Busting the Myths around Food and Wine

 By Winsor Dobbin


Wine rules are made to be broken, says wine writer and educator Winsor Dobbin. The vast majority of wine drinkers follow a number of “rules” they have been taught since they were old enough to drink. Rules from a generation of wine drinkers who were far from adventurous and drank mainly “claret” that had nothing for do with real claret. Red wine with red meat; white wine with fish; red with cheese etc. But rules are made to be broken – particularly as new styles and grape varieties gain in popularity. Let’s bust a few myths as we approach Christmas and peak wine time.

Drink red wine with meat, white with fish

“You don’t need to follow the rules if you don’t want to,” says Stuart Knox, a qualified sommelier and owner of Sydney legend Fix wine bar and restaurant.

“You can drink whatever you want – if you want a pinot noir with salmon, go ahead.

“Wine is meant to be enjoyed and while it would be odd to enjoy Riesling alongside a T-Bone steak, it is your money.”

Go with what you enjoy – not what you have been told.

Red wines go best with cheese

In Australia, particularly, this is seen almost as an unwritten rule – but many white wines can do the job just as well as reds, particularly the leaner, more modern styles of chardonnay that are popular right now.

Matching wine and cheese can be a complex matter; and not all combinations are matches made in heaven. Subtle wines can sometimes be overpowered by pungent cheeses, while delicate cheeses can be overwhelmed by rich, powerful wines.

Hugh Johnson, the veteran English wine writer, says: “Fine red wines are slaughtered by strong cheeses; only sharp or sweet white wines survive.”

Johnson says there are two basic rules: the harder the cheese, the more tannin the wine can have, and the creamier the cheese, the more acidity required in the wine.

Chardonnay, which can range in style from rich and oaky, to lean and acidic, can be a surprisingly good partner for a wide range of cheeses.

In France, the classic combination is to match cheeses with wines from the same region; say the rich Epoisses cheese of Burgundy with a lean chardonnay from the Côte Chalonaise or nearby Macon.

This rule works less well in Australia but if you are putting together a cheese platter and want to match it with a white wine, then good choices would be more subtle sauvignon blancs (which in France are a traditional match for goat cheeses) or an elegant and preferably younger chardonnay.

Red wine should always be served at room temperature

This myth derived from the room temperatures in French chateaux, which were a lot cooler than Australia.

On a warm day in Australia, it makes sense to chill a red wine so that it is refreshing. Around 13°C is ideal.

“While it is true that red wine should be served at a warmer temperature than white wine, there isn’t really any truth to the notion of serving it at room temperature,” says Mitchell Taylor.

“If red wine is too warm the alcohol dominates and can mask its subtle flavours. Chill a wine too far and the flavours are suppressed, the tannins become harsher and the acids too sharp.

“A red wine, lightly chilled to its ideal temperature, reveals its delicious flavours, just as the winemaker intended.”

Older wines are better than young wines with food

It all depends on your palate. Many wine drinkers actually prefer the fresh, fruity taste of young wines to the earthy, more mature older styles with their elegant complexity.

More than 90% of all wine is actually consumed within a few days of its release, while aging wine requires stable temperatures to maintain the quality of wine, and the cork.

Determining which bottles to age and when to open them is among the most puzzling aspects of wine, says New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov.

“The best time to open a bottle is subjective,” he says. “The trick is getting to know your own preferences, which takes a bit of time and effort.”

The date on a bottle of wine is the release date

No, the year on a bottle of wine is the ‘vintage’ – the year in which the grapes were picked.

Many wines mature in oak, or in bottles, for several years before being released.

Foreign wines are better than Australian wines

It all depends on your personal taste. 

Wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy in France can be ludicrously expensive, while Australian wines have gained international acceptance over the past couple of years.

“For some years Australians have been at the cutting edge of the new World of Wine,” says leading English wine writer and educator Jancis Robinson.

Wines under screwcap are of lesser quality than those under cork

Corks are notoriously unreliable, with as many as one in 10 failing to deliver.

If you choose a wine bottled under cork, it is a case of buyer beware.

All wines in the TayloWakefield range are bottled under screw caps, which are not only more reliable, but are also much easier to user at picnics or on the beach.