze-ling”

Riesling is a flexible wine that is considered the perfect food accompaniment due to its crisp fruity flavours and well-balanced acidity. When fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine’s inherent aromatics and pleasing mineral qualities are retained. With age, the wine takes on honey flavours and attractive oily aromas. Riesling pairs beautifully with Asian and German cuisine – particularly spicy foods, chicken, pork, shellfish and fondue.

Give it a try

Wild Dog Winery’s 2016 Noble Riesling shows a complex blend of aromas, including mango, pineapple, toffee, fruitcake and caramel. Immediately rich and mouth-coating, the wine’s flavours and honeyed texture leads to a long finish, while its acidity makes each sip fresh and buoyant.

Semillon “Say-mee-lon”

Semillon is a versatile wine that accompanies a range of dishes beautifully, particularly fresh seafood. Its vibrant, crisp style and citrus notes take on a full, buttery quality when aged. While the Margaret River and Barossa Valley have garnered a strong reputation for producing fine semillon, the Hunter Valley has achieved worldwide fame.

Give it a try

Murray Street Vineyard’s 2016 White Label Semillon has a bright iridescent green hue and vibrant fruit flavours that deliver mouth-watering acidity. With impeccable precision, this wine balances squeezed lemon juice notes with crisp green apple flavours and a hint of honeysuckle.

SPARKLING WINE

Sparkling wine’s delightful bubbles are achieved through a secondary fermentation, which makes the production process highly technical and requires extensive decision- making from the winemaker. The finest Australian white sparkling wines are made from the same grape varieties as France’s world-famous authentic champagne – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Sparkling wine is best served ice cold, so storing the bottle in the freezer an hour before opening is recommended.

Sparkling white

Due to our broad climate, Australia produces a diverse range of sparkling white wine, from delicate Tasmanian varieties to robust Victorian and New South Wales examples. Notable regions include the Yarra Valley, Tasmania, Macedon Ranges, Grampians and Adelaide Hills, with cooler climates producing fruit with a high natural acidity that provides the perfect base for sparkling wine.

Give it a try

Narkoojee’s Sparkling Harriet Chardonnay has a fresh, zesty and crisp acidity. “Served as an aperitif it matches almost anything and beautifully whets the appetite for the next course,” says Friend.

Sparkling red

Bubbling with flavour, sparkling red wine has enjoyed a long history of production in Australia, since 1881. Today, the world’s finest shiraz varieties are produced in Victoria’s Great Western region and South Australia’s Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, the Limestone Coast and Langhorne Creek. While shiraz’s soft tannins beautifully complement the creamy, velvety mouthfeel of the very best aged varieties, red sparkling wine can also be made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chambourcin and durif.

Give it a try

Narkoojee Winery’s Sparkling Cabernet Merlot has “a lovely fresh style with sweet berry fruit [notes] and a crisp, clean finish”, says Friend. This wine’s raspberry and black currant aromas have a warming effect that’s perfect for all occasions, especially Christmas. “It’s an interesting wine [that’s served] as an aperitif and also at the end of a meal,” says Friend. “Perfect with plum pudding, stewed rhubarb and spicy desserts, [this wine is] also wonderful with the [Gippsland region’s beautiful blue cheeses.”

ROSÉ

A still wine made from black grapes, rosé is produced by fermenting and removing the grape skins after a few hours of fermentation, before they deeply colour the wine. Some rosés are also made by blending red and white wine together. Ranging from dry and cherry-tasting to sweet and berry-like, rosé is the ideal drink for the summer months and is best enjoyed chilled, with or without food.

Grenache Rosé “Greh-nash roh-zay” Typically identifiable by its brilliant ruby hue, this fruity, off-dry rosé shows ripe strawberry, orange and hibiscus notes. Despite its high acidity, this is a fuller wine with a bit of body, so it’s best served cold to preserve its zest.

Give it a try

Merindoc Vintners’ 2014 Willoughby Bridge Grenache Rosé yields small parcels of intensely aromatic and succulent grenache. Its traditional barrel fermentation in seasoned French oak has resulted in a savoury, dry and complex wine with delicate fruit flavours and a clean, refreshing finish.

DESSERT & FORTIFIED

The Australian wine industry is said to be “built on oceans of sweet wine”. Dessert and fortified wine was Australia’s foremost wine export until 1970, when drier wines began to flourish. These wines are made with extra sweet wine grapes, which cease fermentation before the yeast turns all of the natural sugar into alcohol. Best savoured in small glasses, dessert and fortified wines can be sweet or dry, delicately fizzy or rich and nutty.

Viognier “Vee-ohn-yay”

Despite being an unpredictable and challenging grape to grow, viogner is becoming an increasingly popular white dessert wine, adored for its distinctive stone fruit flavours. Rich and oily on the palate, viogner is one of the less sweet aromatic grape varieties. Its bright peach and perfume notes beautifully suit vanilla flavours and fruit-based desserts, and make it lovely and refreshing on a hot day.

Give it a try

To make its Late Harvest Viognier, Narkoojee Winery allowed the grapes to ripen further than usual in warm weather conditions. “It shows a range of flavours such as honey, cumquat and apricot, and has floral and butterscotch tones,” says Friend. “Its late harvest has restrained the sweetness and allows it to finish dry... It will match a larger range of dishes towards the end of a meal.” This wine is best enjoyed with plum pudding, spicy desserts and wide a range of cheeses and fruit.