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How to pick wine like an expert

Thanks to our friends at Jacob’s Creek

Wine. The most delicious, varied and complex drink on the planet, and the elixir that’s got us through 2020 so far, along with television marathons and Business Chicks events (obviously).

Ever glanced at an extensive wine list in a fancy restaurant and, for a split second, wished you were in a grubby pub where the choices are just “red” or “white”? You’re not the only one. And while you might know your Pinot Noir from your Pinot Gris, choosing wine can still be a minefield (or should that be winefield?).

Our friends at Jacob’s Creek are here to help. Jacob’s Creek Group White and Sparkling Winemaker, Trina Smith, and brand Wine Ambassador, Kristy Farrell, recently joined us to dish out helpful tips and tricks so you can grab the drinks list at your next outing, and spout wine lingo like a sommelier.


The 101 on our favourite drops

The fermented juice of a single grape can offer so many varieties, and how a wine will taste depends on the variety of grape, the soil, the harvest time, and where it’s grown. Trina and Kristy gave us a run down on some of the Business Chicks community’s favourite varieties.


Originally hailing from Germany, Riesling is generally lighter in alcohol and higher in natural acidity than other varieties. This is one where the region and vintage really shine through, so the winemaker generally doesn’t play around with it too much. Riesling can age for decades, and as it does it takes on beautiful natural characteristics.

Look to South Australia’s Clare Valley and Eden Valley, the Macedon Ranges in Victoria, and Great Southern Ranges in Western Australia.


Chardonnay has gone through a bit of an identity crisis over the years, but both Trina and Kristy love it for its versatility. It can take anything the winemaker throws at it and is one of the three main varieties used in sparkling wine and champagne.

It’s adaptable to grow across the world and you’ll find beautiful chardonnays in vineyards across Australia.

Pinot noir

Pinot noir is a fussy grape variety; it’s hard to grow but very easy to drink!

Its grapes have a thin skin, with low to medium levels of tannin (the naturally occurring compounds of a grape that cause that drying and puckering sensation.)

It prefers cool (but not too cold) conditions, so grows well in the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills and Marlborough in New Zealand.


Shiraz, also known as syrah, gets its colour from the thick dark skin of the grapes. It’s got medium to high levels of tannin and takes on different flavours depending on where its grown. Lok to colder regions for a black pepper/smoked meat flavour, or warmer climates for that sweet spice/liquorice taste.


Hot tips when ordering wine

 The mark-up of a wine list can be 300% compared to retail, so it pays to be considerate of how you make your selection.

  • Do your research beforehand! We bet you’ve lurked the menu before visiting a favourite restaurant, so next time you’ve got a booking, why not look at the wine list in advance, too.
  • Get to know the tastes of the people you’re ordering with. Are they white or red drinkers? What food do you think they’ll be ordering? What price bracket do you think they’ll stick to?
  • Remember that you’re paying for the experience and expertise of the staff, so once you’ve decided on a price point, call the sommelier over! They’ve probably selected the wine list themselves and can recommend exactly what to order. As Trina said, “it’s like seeing a doctor – tell them everything you want and they’ll give you a diagnosis.”
  • When the bottle is brought to the table for you to test, check that the vintage is correct as per the menu. Once it’s poured, check for faults. Make sure it doesn’t have that distinct wet cardboard/wet dog smell from a corked bottle of wine.
  • Most importantly? Enjoy the wine!


How to pair your food and wine

You can select a wine that complements a dish, or one that acts as a congruent. A good rule of thumb is that the wine should be more acidic than the food. Crisp, acidic wines balance food, and the acid of the wine should be able to cut through the fat of an oily or creamy dish.

Food and wine matches made in heaven

  • Feasting on a slow cooked roast lamb? Consider robust reds like a cabernet or a grenache
  • Peppered steak on the menu? A bold shiraz works perfectly.
  • Chicken with a creamy sauce? A full-bodied chardonnay will really shine.
  • Enjoying fish? Consider a pinot grigio.
  • Grazing on fetta or olives? Sauvignon blanc is your best friend.

And while we love these combos, remember that food and wine pairings are totally subjective! Wine is for enjoyment, so pick what you love to drink and remember that it’s the ambience that will bring it all together. Cheers to that!

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