By Richard Slater

    Suddenly the end of the calendar year is in sight, and there is generally a range of functions, dinners and gifts that are required. Here’s some ideas to get ahead (a corkscrew, a champagne stopper and decent glassware are prerequisites).

    It’s a great idea to have a few bottles in a box; whites need less than 30 minutes to cool in the fridge (sparklings a bit longer), reds don’t need chilling (except if it’s very hot!). I have suggested some current favourite wines, but there are many, many alternatives to consider. Experiment!

    Drink (and eat) in moderation, drink water too – a remember the sunscreen if outside!


    Many different wine styles can kick things off. A glass of sparkling wine is versatile (Brown Brothers, House of Arras, Coldstream Hills). If your budget stretches to Champagne, Taittinger, Billlecart or Bollinger easily meet my standards!

    Rosé styles have boomed in popularity, with their refreshing crunchiness and my choices include Deep Woods, Stephen Pannell or La Linea.


    Seafood is wine-friendly; Rieslings from Best’s, Granite Hills or Pikes are easy to recommend; the Tahbilk Marsanne’s are another minerally crisp style.

    Roast chicken (or similar) or pasta with creamier sauces is the forte of Chardonnays with their creamier, rich mouthfeel, and Oakridge, Tolpuddle, Shaw and Smith will provide stunning accompaniment.

    Ham or turkey match amazingly with Sparkling reds – it’s hard to go past Seppelts, but Ashton Hills, Andersons, and Primo Estate are worth hunting for. A pork roast will work with the Rieslings or Chardonnays; a heftier red meat will succeed with a spicier-styled Shiraz (Clonakilla, Voyager, Seppelt or St Hallett ) or some newer varieties (Sangiovese from Coriole or Tar and Roses; Grenache from Stephen Pannell’ there are many other choices.

    Lamb is classically accompanied by Cabernet Sauvignon; and Xanadu, Wynns are high on the list.

    Dessert and cheese

    With something simple (fresh fruit platter), or a fruit pie – a sweet wine is just a winner. The Deen de Bortoli botrytis Semillon is insane value; Mt Horrocks or Tim Adams produce excellent sweet Rieslings.

    With the enormous variation in cheeses available, there is no wine that will match everything. Some will work better than others – I’ve had some success not just with red wines, but with Chardonnay.

    Winding up

    With coffee or just lounging around, Australian fortified wines represent true bargains; Seppeltsfield “Para” ports, and muscats or topaques (particularly Morris) just fit beautifully; for Vintage fortifieds Pfeiffer “Christopher’s” is a complete delight, and the Peter Lehman “the king” is more widely available.


    If duck or spare ribs – grace the table, its hard to past Pinot Noir. Alas, its less easy to find respectable examples on a budget, so splash out with Montalto, Giant Steps or Bay of Fires.


    It’s inevitable that the fridge will be full of remainders from meals; this has the benefit of reducing meal preparation time. One handy tip for your wine accompaniments; don’t feel obliged to finish open bottles – the screw-cap is a wonderful invention; I often pour wine remnants into half bottles (or smaller). This can keep your wine fresh; another useful tool is to protect your wine with a cover of inert gas (Winesave is excellent).


    Finally, a few ideas for gifts. The best clue is to know what your person drinks – white, red, sparkling, and what styles; the better your homework, the greater the chance that the gift will be welcomed. Then ask for some help within your budget – helping customers with options is the most enjoyable part of sales staff duties.

    Wine aficionados can be very fussy about glassware- Riedel is a well- marketed brand; I am partial to Zalto; the “universal” is excellent; the more cumbersome “Burgundy” glass is outstanding.

    One fantastic long-lasting gift is a wine appreciation course – whether a few hours or a course across several weeks (or more) will improve confidence, knowledge and the ability to describe and articulate impressions. It’s a gift that keeps providing rewards.

    Now, I’m off shopping!

    Richard Slater
    Richard Slater
    Richard lives in Altona Meadows with his partner and daughter. Pre-COVID, he thrashed the local Men's Shed, various libraries, and U3A. He is learning guitar (acoustic and electric) and blues harmonica,  merrily cluttering home with books, CDs and classic DVDs. is his outlet for selected reviews and wine-related humour.

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