See the light

Try these unique, lighter red wines, perfect to match with food and right on trend.   

Two glasses of red from above

Australia’s warm climate, outdoor lifestyle and openness to new flavours have shifted our food focus from traditional Anglo-Australian styles to the spicier, lighter flavours of Asia, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Mexico. While our whites and rosés go well with these more exotic cuisines, our classic red varieties can be too brash to partner with these fresher food styles. Enter the light red varieties, a perfect solution.

Pinot noir

The darling of both dedicated and casual wine-lover, pinot noir can do no wrong – except that it only shines when produced in cool sites and can be pricey. Pinot’s light, red-fruited flavours, modest tannins and refreshing acidity make it highly versatile for all sorts of food. Look for the entry-level pinots from high-profile winegrowers as they’re both reliable and good value.

Food pairing: Duck in all its mouth-watering forms – especially Peking duck or pair a pinot with smoked ocean trout rillettes.


Gamay’s bright red berry flavours, supple tannins and savoury profile make it a more rustic alternative to pinot noir. The mandatory red grape of Beaujolais, Gamay enjoys being produced in warmer environments and granitic soils – Australia has an abundance of both, so we are planting more. Look out for the real thing from Beaujolais, France, under names such as Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent and Brouilly.

Food pairing: Rabbit terrine with cornichons and a crusty baguette or Thai beef salad.


Grenache has reached a fork in the road – one path leads to an old-school big, rich and concentrated style, often blended with shiraz and mourvèdre. The other track takes a pinot noir approach to the winemaking – earlier picking, less extraction and minimal oak intervention. These earlier picking, bright and breezy grenaches offer the variety’s juicy raspberry, cherry flavours but without excessive alcohol and harsh tannins. As such grenache nouveau works with spicy food, burgers and barbecued lamb cutlets. Oh, and grenache is the French name, in Spain it's known as garnacha.

Food pairing: Bratwurst sausages with lots of caramelised onions or a Moroccan lamb tagine.


Sangiovese hails from Tuscany, Italy, where it’s the cornerstone grape of chianti. First planted in Australia in the mid-1980s, sangiovese likes temperate climates such as Mudgee in New South Wales, the King Valley and Heathcote in Victoria, and McLaren Vale, South Australia. Its hallmark flavours are raspberry and red cherry mingled with fresh tobacco and dried herbs. Sangiovese’s high natural acidity and mild-mannered tannins endear the variety to all sorts of Italian-style food, especially tomato-based recipes.

Food pairing: A classic pizza margherita or a Greek-inspired moussaka.


The hot days, cool nights and cold winters of tempranillo’s homeland – the windswept high plateaus of northern Spain - are repeated in the wine regions such as the Hilltops and Orange in NSW, Heathcote, Victoria and the Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley in South Australia. Tempranillo’s flavours are of wild raspberry, liquorice and sarsaparilla with a lithe frame and fine tannins. Think a cool-climate shiraz with a spike of spice. As such, tempranillo looks set to enter our winegrowing mainstream.

Food pairing: Slow-roasted lamb shoulder or a traditional Mexican chilli con carne.

Try these

Aradon Rioja, Spain

A real rioja with those unmistakable fine soft tannins of tempranillo that fill the mouth with berry fruit balanced by savoury notes.

Running With Bulls Tempranillo, Barossa

Medium-bodied, offering a complex array of spice, black cherry and plum with a savoury edge.

Innocent Bystander Tempranillo, Heathcote

Dark berry flavours blend with subtle, earthy spice in this smooth and juicy, vibrant red.

Grant Burge Little Kings Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre, Barossa

Impresses with a delicious berry, honey nougat and orange peel nose.

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley

Delights with ripe fruit characters of cherry and raspberry and savoury overtones.

Tamar Ridge Pinot Noir, Tamar Valley

Upfront dark berry fruit hints of the complexity to come. The silky mouth feel is long and flavoursome.

Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy

Intense aromas of berries mix with hints of vanilla, chocolate and gentle tannins.

Torbreck The Steading Grenache Blend, Barossa

An incredibly ripe and sweet-fruited bouquet and palate, it shows grenache’s love for the heat.

Coles Liquor supports the responsible enjoyment of alcohol. We support DrinkWise, an independent not-for-profit organisation with the primary focus of helping to bring about a healthier and safer drinking culture in Australia. 

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First appeared for Vintage Cellars in Cellar Press magazine.