YOU ONLY NEED TO walk through the city around 6PM to know silly season is in full swing. Grown men everywhere are wearing flamboyant Christmas shirts while Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ is playing at Friendsmas celebrations from Perth to Hobart. Whether you’re hosting or BYO-ing, chances are, the question of what to drink across the festive period has crossed your mind more than once. Sometimes, it’s a relatively easy one to answer (Prosecco rarely fails). But when you’re planning a dinner party for 15 thirsty family members, finding a crowd-pleasing wine that’s refreshing yet impressive can feel like a complex puzzle to solve.
But according to Ned Goodwin, wine in summer isn’t something we should overthink. The Master of Wine at Australia’s premier luxury fine wine destination Langtons, Goodwin recently sat down with Esquire to share his favourite summer wines—and debunk some of the most common wine-drinking myths.
Esquire Australia: When planning a summer feast, how should we approach food and wine pairing?
Ned Goodwin: Aside from the dreaded combination of red wine with oysters—a sensorial conflation so egregious that it will turn all but a pirate from drinking wine ever again—I pay little attention to food and wine pairings. I believe the quality of the individual components transcend the sum of their parts; quality wine and quality produce are tantamount to an enjoyable experience, irrespective of the naysayers and putative ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’. In essence, I believe the ostensible science of food and wine pairings are bogus.
So this summer, when serving stone fruits, flavourful green vegetables and, of course, seafood, my advice is to not overthink it. Not even during the celebratory binge of Christmas Day, which inevitably lasts until New Year, when red meat (for those who eat it) will surely appear on the menu at some stage. Instead, throw out the rule book, keep it simple and stick to what you like.
That’s a relief to hear. So, what white wines are you recommending?
My recommendations are wines of freshness and levity. Grower Champagne, taut and lower of dosage, is a great place to start a meal. Jerome Coessens’ Champagne Coessens Largillier Blanc de Noirs Brut NV, which is grown in a family-owned vineyard on the Champagne region’s southern frontier, is one of my current favourites.
Contemporary Aussie Chardonnay, like Mchenry Hohnen’s Calgardup Brook Vineyard Chardonnay from the Margaret River, is tensile, pungent and effortlessly drinkable.
And what red wines are suitable for drinking in summer?
Pinot noir from Germany’s warmer south—the arriviste vying with Burgundy for ‘best of’ bragging rights in the world’s finest wine venues, from New York to Tokyo—is also a knockout summer wine, though a little heavier for those who like something more forceful. I recommend the 2016 Thorpe Probstey Spatburgunder from Rheinhessen in Germany. Floral, spicy and elevated, a Syrah from the northern Rhône’s Côte-Rötie in France is also elegant. Try the Sybarine from Domaine Garon if this sounds like you.
These are wines that pull the saliva from the mouth, make us want to eat and best, incite us to reach for the third and the fourth glass, rather than struggling to finish the first.
This is not to say that these wines are necessarily light weight. Rather, they boast sassy fruit, crunchy textures and a vibrato of fresh acidity pitched across the palate, especially when served at an optimal temperature of 13 to 16 degrees. Even a wine defined by a mien of sturdy tannins—such as the legendary and prodigiously rare Biondi-Santi Brunello—works by virtue of the warmer 2015 vintage, which gives it a looser weave of dried thyme, anise, mint and sapid cherry accents.
How do you recommend serving wine in the warmer months?
Admittedly, I tend to serve wines of both colours at the same temperature. This is because when a wine is too cold, it is hard to discern its personality traits. Conversely, when it is too warm (room temperature of an Australian home during the summer months, or behind the bar at one’s local), its detail and sense of freshness is engulfed by a waft of volatiles and alcohol, making it feel heavy and clunky. As a result, it is a good idea to keep a large ice slushy on hand for tweaking the temperature of wines of any colour. A simple recipe that remains unfathomably complicated for most restaurants will do the trick: one-third water and two-thirds crushed ice.
Ned Goodwin is an English-born, Australian-raised Master of Wine. He has worked as a sommelier, educator, show judge and consultant, in Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. He is Japan’s first Master of Wine, and also had his own Japanese television show on wine, ‘Vintage’ (2000). He is currently splits his time between Tokyo and Sydney, where he is the Master of Wine at Luxury Fine Wine Destination Langtons.