Culture

We asked an expert for wine tasting tips so you can look like a pro

Brancott Estate Identity wine tasting

Fashion Quarterly editor Sally-Ann Mullin would be the first to tell you she knows a thing or two about wine.

But she and the FQ team still learned a whole lot more when they received wine tasting tips from Brancott Estate’s global wine ambassador, Jim Robertson. Trying out the new, vibrant Brancott Estate Identity range, which brings a whole new meaning to what we’ve always conventionally thought of as ‘Malborough wines’, Sally-Ann and the team were treated to insights about the grape origins, the palate make-up, what ‘tannins’ actually are (FYI: basically how “dry” a wine is) plus ideal food pairings and where (and when) to drink it!

Sometimes it can be tricky to settle on which wine for which occasion; and as Jim says: “[Your wine selection] can depend on who you’re with, what time of the day, what the food is and what your mood is”.

With all of this information coming our way, we made it our mission to pull out the best tips to share with you and make wine selection time that much easier.

Read on to see the wines Sally-Ann and the FQ team will be enjoying this season:


For fans of Pinot Gris, this drop does not disappoint. You’ll find notes of pear, apple and even nutmeg in this pale lemon-gold wine; expect plenty of flavour, a bit of texture, some spicy elements and decadence in spades.

If this wine was a person it would be:
Generous, offbeat, optimistic, suave.

We’ll be drinking it:
With a group of friends pre-barbeque, accompanied by a delicious cheese and charcuterie platter.

Necessary glassware: A light-bodied white wine like Pinot Gris requires a glass with a smaller and more narrow bowl, which will keep the wine cool and allow the floral aromatics to be amplified.

Ideal drinking window
Best enjoyed while it is young – so no need to sit on this one! If you’d like to add complexity, keeping it cellared for two to three years is suggested.

Food match
Fusion food that combines a touch of spice and sweetness – think coconut curries or tandoori salmon. Creamy sauces also combine well; mushroom stroganoff as a complementary dish comes highly recommended by Jim and his team. It’s also a great “cheese platter” wine – drink it while you tuck into a sharp cheddar, walnut crackers and quince jam.


A delicate blend of strawberries and raspberries characterise this blush pink wine. Rosé lovers will fall hard for this fresh and crisp blend, with a ripe red fruit fullness and a creamy undertone that will quickly make it your go-to wine all summer long.

If this wine was a person it would be:
Bright, vivid, elegant and poised.

We’ll be drinking it:
While we’re prepping for and consuming summer seafood dinners – it’ll taste even better if you’ve caught the fish or seafood yourself!

Necessary glassware: As there is no rosé-specific stemware, pretty much anything goes! You could opt for a similar style and shape to a Pinot Gris glass, or for a Pinot Noir Rosé like this one, some wine professionals recommend a Pinot Noir glass. You might also want to try a stemless version, although try not to let it get too warm in your hands.

Ideal drinking window
Like all of the wines in this series, it is made to be drunk while young and vibrant. If you’re in possession of a cellar, you can store it for a further 1-3 years to develop more mellow savoury notes.

Food match
Not only is it the perfect accompaniment to fresh seafood (Jim swears by a more “meaty” fish, such as Hapuka), it also teams nicely with fresh Asian flavours, light cheeses, rich dips or hummus, as well as tapas-style shared plates or platters.


When you close your eyes and drink in the notes of this ruby-red wine, you’ll come across damson plum, blackberry fruit, juicy red cherries, tamarillo, hints of toasty oak, spice and vanilla with just a touch of mocha.

If this wine was a person it would be:
Confident, earthy and charismatic.

We’ll be drinking it:
Sitting with the family beside an outdoor fire with toasty blankets wrapped around us as we tell stories and star-gaze.

Necessary glassware: When it comes to reds, glassware can become slightly more complex. A Pinot Noir needs a slightly triangular shape of glass  with a wider bowl that tapers to a narrower opening; this is to hold the aromas in the bowl but also ensures the wine is directed to the tip of the tongue and centre of the palate, so you enjoy the sweetness rather than acidity.

Ideal drinking window
This wine is matured and ready to drink upon release. It may also be cellared carefully for 3-5 years if more developed characters are desired such as smoky, earthy tones.

Food match
Moderate tannins in this Pinot Noir make it a dreamy combination with roasted duck (perhaps served with a traditional plum glaze, or Asian-style with sweet and spicy hoison sauce) or with braised lamb, which has been seasoned with rosemary or tarragon. Jim’s pick would be to take a fresh salmon (preferably from the Malborough Sounds) or tuna steak, brush it with olive oil and cook it on a coal barbeque, to give it a smoky taste which will pair nicely with the Pinot Noir.


Classic Sauvignon Blanc aromas such as gooseberry, grapefruit and pear can be found here accompanied by slightly unexpected notes of nettle, tomato leaf, citrus flowers and a hint of honey. If you are looking for plenty of taste, look no further than this wine – layers of flavour will unfold continuously in the glass, thanks to the concentration of fruit.

If this wine was a person it would be:
Captivating, audacious and expressive.

We’ll be drinking it:
On a hot summer’s day, with a packed picnic either in the park or at the beach.

Necessary glassware: A glass with a narrow aperture is best here – not only will it keep your wine colder for longer, it also concentrates the aromatics and sends it to the right place in your mouth (down the centre of your palate) so you pick up the sweetness in the wine and avoid tasting too much acidity.

Ideal drinking window
This is a powerful wine ready to be drunk upon release. Or cellar it for up to two years to develop complexity.

Food match
According to Jim: “If it swims in the ocean or clings to a rock – oysters, mussels and so on – it will pair well with this wine”.  Fresh seafood is a natural match as is a salty Caesar salad with grilled chicken, apparently. Otherwise, opt for Asian or Mexican dishes highlighted with fresh coriander, chilli and lime.


If you thought Chardonnay wasn’t in your wine-drinking repertoire, this one might just be the Chardonnay to change your mind. A fruity palate of nectarine, white peaches and apricot team seamlessly with toasted almonds, hints of vanilla and soft oaky undertones to form a wine that is bright, savoury and easy to drink.

If this wine was a person it would be:
Distinctive, eloquent and enticing.

We’ll be drinking it:
With our in-laws over a home-cooked meal we have lovingly prepared (or ordered in!)

Necessary glassware: A fuller-bodied white wine necessitates a glass with a wider bowl, which “opens” up and balances the flavours of the wine and ensures you aren’t overwhelmed when it hits your palate.

Ideal drinking window
This wine can be enjoyed upon release to enjoy the vibrant fruit expression. It will also cellar successfully over the next 2-3 years to further develop toastier and more savoury complexity.

Food match
Another wine which matches well with fish – Jim and the team from Brancott Estate reckon you can’t look past a pan fried snapper! Otherwise a white meat dish such as butterfly chicken on the barbeque or a pork steak with peach chutney are both excellent couplings.


This article is brought to you in partnership with Brancott Estate Identity wines. To find out more about Brancott Estate Identity wines, visit brancottestate.com.

Photos: Rob Trathen

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