Eat & Drink

I Got Day Drunk With A Sommelier & Learned About Wine

Wine is one of those things that know or you don’t, ya know? Either you can tell your Riesling from your Chardonnay, or you found yourself watching Kath & Kim and repeating “Cardonnay” as gospel.

That makes for two types of people in the world: people who understand wine, and people who can’t remember the last time they drank it but are pretty sure it was on the dancefloor at the office Christmas party.

I’m the first to admit that I’m a Dumb Bitch when it comes to wine. So I chatted to Michela Lubbers, the sommelier at Fred’s in Sydney, and asked her a few Basic Bitch questions about the elusive drink.

After a twenty minute chat and an impromptu wine tasting, I went from this:

To being able to say things like, “It’s aromatic but not too strong, like very gentle flowers.” Or at least, being able to understand what Michela meant when she said it.

If you want to know how to pick a wine, how long you can keep an open bottle, how to pick a wine if you’ve only got a few bucks to spare and and what a sommelier’s favourite cheap wine is, read on.

We talked to a sommelier to find out everything you need to know about wine.

Michela joined the team at Fred’s in 2018, after working as a sommelier at Dinner by Heston in Melbourne for two years. She’s been curating the wine menu and offering diners her expert opinions at the farm-to-table restaurant ever since.

First thing’s first, what’s the difference between different types of wine?

“White wine is simple: it’s wine that that’s been made with white grapes,” Michela said.

In fact, white, rosé and red are all pretty much the same, they just use different grapes. “The colour in the grape is contained in the skin. So if you leave the juice in contact with the skin, it’s going to pick up a lot of colour.”

Michela even spilled the tea on the difference between good and cheap sparkling. “You can simply add, honestly, even some CO2 for the cheapest way. You have a very strong bubble at the beginning and after that, it’s done. When you have a really good champagne, perhaps the bubbles aren’t as strong, but they’re consistent.”

Does the glass you drink from actually matter?

Michela admitted that it does make a difference, since a bigger glass lets wine aerate more and a smaller glass contains the aromas.

But does it really matter? “I would say if you have something in the middle, that’s okay. Go for it! At home I only have one kind of glass and I’m pretty happy with that.”

How long can you keep an open bottle of wine?

“I would probably say three days. A really good wine might last for a little bit longer. But if it’s been more than three days, I probably wouldn’t drink it at home.”

What’s the difference between a $5 bottle and a $50 bottle of wine?

Here’s where Michela dunked on cask wine and goon, but with good reason, turns out.

“Think about how much the packaging costs. How much the marketing costs, and the transport. The people making it should get paid as well. To get the price so low, most likely it’s a really big production done by machines. Everything is made in bulk. It’s probably going to have a lot of things that have been used to make sure the wine tastes exactly the same, and they might not necessarily be the best for your health.”

How do you pick a good wine in a bottle shop?

The most important thing, according to Michela, is whether the wine comes from a hot or cold region.

“Get familiar with about four main grapes. Try an example from each, and then just play around with it or ask for a suggestion. Maybe that’s the moment you find something else that’s super exciting.”

What’s your favourite cheap wine?

“It’s not really a bottle, it’s a grape. I like to go for Chenin Blanc. It’s not very well known, so it’s usually a bit cheaper. So you have a good quality wine for less. Usually, a bottle of Chenin Blanc is going to be very crisp and fresh, but it’s going to have a little bit of roundness in the aftertaste.”


And then we started drinking.

At this point I was feeling like maybe wine was my drink and I just didn’t know it, so Michela raced off to grab some bottles for me to try.

She came back with a Riesling, an Arneis and a French Chardonnay that’s so bougie I can’t even find it on any Australian wine sale websites.

As I drank (Michela spat her wine out because she’s a professional, but I’m a poor writer who loved the idea of having wine for breakfast), Michela talked me through each of the wines, including why she’d picked them out for me. Her picks were all amazing, and I think maybe I like wine now?

My one piece of advice to anyone starting out on their wine journey is to be aware that if you want to enjoy wine, you’re going to have to drop more cash than you might have originally intended. But it’ll be worth it. If you don’t consider yourself a wine drinker, it might just be that you haven’t found the right one.

Just like men, it turns out it takes time and effort to find a good wine, except it’s so much more satisfying to find a good wine.

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

(Lead image: Kath & Kim / ABC)