Try these unique, lighter red wines, perfect to match with food and right on trend.
See the light
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.
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.
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First appeared for Vintage Cellars in Cellar Press magazine.