This red winemaker who worked on Penfolds’ Grange reveals the biggest mistakes people make with red wine

Mike Farmilo Supplied

Mike Farmilo knows a thing or two about good red wine.

Formerly the Group Red Winemaker at Southcorp Wine Group, which acquired Penfolds in 1990, Farmilo has over 40 years’ industry experience and has twice been awarded the prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy.

During his time at Penfolds, Farmilo produced Penfolds Grange, St Henri, Bin 707, Bin 389 among others.

This year, he has turned his focus to Altero, a new range of Mediterranean influenced wines including Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Tempranillo and Nero d’Avola.

The grapes for the range have been grown at Vicky and Pat Vasarelli’s Currency Creek vineyard, a site Farmilo believes has the best conditions to grow the finest alternative varietals in South Australia.

“These wines show the character and style of their home countries. They have bright fruit characters with minimal oak, and are made to be enjoyed fresh,” Farmilo says.

“The Fleurieu Peninsula is surrounded by water, with the Southern Ocean on one side and the Gulf St Vincent on the other, so it’s the Australian region with the closest climate to the Mediterranean.”

To celebrate the new range, we asked Farmilo to reveal the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to red wine.

Here’s what he had to say:

Opening a bottle and drinking the wine right away

Most wines will benefit from opening an hour or so before serving. A decanter (or even a glass jug) will allow the wine to open up and liberate the beautiful aromas and flavours in the glass.

Not chilling your reds

One of the most common wine mistakes in Australia – especially in summer – is to drink red wine too warm, which makes the wine lose its finesse and freshness. The ideal serving temperature for red wines varies between 14C and 18C, with light to medium bodied reds like Italian Montepulciano and Nero d’Avola to be enjoyed on the cooler spectrum, and Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon on the warmer spectrum. So pop your bottle of red in the fridge for 20 minutes before drinking it.

Only cellar certain wines

Not all wines are made to cellar. Follow the advice on the back label and tasting notes. If you are going to cellar wine, make sure your storage is dark, free of temperature fluctuations and vibration. It pays to cellar a dozen of the same wine and open a bottle every now and again, just to see how it’s tracking. Don’t leave the wine too long and risk spoiling it.

Leaving a bottle open for too long

Most young wines (i.e. 2018 vintage) will be high in acidity and tannin and will evolve for a couple of days after opening. Sometimes it’s interesting to see how the wine changes over a day or two after opening, but don’t keep the wine for too long (no more than four days) as oxidation will dull those beautiful, fresh primary aromas and flavours.

Forgetting to match wine with food when cooking

When it comes to cooking, it’s always a safe bet to match the style / variety of wine with food from its region of origin. For example, Spanish Tempranillo with Paella or Roast Lamb, Italian Sangiovese with Bistecca Fiorentina, Montepulciano with a hearty pasta sauce full of tomatoes and garlic, Nero d’Avola with seared tuna and a fresh salad with olives.

In the Mediterranean, these wines have been matched with the local cuisine for thousands of years so really, you can’t go wrong. Red wines make a wonderful flavoursome addition to sauces and slow cooked meals, adding deep red colour and delicious savoury characters. Splash a glass into the pan and have another one whilst you’re cooking.

Despite all this… Ignore the rules

Drink the wines you enjoy. Some wines are fresh and fruity and made to be drunk young, others are made with more structure, firmer tannins and acidity and these wines will benefit from cellaring, time allowing them to show at their best. Choose the style that suits your personal preference or occasion – read the back label or research the wineries’ website for cellaring and serving advice.

Altero wines are exclusively available through Cellarmasters from $14.99 a bottle. See the range here.

Correction: Mike Farmilo was originally referred to as Penfolds’ chief red winemaker. Farmilo was the Group Red Winemaker at Southcorp Wine Group, which acquired Penfolds in 1990

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