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From choosing wine to food and drink pairings: Advice from a Master Sommelier

By Cameron Douglas

From choosing wine to food and drink pairings: Advice from a Master Sommelier
What's the perfect wine and cheese pairing? And how do you decipher champagne lingo? MiNDFOOD Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas demystifies the world of wine. 

Deciphering champagne labels

So you’re at your favourite wine shop and chosen a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. Some of the label language looks familiar however some may not so clear. Some useful explanations here may assist.

‘Sec’ wines have 17-32 grams of sugar per litre and like the extra dry style have a noticeable sweetness, they are good for naturally sweeter food as well. ‘Demi-sec’ wines have 32-50 grams of sugar per litre and are a sweet wine, at least on the scale for champagnes and sparkling wines, they can be used to pair with foods that have an obvious chilli spice or desserts with some sweetness, but not a lot of sugar.

The ‘Doux’ label term is a sweet champagne, great with desserts or dishes that have a noticeable heat spice content, they have more than 50 grams of sugar per litre.

Dinner party etiquette

Choosing wine to share at a party can be a real challenge. I’ve observed strangers use ‘my wine’ to fill their glass near the top, take a slug and pretend all is cool. If you’ve experienced that scenario here are two solutions; just share, it’s okay; or bring along bring two bottles, one to share leaving the second bottle in the carry bag close to your spot in the room.

Truth is, hiding wine at parties just isn’t kosha, parties are about hospitality and sharing. If you really need to have a glass of that special wine then open it early, share with the host or close friends first then chill and have some fun.

A guide to wine and cheese pairings

Wine and cheese are natural partners. The protein goodness in cheese and tannins in red wine have been romantically linked for decades. Our diets have certainly evolved to include more diverse, sophisticated and home-grown cheese options.

  • Pinot Noir and Gruyere: Gruyere is a Swiss hard cheese. It’s a little bit sweet and a little bit salty and quite tangy. Great for the leftover Pinot Noir when the main meal is done.
  • Chardonnay and Epoisses or Triple Cream: These two cheeses are weighty, very creamy and the warmer they get the more intense and delicious they become. The rind in both cheeses do have a light bitterness which needs to be tamed with the right wine. A full-bodied, weighty, oaky and rich Chardonnay is the ideal match.
  • Riesling and Ricotta: Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep, cow, goat. Ideal for snacks, salads and even desserts. Riesling is the ideal wine as it is also light weight, the high acidity contrast the gentle crumbly texture of the cheese and the cheese highlights the floral and citrus flavours in the wine.
  • Sauvignon Blanc and Chevre: French for goat’s cheese Chevre is an essential cheese board component pre-dinner. Tangy, robust, slightly salty and with a mealy creamy texture. Sauvignon Blanc is an ideal partner – the cheese contrasts the acidity, both wine and cheese have potency, power and intensity.
  • Gewürztraminer and Stinky Cheese: What’s stinky cheese you ask? Well, it’s any cheese that pongs when it gets warm, needs its own fridge. A wine that is going to have any chance of competing is Gewürztraminer. In an off-dry or late harvest style Gewurz’ has the power, intensity weight and richness to contrast most stinky monster cheeses.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon or blends and Gouda or Cheddar: Gouda is a mild, yellow cheese, originating from the Netherlands, made from cow’s milk. Originating in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset.
  • Syrah and all the cheese listed above: Syrah is one of the wines that twists and turns around most cheese types and styles though it’s not great friends with super stinky or blue cheese when it’s old (over 10 years).


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