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What food to pair with a 15% ABV wine

Last night we opened a bottle of 2005 Nugan Estate McLaren Parish Vineyard Shiraz - a typically big lush Aussie red at a hefty 15% ABV.

Unfortunately it totally overwhelmed a dish of grilled lamb with sautéed vegetables - it was so concentrated it tasted like an undiluted cordial. At 3 years old I would have thought its tannins would have mellowed but it could have done with at least another 3 more.

I admit I prefer classic European wines to full on new world reds like this but 15% is a lot of alcohol by anyone’s standards. It’s certainly too much to drink on its own so what should you eat with it?

A stew with a rich winey sauce is one possibility but the wine is almost a sauce in itself. And it’s too ‘hot’ in the alcoholic sense to pair with spicy food.

In the rather cheekily named Michelin restaurant the Nugan family has opened next to the winery there are some big flavours on the menu which suggest the way to go. I’d be ordering something like the Chargrilled scotch fillet of black Angus beef, green onion and potato puree and roasted eschalots with truffle dressed watercress or Roasted rump of lamb, “lasagne” of eggplant, tomato and smoked mozzarella with Persian fetta (sic) pepperoncini (whatever the latter is but it sounds appropriately full-flavoured. A bit of cheese and some Mediterranean veg would certainly help.)

In general though I’d say that what you need is a touch of sweetness with this type of wine. A well-caramelised chargrilled steak, classic American-style barbecued or char siu pork, and sweet roast veggies such butternut squash and sweet potatoes, for example. It would also go with intensely savoury dishes such as garlicky portabello mushrooms or a rich venison stew.

You could also treat it like port and partner it with a full-flavoured cheddar or a blue cheese with a plum or damson compote.

PS Parker apparently awarded it 90 but has, I know, a taste for French bistro food so I’d be fascinated to know what he’d drink with it!

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