Although we talk quite a lot about ‘heavier’ reds and ‘lighter’ whites, people may not realise that these descriptions of wine also clue us in as to which foods the wine is best paired with. A deep, bold red will probably be great with a cut of steak close to the bone, and a light, zesty white would be much better with a poached white-fleshed fish.
The reason why we have seasons as wine drinkers is quite simple: it’s because in winter, you’re more likely to reach for the hearty stews, roasts and mashed potato than you are likely to reach for a fresh salad - so the wines have to be bolder to match these bigger winter flavours.
So, as we head into winter, what are the best wines to reach for, to match the dropping temps outside?
An easier-to-sip wine than a Cabernet Sauvignon, you most often find the Franc as part of a red wine blend. Even so, its more delicate flavours would appeal to those who aren’t rusted-on red wine drinkers - those who may prefer white wines, but are wanting to test the boundaries of their palate with reds. The Cabernet France is sweet and fruity so has this broad appeal, and although still a gem when blended with other varietals to ‘soften’ them, it’s really a winner in itself.
Yes, it’s exactly the same grape as Shiraz, but usually a Syrah is a slightly different style, and is usually a little lower in alcohol. Sometimes described as more ‘refined’, wines labelled Syrah also match well with wintry roasts such as beef. Syrah is more common than Shiraz in New Zealand, but there are both fantastic versions of Syrah on both sides of the pond. If you are feeling keen, try grabbing a bottle of Kiwi Syrah and a bottle of Australian Shiraz to compare the two - see which you prefer, keeping in mind they are from the exact same type of grape.
Sticking with the local theme, most Malbec grapes grown in New Zealand are from the Hawke's Bay region. Like Cabernet Franc, Malbec is another red wine that’s often used in blends, as it brings beautiful cherry colours and intense fruit flavours to the table. Malbec is fortunately also commonly found on its own, and sits in the middle ground between a ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ red. Think of berry flavours, but also hints of depth with notes of vanilla and cocoa
First things first… the pronunciation! Say ’vee-on-yay’, and you can’t go too wrong. Viognier is a white, but it’s a full-flavoured wine with ripe florals and rich fruit flavours which are very strong, compared to NZ’s go-to white, Sauvignon Blanc. There are some very decent Viogniers from the Marlborough region which truly show just how many layers and flavours you can pack into a glass of this white.
Riesling (yes, Riesling)
One of our all-time favourite whites here at Bottle Service. It might surprise you that Riesling - a sweeter yet very easy-to-match-food-with white, hasn’t always been as popular as it is today - and even by today’s standards, it’s one of those varietals that is often very underrated. Not only are great quality Rieslings produced across a few Kiwi winemaking regions, it’s an incredibly affordable wine, when you compare the quality you can get for comparably fewer dollars. So aside from the fact that it’s delicious, why is Riesling in this list, you ask? Well it ages very well, unlike most other types of white: an older Riesling is often a better one. With aging comes complexity - and those are the flavours that match well with other things we love in winter, such as homemade soups.There are many examples of fantastic Kiwi Riesling - try a few different ones from regions including the Hawke’s Bay and Waipara.
With this list, hopefully you’ll be able to continue to try new and exciting wines throughout winter - and when someone mentions a wine being ‘heavy’ or ‘light’, you’ll know which food to have with it.
Just in case you aren’t a Champagne pro, we’ve compiled a handy list of hints to up your game – with plenty of time before the festive season kicks off this year to get you into the groove!
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