Know Your Cork: Ideal Wine’s Guide to Understanding How Wine Corks Work

Put simply, wine corks are the most popular stopper method for a bottle of wine. There are even many wine enthusiasts out there who claim that this is the superior method, making the wine age and taste better. But do we understand how corks work and the different types? As this variety can affect the ageing process of wine, we’re examining what you should be looking out for. This week, we’re bringing you the Ideal Wine Company’s guide to everything you need to know about corks. Let’s get started…

Where do corks come from?

Cork bottle stoppers are made from the bark of cork oaks. It’s interesting to note that the tree is not cut down and only up to half of the bark is removed at any one time. This is a highly skilled, labour intensive process with special tools and complicated logistics. Imagine peeling the delicate bark from a massive tree, cutting it into uniform sheets and transporting it to the processing plant without breaking it. These are reasons why cork closures are more expensive, and why there is some pressure to move to alternative closures.

Ideal Wine - Cork 2




How sustainable are corks?

While corks are by no means a perfect product for sustainability, they are better options than plastic – which takes centuries to break down fully – and aluminium – which takes a lot of energy to make. All this means that cork has stood up very well to synthetic closures in terms of sustainability and environmental impact. While it may not be perfect, corks are the best option we have at the moment for our environment. So, treat yourself to that extra bottle of cork-stopped wine, you are helping the environment after all!

What are the different types of cork?

  • 100% natural cork stoppers: This is perhaps the most popular cork – and is probably the one that comes to mind when you think of corks. This is the only cork stopper you should trust for ageing wine much beyond 5 years or so, because its spongy flexibility keeps its seal viable the longest.
  • Colmated corks: Essentially, this is a natural cork stopper, but with its pores filled with glue and sawdust. Doing this does have some benefits, such as they look smoother and glide out of the bottle when you pull them. While they’re not as good for longer ageing processes, they still work fine for medium ageing.
  • Multi-piece cork: This is two or more large cork pieces glued together. These are denser than single piece corks, and are a way the cork manufacturers can use up their scraps. These are also the only way to make giant corks for giant bottles. While these are useful in some situations, it’s important to note that they aren’t to be trusted for prolonged ageing.
  • Agglomerated corks: Basically, these are a plug made of cork dust and glue. It’s cheaper, pretty dense, and not to be trusted to seal your wine beyond 1 year or so.

Just because your wine has a cork in it, doesn’t mean it will last forever. With so many different types of cork out there, familiarising yourself with what they do can go a long way in saving your precious wine from ruin. By knowing what you’re stopping your wine with, you’re sure to get the maximum enjoyment out of all your delicious wine.

Can You Pair Wine with Sushi?

When you think of sushi, you may not always think of wine as the natural pairing. Yet, it can work amazingly well – if you know what you’re doing. It is a tricky match to get right, as sushi, like all Asian food, is more challenging to pair with wine – essentially a European invention – because Japanese cuisine has evolved alongside grain-based drinks like beer and sake, not wine. But this doesn’t mean that sushi and wine can’t exist well together. Ideal Wine Company loves this combination and we have everything you need to know to make this pairing perfect. Let’s have a look at how we match wine and sushi…

Ideal Wine Company sushi and wine
Let’s have a look at how we match wine and sushi…

What qualities should you look out for?

Sushi works well with certain varieties of wine – so you need to be looking out for these. Essentially, the standard rule is that the wine can’t be too dry, as it will clash with the fish. Similarly, the wine can’t be too sweet – think of the wine that is usually paired with Chinese or Thai food – as this swamps the fine delicacy of the fish.

When pairing wine and sushi, you should be striving for a good balance between sweet and dry. A fine balance, integrity, good fruit and crisp acidities are all desirable qualities to look for in your wine. As a general rule, Rieslings of Germany and Alsace, and their New World counterparts make splendid companions for sushi.

Our favourite pairings

  • Salmon roll – dry rosé

A salmon roll usually consists of cucumber, avocado and salmon rolled in rice and coated in seaweed. With these flavour combinations, you can expect fresh and light flavours. This means that it works well with a dry rosé.  The salmon makes the tart cherry and citrus in the wine pop and its minerality turn to sweet brininess.

  • Spicy tuna roll – Riesling

A spicy tuna roll can pack a punch! Filled with spice, this tuna and rice roll offers plenty of flavour and heat, meaning your wine needs to be able to handle this. Our top pick for this is a very barely off-dry Riesling. As you need a big-bodied white for the meaty fish, this wine can handle everything. Riesling is mouth-filling, with sweet stone fruit to stand up to the spice and a mineral edge that loves the brininess of nori.

  • Prawn nigiri – Pinot Gris

A prawn nigiri is a simple offering. It is essentially a prawn placed over pressed vinegared rice. When thinking of a pairing for this dish, you’ll need to make the prawn your focus. We suggest choosing a Pinot Gris. The apple and aromatic stone fruit in the wine are perfect links to sweet prawns, with a hit of citrus serving as a spritz of lemon. It’s a perfect match!

While it may not be the obvious option, pairing your sushi with wine can prove to be very delicious! While it may be a slightly harder match, the results can pay off big time. Why not try wine with your next sushi meal?

The Best Wines For Barbecue Season

Spring is officially upon us. This means one thing – it’s the start of barbecue season. Okay, so it will be when the rain stops, but over the next few months we’ll be firing up the grill whenever we can.

Ideal Wine Company loves a great barbecue , and this week’s blog is all about pairing delicious wines with mouthwatering dishes straight from the grill. Let’s get started.

Ideal Wine Company barbecue wine
Spring is officially upon us. This means one thing – it’s the start of barbecue season.

Grilled meats and a good red

When we talk about grilled meats, we mean everything that isn’t fish or poultry. As a general rule, red wines pair beautifully with barbecue-grilled meats. This is because of the umami (cooked meat’s savoury taste) and the high-fat content of grilled meats, which will help to balance out the tannin in red wine. Here are the basics you need to know when you’re just focusing on pairing a wine with the meat.

  • Pork: You’re often seasoning this meat with sweet, spicy, smoky, and tangy flavours and matching sauces. In this case, you can use your wine to balance the smoke and spice of your grilled pork with something fruity that has similar smoky-spicy flavours. For example, a Zinfandel that’s medium to full-bodied with plenty of backbone will do the trick.
  • Red meat: Whether its steak or burgers, red meat plays a big part in most barbecues. For these rich options, its good to stick to a classic rule: red meat works with red wine. Think about opting for a full-bodied drink to match the strong flavours of red meat. A Tempranillo, Cabernet-blend, Sangiovese, or even a good GSM Blend will work well with barbecued red meat.

Chicken or fish with a light white

When you’re barbecuing, chicken and fish are usually great lighter alternatives to red meat. There are a number of ways to serve these delicious options, but we’re taking things back to basics for our recommendations.

  • Simple grilled chicken: It may be a basic dish, but it’s popular at a large number of barbecues. This crowd-pleasing fayre works well with an equally gentle wine. Try your grilled chicken with a Sauvignon Blanc, or even Verdejo. They are citrusy, sometimes, grassy, and almost always light. For this dish, you’ll want to work with simple flavours to create a clean and well-balanced finish.
  • White fish: This is a simple and delicious addition to any barbecue. Due to the light and delicate flavours of the dish, you’ll want to balance this with your wine. A Friulano or Verdejo is a perfect choice here. Their light and citrusy notes add to the flavour of the white fish, without overwhelming it.
  • Salmon: As one of the meatier fishes, salmon can take a bit more flavour than white fish. Yet its still recommended to stick with a white wine to act as a palate cleanser and not overwhelm the dish. White Rioja and Chardonnays are perfect to pair with salmon. With their peach flavours and smooth texture, this wine provides a tangy acidity and fresh finish.

When in doubt with chicken or fish, its hard to go wrong with an oaked Chardonnay – it’s the perfect fail-safe!

Switch up your wine choice according to your choice of sauce

If you’re adding sauce to your meat, it’s a good idea to focus on this when weighing up your wine options. For meats such as chicken, the sauce can become the key flavour of the dish. We’ve rounded up three popular barbecue sauces and given our best wine recommendations based on their most prominent flavour.

  • North Carolina Barbecue Sauce (sweet): Petite Sirah, Monastrell, Tannat and Pinotage are always great starting points for this sweet and tangy sauce.
  • South Carolina Barbecue Sauce (spicy-mustard): Working well with beef and pork, this sauce is a must-have addition to pulled pork or brisket. Opt for Aglianico, Sangiovese or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
  • Kansas City Barbecue Sauce (classic): Carménère, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet blend are classic staples for this popular – and delicious – sauce.

Now that we can (hopefully) look forward to good weather, its time to break out that grill. With tasty barbecue food and a delicious accompanying wine, we can almost taste and smell summer!

Livening Up Brunch with The Perfect Bottle of Wine

Brunch has something for everyone. This mid-morning meal is now growing in popularity as an indulgent treat – and we’re here for it! From sweet to savoury dishes, it’s a perfect meal. While many of us opt for a classic buck’s fizz, there are so many more wine options available to you. When you’re planning your next brunch, make sure that you’ve got the perfect bottle of wine as an accompaniment. Let’s look at some of Ideal Wine Company’s favourite pairings for brunch…

Ideal Wine Company Brunch
Brunch has something for everyone, here are our favourite wine pairings for brunch…

Avocado on toast – Sauvignon Blanc

This simple brunch dish has taken off in recent years. Now one of the most popular offerings on any menu, avocado on toast is a must-have for any brunch. No matter what your bread, from simple wheat bread to sourdough, the topping of smashed avocado makes the perfect savoury treat. To match this, look for a Sauvignon Blanc as a great starting point. It is the perfect wine for the avocado ensemble as it plays up the green theme and adds well-needed acidity – like a squeeze of lemon.

Blueberry pancakes – Moscato d’Asti

If you’re in the mood for a sweat treat this brunch, look no further than blueberry pancakes. These fluffy offerings are light and full of sweet blueberry flavours. Although delicious, they can mean that you’re facing a lot of dough. To combat this, your wine should be light and sweet to match the dish. A Moscato d’Asti is a vibrant wine, with flavours of nectarine, honey and peach acting as the perfect complement to this berry-heavy dish.

Eggs Benedict – Prosecco

Eggs Benedict is a brunch classic. It’s a perfectly toasted English muffin halves topped with crispy bacon, a perfectly poached egg, and a generous pour of creamy hollandaise sauce – a delicious addition to any brunch. With the creamy flavours and variety of flavours on offer, you may think it’s a hard dish to pair, but it all comes down to knowing what you’re looking for. Importantly, you should be adding sweetness to your dish – but not too much. The perfect choice would be an Extra Dry Prosecco. Bringing just a hint of sweetness, the fruit flavours in this crisp wine bring an ideal balance to the dish. With its acidity, you’ll even find your palate cleansed between bites.

Yogurt and Fruit – Gewürztraminer

It’s a breakfast and brunch dish that has been enjoyed for decades – but has recently started gaining traction as a popular food trend. With a base of yogurt and a wide range on toppings on offer, from bananas to honey, this healthy option is a great alternative if you’re looking for something lighter.

For this pairing, you should focus on a wine with strong aromatics. This is because yogurt offers very little in the way of aromas, and thus, aromatic wines can really add more perceived flavour to the dish. Gewürztraminer with its intense aromas of lychee, rose, grapefruit and allspice will really take your everyday yogurt bowl to the next level.

What Wine Should You Serve at Easter Lunch?

With Easter coming up soon – this year it falls on Sunday 1 April – it’s time to get ready for your Easter lunch. This is the perfect time to gather your friends and family to celebrate Easter and Spring. Whether you opt for a classic lamb dish or a fresh green salad, we’re here to give you the perfect pour. Here are some of Ideal Wine Company’s favourite wines to serve at Easter lunch.

Ideal Wine Company Easter
With Easter coming up soon it’s time to get your favourite wine ready for your Easter lunch.

Lamb – Cabernet Sauvignon

For spring and Easter, the quintessential dish has to be lamb. Coming into season at this time, it’s a popular dish that you can expect to see on many tables. As lamb is a strong meat in flavour, you’ll need to look for a wine that can match it. For this, a Cabernet Sauvignon is your best bet. With this wine, you can expect a tannic, full-bodied red that can stand up to the strength of lamb. The richness and texture of the meat will be complemented by the ripe plum and earthy flavours with hints of chocolate. A great choice to break out this Easter!

Glazed Ham – Pinot Noir

A glazed ham is synonymous with sweet and sour flavours. The saltiness of the ham is usually in perfect balance with the sweetness of the glaze. When it comes to pairing your wine with this, you’ll want to make sure you’re not interrupting this relationship. Try opting for a Pinot Noir, which should help to provide the perfect stability you’re looking for. This wine’s low tannins and high acidity is the perfect complement to the ham. With cherry fruit flavours and a little spice on the palate, a Pinot Noir continues the harmony between sweet and sour.

Fresh green salad – Assyrtiko

With spring finally upon us, it’s time to bring together all the amazing fresh produce we can get our hands on. This means greens – and what better way to showcase them than with a fresh green salad. Combining the freshest green vegetables on offer with a light lemon vinaigrette, this is an ideal dish for Easter lunch. To bring out the freshness of the salad, the best accompaniment is Assyrtiko, a white wine from Greece. This light and crisp wine offers bright flavours, bracing acidity and an elegant mineral character. A truly refreshing choice.

Lemon tart – Muscat

No celebratory lunch is complete without pudding! For Easter, a lemon tart is the perfect option. Combining sweetness, slight tartness and a light finish, this dessert brings out the flavours of the season. When pairing wine with this tart, look for a Muscat. With fruit flavours including citrus, lime, kumquats, confit of orange zest and green pineapple, it is a refreshing burst of flavour. The richness on the palate, with its vibrant acidity, will lift and support the lemon creaminess. It’s the perfect way to end your meal.

Easter is all about light spring dishes. Make sure to keep all your flavours balanced with each other and remember that refreshing options are usually your best choices. With your perfect pour in hand – it’s time to celebrate Easter!