You’re drinking wine all wrong
I KNOW it can seem hard to believe given all the practice we've had, but we're drinking wine wrong.
Every week the average Australian will sink four glasses of the grape juice. For me, that's a Wednesday, but moving on.
Specifically, when it comes to red we're making a serious error quaffing it at room temperature. And given red is one of the favourite Christmas tipples, we're going to do all sorts of wrong in the coming days.
That's the view of Peter Nixon, head of liquor retailer Dan Murphy's wine panel. And given his entire job is glugging a wider variety of plonk than just about any other Aussie, this guy should know right.
"I travel the world helping the team to buy wine, so yeah, I have a fantastic job," said Mr Nixon, a man who made some very astute career choices.
He gave news.com.au his top choices for wine, beer and spirits over the yuletide break.
But back to red wine and Mr Nixon said sparkling chilled shiraz is continuing to grow and has now gone from a quirky and quaint drop to a mainstream choice.
And there's a good reason - because in many ways it's making up for a mistake we're all making.
"Australians are starting to understand that temperature is really important to red wine," he said.
Ever since we've been drinking wine, most of us would store the white in the fridge and the red on the rack. As directed on the bottle.
Nope. Big no no. You want to stop that.
Because those storage instructions are based on an ideal temperature that, particularly in summer in Australia, doesn't happen.
"European room temperatures are 18C but in Australia in summer we can get to 30C."
And that's just way too warm for a good red.
"So if you whack a robust red wine in the fridge for half an hour before you serve it - or 10 minutes in ice - they'll look fresher and you get more flavour in your glass," he told news.com.au.
Of course, sparkling reds are designed to only ever be drunk chilled and they provide a full-bodied alternative to the more traditional bubbles. Australian sparkling red winemakers like McGuigan and Black Chook reckon they create the best in the world.
Sparkling red wine is grown and produced identically to traditional reds up to the second fermentation when the bubbles are added.
It's an especially good accompaniment to spicy foods. But at Christmas, use it as an alternative drop for a toast or even as a pairing with a creamy, fruity pavlova.
OUR CHRISTMAS ALCOHOL TASTES CHANGING
Australia's high temperatures are also one of the reasons rosé wines do so well, Mr Nixon said.
"Rosé is still very much in growth because it suits our climate. It's a great aperitif glass to have when you're not sitting down because it's not too full and heavy and full of tannins.
"Most rosés are bone dry so have no sugar at all."
According to online comparison site finder.com.au, Australians will spend an average of $131 each on booze this Christmas, or a cool $2.5 billion collectively.
Mr Nixon said Australian tastes are changing when it comes to Yuletide tipples.
"Once upon a time it was a choice of beer, red or white, but nowadays people are really good at considering a broader audience and have a much greater repertoire of drinks.
"So it could be everything from an Aperol spritz to start and moscato to finish.
"People are drinking less, but they're drinking better. They're also more responsible than in the past, and might have mineral water as well, so that's to be encouraged," he said.
Prosecco was likely to continue to encroach on champagne territory this Christmas.
"Champagne can be quite rich and people don't know what they're getting. Prosecco doesn't have that complexity; instead it's light and simple."
OTHER CHOICE DROPS
The top selling wine varietal over Christmas will be an old favourite - the New Zealand Marlborough sauvignon blanc. But people often trade up to a ritzier brand of sauv blanc to impress the in-laws, Mr Nixon said.
Gin is also on the rise, be that London Dry, local varieties from, say, the Yarra Valley or fancy Japanese brands.
"The gin category is exploding. My favourite is Manly Spirits coastal citrus gin which is savoury and tastes almost like the sea breeze."
Beer-wise, the general trend is towards craft. But if you want a Christmas classic, fear not, he said.
"Crown Lager still sells well at Christmas. It's still very popular and it looks very festive too."