Wine notes with Clive Hartley

May 14th, 2024Wine notes with Clive Hartley

It is not something I’d normally recommend, serving a white wine (chardonnay) with steak, but I had it the other night and it made a comparatively good match.

White wine with steak

It is not something I’d normally recommend, serving a white wine (chardonnay) with steak, but I had it the other night and it made a comparatively good match.

Normally, choosing what wine to have with a dish can be as simple as applying long-established rules such as white with fish and red with red meats.

However, there is so much more to consider; the cooking method, sauces and impact of vegetables, accompaniments and farinaceous sides can all change the impact on the taste of the wine and the main ingredient.

Working out the overall dish’s intensity and matching it with a similarly intense wine is a good starting point and ground rule. Light food with light wines etc. But wine can also be used as a palate cleanser, which is what happened in the steak vs chardonnay incident.

Understanding the style of wine and not just the grape variety is another consideration. The chardonnay I had was extremely light and cool climate in style with plenty of acidity. It would have been a different story if the wine had heavier buttery malolactic notes and toasty oak.

I read a comment from Clare Burder, from Eminence Vineyard in the King Valley recently, about the time she was in Japan where a sake producer said to her ‘sake doesn’t fight with food’.

I think many of our wines ‘fight with food’. Our major grape varieties and warm to hot climate produce intense fruit flavours and high alcohol wines. Attributes that don’t marry with the savoury nature of food. Clare thinks that pinot blanc is the closest the wine world has to the matching ability of sake.

It has low aromatics and flavours, gentle structure and can sit in the background rather than dominating the flavour of food. Italian white grapes such as pinot grigio, garganega, fiano, vermentino, verdicchio can also be classified in the same basket.

Locally you can try an outstanding 2023 Pinot Blanc from Granite Hills and Mount Towrong Vineyard produce an attractive 2023 Vermentino and a saline, herbal, light-bodied 2023 Grillo, a white grape found in Sicily.

Red wines that don’t fight with food would be grape varieties like sangiovese, nebbiolo, some gamays and pinot noir. These are light to medium bodied wines that have good levels of acidity, useful in food matching as it acts like seasoning.

Looking over my recent notes, Mount Towrong Nebbiolo 2022, Best’s Pinot Noir 2022 or J.P Trijsburg Pinot Noir 2021and Vinea Marson Sangiovese 2018 fit the bill.

Clive Hartley is an award-winning wine writer, educator and consultant. His 305 page full colour book Australian Wine Guide (7th ed) is available for purchase from Paradise Books in Daylesford or via his website – www.australianwineguide.com.au

More Articles

Back to top