Wine Life: Why you should break this wine pairing rule

Illustration: Simon Letch.
Illustration: Simon Letch. 

News straight from the grapevine.

Wine rule to break

Red with meat, white with fish. It's one of those Wine Rules that seeps into our consciousness somehow as we start out on our drinking journey. And on the whole, there's a lot of wisdom to it: steak seems to have been designed by some gastronomic goddess to go with full-bodied cabernet, and it's hard to think of a better match for fresh prawns than a cold glass of riesling. It wouldn't be nearly as much fun to swap these matches around. (Cabernet and prawns? No thanks.)

But it's worth breaking the rules every now and then. I've long been a huge fan of lighter-bodied red wines such as gamay or pinot noir, served cool, with pink fish – a whole baked trout, perhaps, or seared salmon.

Break the rules: Try a glass of pinot noir alongside seared salmon or trout.
Break the rules: Try a glass of pinot noir alongside seared salmon or trout. Photo: iStock

And I recently discovered that oak-matured sauvignon blanc (winemakers sometimes label this style "fume blanc") is delicious with lamb: the fragrance of the grape variety and the richness of the barrel ageing works really well with the strong flavour and fattiness of the meat. Try it. I think you'll like it.

Wine for chillin'

If you're looking for a good candidate for a light red to stick in the ice bucket, try the 2020 Brackenwood Gamay Pinot Noir ($32), a brilliantly juicy, snappy young red blend from the Adelaide Hills. If the weather's particularly hot, drink it from chilled glasses, too.

Wine for grillin'

When there's something meaty and spicy sizzling on the charcoal – Middle Eastern skewers, say – I often instinctively reach for a bottle of grenache: the red grape produces wines that have just the right fruit sweetness and spice. A particularly bright, bouncy, delicious example is the 2020 Oliver's Taranga Grenache ($32) from McLaren Vale.

Wine in a warmer world

Sacre bleu! In response to the changing climate, the powers-that-be in Bordeaux, one of France's most conservative wine regions, have changed the law to allow six new, heat-tolerant grape varieties to be planted alongside the traditional cabernet and merlot.

In a radical move, two of the grapes – the red touriga nacional and white alvarinho – aren't even French; both hail from Portugal. What next? Sangiovese in Burgundy?

Wine Victoria

Behind the Vines is a new online state-wide wine directory designed to help wine lovers discover cellar doors and support regional producers by buying wine direct. The website features a questionnaire to help tailor information to your wine preferences as well as a range of handy touring maps.


Wish list

Who Bannockburn Vineyards, Geelong

What 2017 SRH Chardonnay

Why It's a masterclass in restraint, subtlety and elegance but also seductively creamy and deeply satisfying.

When A romantic dinner for two.

How much $77


Max Allen is an award-winning journalist and author who has written about wine and drinks for close to 30 years.