I hope you noticed that you were given a white wine glass of Sparkling Wine and not a flute! In the Champagne region flutes are regarded as suitable for cheap bubbly as they accentuate the bubbles, but quality Champagne has flavour, and this is brought out best by a white wine glass. Champagne is perceived there as a superior white wine rather than glorified soda water.
To-night we will be tasting seven local wines and some beers with the various courses. The wines are a sampling only of perhaps forty available at cellar doors for you to try in this area. Do check them out.
First, the differences between beer and wine.
Many boutique brewers do regard their beers in the same way that artisan wineries regard wine, as food accompaniments, but their origins and histories are very different. Beer derives from grains and used to be made by mixing flour with water( added honey would help) and leaving to ferment. Low alcoholic(3-4%) beverages have always been preferred to water for health reasons. After a hard day working in the heat on the Pyramids it was the preferred drink to slake the thirst. Whereas wine is fruit based, also fermented, but expensive and enjoyed by the Pharaoh and the well off at banquets and religious occasions. The famous Roman/ Tuscan grape variety Sangiovese means literally “God’s blood”. Wine has always been a potent symbol of good living and health; God’s blessing on man. Today good wine is available to all and not just the rich. We can now eat and drink daily what only Kings and Queens used to enjoy on special occasions. My personal view is that beers can be mouth cleansers and have a place with curries and spicy foods but otherwise wines win easily because of their diverse styles and affinity with food. Wines are foods too, of course. Beer is a gaseous drink.
Which brings us to the best way to enjoy wine – you eat wine, not drink it. So beer and wine should be tasted differently. It is a common mistake amongst Australian males who drink (real) red wines and regard white wines as “for the ladies”, Pinot Noir for “SNAGs” or worse, “whoosy”. Their method of drinking means they are discerning mouthfeel but missing most of the flavour. To eat wine you keep your head level, put a small portion onto the front of the mouth, leave it there( don’t swallow) maybe chew a little, and wait. Simple, just like you do with food all the time. There is a whole world of wine out there waiting to be discovered!
If you ‘drink’ wine you probably think that quality is ‘weight’ or ‘heaviness’. When you eat wine you will discover ‘length’, the lingering flavours. As opposed to ‘short’, which means the wine has no finish. The latter is very common as it is very cheap to make. You already know about this. What is a good strawberry or tomato? Ones whose flavours last. Cheap(to grow) strawberries or tomatoes are flavourless. It is expensive and takes a lot more care to produce foods and wines that get your attention with enduring flavours. Yes, that’s right, wines share with food the same criterion of
quality. If you can tell the difference between a good and an ordinary strawberry or tomato then you can do the same with wine.
Now let’s look at that confusing topic, Food and Wine Matching. People can get too carried away by this when really common sense can take you far. Yes, white wine goes well with white meats and fish, red wines with red meats. Avoid having wine with chilli type hot foods and save sweet wines to the meal’s end. Anyone who doubts this should try fish or prawns with a bold red or a delicate white with a steak and be aware that you have just wasted good money. What is meant by ‘matching’ is that you can actually taste BOTH the food and the wine. If the food dominates then the wine goes to water or even disappears. If the wine dominates then the food appears tasteless or bland. Here’s a tip – it is the flavoursome wines that go best with food, like Pinot Noir with vegetarian dishes. Many well known Australian reds are best enjoyed by themselves or with a mild cheddar cheese as their high tannins and alcohol tire the mouth quickly.
We, the wine producers of East Gippsland, do believe that our wines are different to the Australian mainstream; that they are especially flavoursome and food friendly, closer to European or even New Zealand styles. This is because of our mild climate. Most of Australia’s wine comes from irrigated hot areas more akin to North Africa than Europe. Secondly, wine always reflects its locality – the soil, climate, its maker – what the French call “terroir”. The combination of features that make each wine unique or individual. So East Gippsland wines are about US. It is what other people will want to come and experience too, because it is quality and only available here. We would all prefer to live in a place that produces quality food and wine.
Gippsland and here in the East has come a long way in the last forty years in our production of food and wines. Many locals are not aware and have yet to catch up on just how good the stuff is that surrounds them. Before you will be placed some typical local foods exquisitely prepared and accompanied by a different wine for each course.
Tonight is about enjoying East Gippsland!