Wine 101: red wine

If the length (and detail) of a wine list, or the sheer number of options at the bottle shop tends to leave you scrambling for a decision, you're not alone.

We enlisted the help of Dan Murphy’s wine expert, Peter Nixon, to make sense of our wine orders.

Here he notes the difference between pinot noir and shiraz, and the top dishes to pair each wine with.

Pinot noir

Where does it originate from?

This variety’s spiritual home is Burgundy, while excellent pinot noir hails from Mornington Peninsula, Macedon, Tasmania, Gippsland and parts of the Yarra Valley, and the Bellarine Peninsula, near Geelong.

What does it taste like (and what is it typically made up of)?

Pinot noir is an early ripening grape variety. Its thin skins lack the darker pigments of shiraz or cabernet, yet pinot noir’s wines boast brisk acidity and tannins that are sometimes ‘silky’, but more often savoury and versatile.

Pinot noir’s best dry red wines are light on their feet and infused with a crunchy tension.

What food should I eat when drinking it?

Fruitier pinot noirs can be a great match for oily fish and shellfish, while the more savoury, tannic versions are ideal with pies, or this roasted marmalade duck with cherry sauce.

Roast duck with cherry sauce


Where does it originate from?

South Australia, and particularly the Barossa Valley, is home to the world’s oldest shiraz vines, many unirrigated and on their own root systems.

What does it taste like (and what is it typically made up of)?

Highly collectible, these wines unravel over time to give aromas of soy, Chinese five-spice and dark fruit compote.

What food should I eat when drinking it?

Shiraz demands food that won’t be outmuscled by its big, bold flavours – look to fare such as these gourmet beef burgers or steaks.

gourmet beef burgers

Cabernet sauvignon

Where does it originate from?

Cabernet sauvignon is the classic red grape of Bordeaux; top producers of Bordeaux include Haut-Brion in the Graves region, and Châteaux Latour, Lafite and Margaux, in the Haut-Médoc.

What does it taste like (and what is it typically made up of)?

Cabernet sauvignon produces savoury medium to full-bodied dry red wines, boasting aromas of cedar and currant, with hints of mint. Ideally, they are neither too lean nor astringent, and are balanced by finely grained tannins and brisk acidity.

What food should I eat when drinking it?

While meat dishes are the obvious pairing, cabernet also sings with hard cheeses and in Bordeaux, it is traditionally paired with freshwater eel in a red wine sauce! If you’re not a fan of eel, try this classic beef wellington with cauliflower cream.

beef wellington with cauliflower cream


Where does it originate from?

A fizzy (carbonated) wine originating from Northern Italy, although excellent examples are now also produced in Australia.

What does it taste like (and what is it typically made up of)?

Produced from the Muscat grape, moscato is deliciously fruity and sweet with aromas and flavours of pink lemonade, turkish delight, and stonefruit.

What food should I eat when drinking it?

Traditionally consumed with panettone, moscato is also excellent with gorgonzola (or other creamy, salty blue cheeses) and fruit; for a magnificent Aussie match, try moscato with pavlova.

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