A beginner’s guide to buying good wine: For mains and desserts

So you’ve nailed the starter – what about the other two courses?




De Bortoli – Family Selection Shiraz – 2013, 13.5%

Shiraz is a variety that splits people. Often it can be overwhelming due to its naturally high alcoholic content and strong robust tanins. This, the second of the wines from the De Bortoli family is a not what you would usually expect from an Aussie Shiraz. The climate would usually create an extremely full bodied and complex dark fruit flavour wine but in this case that hasn’t happened. The wine is a lot lighter than you’d expect but this was a pleasant surprise. During the harvest period there was minimal rainfall which left the grapes used in this wine extremely ripe and full of flavour explaining the lighter more red fruit driven notes on both the nose and the palate. Warm this wine up a tad, 10-15 minutes on the radiator or in front of the fire and it does a world of good to it.

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On the nose the wine is spicy and oaky with redcurrant and blackberry notes. The wine is quite pronounced on the nose and it doesn’t take much hunting to find the bold aromas that emanate from the wine. On the palate it’s a lot lighter than expected the deep ruby colour would lead you to believe that the wine is full bodied and extremely bold but I would say the wine is medium bodied and instead of bold blackberry and forest fruit flavours we are met with fruitier notes of plum, raspberry and damson. The wine is dry and has a good length to it. I’d recommend it if you’re open minded, although it differs to the stereotypical eucalyptus and black pepper notes of Aussie Shiraz.

With regards to food, this would work really well with something that has some acidity to it, like a tomato based pasta dish – something that has some tang to match the fruitiness of this wine. The wine is available at Waitrose and at £7.49 it’s a total bargain.


Marques De Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 14.5%

This wine is the best. It’s also the most expensive, which isn’t always the case, but hands down this bad boy wins. The wine is made from a single variety Cabernet Sauvignon, synonymous with some of the most exclusive and expensive wines from around the world. It’s a grape which can create bold and complex wines perfect to match with any wintery meat based dish. Opening this wine and pouring it into a jug or a big old glass allows it to breath and the flavours and wines to open up. It also goes some way to taming the tanin and acidity due to the wine beginning to oxidise.


The wine is most definitely full bodied and has viscosity to it that is like velvet in a glass, on the nose it jumps out and smashes you in the face. There are aromas of cedar, blackcurrant, forest fruits and a vanilla-y oakiness that makes you want to curl up into a blanket in front of a fire and hibernate. The velvety liquid caresses the tongue but also has a fire to it with that high alcohol percentage that would take down even the most professional of special brew drinkers. The alcohol really does hit you like a truck and it’s not one to just glug down – all three of us tasting it had bright red faces after the first glass – but this was all part of the complexity of this wine and why it’s so enjoyable. Flavours of plum, damson, forest fruit and a real warm oaky nature to it (no doubt due to 18 months spent in French oak barrels) make this wine a pleasure to drink and the bottle was finished way to quickly a clear indicator of a winner.

With regards to food the perfect match to this wine would be a steak or lamb chops. It has a great acidity and the tannin in the wine (that feeling like deodorant has been sprayed in your mouth/ furry tongue) would cut through a meat dish really well. The wine is the most expensive, but for a one of dinner this is well worth it if you’re looking to impress. The wine is on sale at Tesco’s for the princely sum of £11.99. I know it’s a lot for one bottle but come on, treat yourself.


The Ned Pinot Grigio 14%

Marisco vineyards produce The Ned in New Zealand in the Marlborough region. Their Pinot is very different to the first one in the review. Without the hot climate the grape takes on a far crisper and acidic flavour profile in contrast to the previous Aussie Pinot. There was a slight pink hue to it which is a common trait of well-made Pinot Grigio that hasn’t had all its characteristics stripped or filtered out and is actually quite pleasant on the eye compared to the water like pale Italian pinots. Again as the wine is a white wine it needs to be chilled down to be drunk.

On the nose it’s fresh and acidic with citrus notes and fresh cut grass wafting out of the glass, you don’t have to hunt for the nose it comes right out at you which in turn is a good indicator of quality. On the palate the wine is crisp and dry it has good acidity and is light bodied. It has a really fruity flavour profile with notes of apricot and blossom with a slightly pear droppy after taste the wine has a good length and is well balanced. With regards to food this could pair well with a creamy chicken dish or if you’re looking for a bold taste it could work very well with Chinese or Cantonese food such as Dim Sim and other dumpling/noodle type dishes. I really rated this wine and would probably say it was the best out of the dry whites. It’s available in Sainsbury’s on offer at £7.50.


Plaimont Producteurs Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Duc de Termes – France 2011

If you can manage to pronounce the name of this wine then congratulations as it had me and three of my chums stammering and stuttering like a spotty teen on a first date. Once you overcome this barrier though this wine is a complete treat. This is a sweet wine, meaning the sugars that naturally occur in the grape have been preserved through a myriad of ways. The grape is harvested late to allow more time for the sugars to develop and for the water content in the grape to reduce due to the intense baking heat of the sun during this time of year. Due to this the wine is very thick and almost syrupy. It’s full bodied, extremely sweet and not for the faint hearted. Serve it chilled to get the best from it.

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On the nose it’s delicious. There are notes of jasmine, honey and orange peel that combines into a trifecta of flavour. It jumps out of the glass and into the nose with ease and is a pleasure to both smell and taste. On the palate the wine is viscous and thick it coats your mouth leaving behind flavours of Honey and blossom with an acidity that brings it all together in one fruity sweet sugar bomb. It’s best suited to something like a Tarte Tatin or, if you don’t want to overload on the sugar, then Blue Cheeses such as stilton or gorgonzola would be a great alternative and would complement this wine exquisitely. The wine is available from Tesco’s for the bargain price of £5.99 which in my eyes is a real bargain and well worth a try.