Stock up on delicious wines for Easter

With less than a month until Easter, it’s time to stock your wine cellar. Whether you’re seeking a sweet white wine to go with your chocolate eggs or searching for the ideal wine to go with the lamb on Easter Sunday, at Ideal Wine Company, we have plenty of suggestions for you to stock wines for Easter.

Preparing for Easter is usually more relaxed than the Christmas season. And the rules on wine and food are more relaxed. No-one expects the vast array of booze at a dinner party on Easter Sunday that they would for Christmas dinner. But it’s just as well to be prepared for your Easter meals.

Wines perfect for Easter feasts

Lamb is a popular meal choice for families in the UK at Easter. And it goes very well with a number of delicious Mediterranean wines or wines from across Southern Europe.

And it doesn’t have to be traditional roast lamb either. Try chuletitas de cordero, which are barbecued lamb chops, which end up as melt in the mouth and delicious with rioja. Or go for a Greek lamb dish for a change. Try garlic shoulder of lamb slow roasted with herbs and spices. To go with it, try a Greek red wine called xinomavro, which is very dark and fruity, but also full of the tannin flavours needed to cut through the rich meat.

Try these wines for Easter 2020:

  1. Gran Reserva Rioja CVNE – a delicious rioja packed with tender textures and a savoury edge. It goes well with lamb but works fine with roast pork or beef too. So, whatever you choose for you main dish at Easter, this wine will complement the meat.
  2. Lyrarakis Voila Assytriko – this wine is from Crete and is very popular with the traditional Greek Easter feast of magiritsa. This soup is made from kid or lamb offal and is traditionally seasoned with dill and lemon. This dry white wine goes brilliantly with the traditional Greek food, thanks to its citrus flavours and bright and mineral finish.
  3. Crociani Vin Santi di Montepulciano – a traditional Tuscan wine made from malvasia grapes. The process of drying the grapes on straw mats gives this wine a sweet and rich texture with flavours of demerara sugar sand dried fruits. Works perfectly with cheese, chocolate and cake, so ideal for dessert.
  4. Niepoort Ruby Dum Port – packed with sweet, bright fruit flavours this portis rich with plums and cherries. It also has a very silky and smooth texture and goes particularly well with dark chocolate – a drink for the sophisticated Easter eggs!
  5. Mastro Bianco – this blended wine takes the flavours from three grapes local to the Campania region of Italy. The end result is a deep dry white with hints of green olive and almonds among peach fruit with plenty of minerally freshness. It would be ideal with a seafood dish for Good Friday.
  6. Domaine de Montvac Arabesque Vacqueyras – this French red wine is a favourite for the traditional roast lamb Easter meal. Make a Mediterranean version with lots of rosemary and garlic and enjoy this succulent and balanced red wine. It also goes well with aubergine dishes, so is a good choice for a vegetarian or vegan Easter meal too.

Of course, this is just the tip of the wine iceberg. For more ideas on wines to enjoy at Easter and all year round, check out our earlier blogs.

Five industry insider secrets to clever wine and food pairing

 

Pairing food and wine can seem like a hidden art. If you’re new to wine pairing and want to make a dinner party extra special, it can seem overwhelming to match each flavour with the right accompaniment. And that’s when something that should be fun becomes a chore.

Matching wine and food together is meant to be enjoyable, not stressful. And while it is a skill, it doesn’t have to be over complicated. The first thing to realise is that there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. It’s more about an intuitive understanding of how flavours work together, and which complement each other.

In fact, you may find yourself breaking traditional ‘rules’ as you go through your wine pairing journey. To help you on your way, here are five insider tips to classic wine and food pairing.

 

1. Wine and food pairing – where to start

Start with weight. In the winter, we eat heavier, richer food and in the summer lighter, more delicate dishes. Apply the same thinking to the wine you’re choosing. Some grapes lend themselves to richer, heavier wines, and others produce light, airy wines.

This is a great shortcut to pairing wine and food, particularly if you’re not familiar with a wine’s flavour profile. A Sauvignon Blanc is a light-bodied white wine with high acidity, and as such works brilliantly with fresh oysters and rich cheeses. However, it doesn’t do as well if it’s paired with a chicken pasta dish, for example. If you’re pairing a white wine with a heavier dish, then go for a heavier wine, like Viognier.

A good rule of thumb for a dinner party is to start with the lighter wines and work your way to the heaviest. But you do need to allow your palate time to rest before switching from delicate wines with nuanced flavour notes to big, bold reds.

 

2. Don’t be taken in by stereotyping

Understand the subtleties of well-known wines. There are many stereotypes surrounding commonly enjoyed wines. For example, you’ve probably heard that Riesling is too sweet to go with many food dishes. Or that Chardonnay is too oaky and buttery. On the face of it, neither of these sound like a good match with food.

However, there is plenty of potential in both of these wines. Not every Riesling is super sweet. Choose a dry Riesling from Germany or the Alsace region of France, for example. These wines are made from grapes grown on old vines, and combined with refined winemaking techniques produce aromatic, bright and beautiful wines that go beautifully with food. They’re particularly good for spicy dishes.

And a Chardonnay from a cooler climate won’t be too oaky. Try an unoaked version from Chablis, and you’ll find dry, lean bottles with a minerally finish. Delicious with all kinds of dishes.

 

3. Don’t run away from sweetness

Wine experts and culinary experts know that slightly sweeter off-dry wines work really well with spicy or rich food. Pinot Grigio has some sweet and florally notes, which pair well with a meal full of salt, fat and richness. For example, a slated fish dish or buttery poached egg works really well with this full-bodied white wine. And for Asian food, a must-try is an off-dry Riesling, which absorbs all the heat from the spices.

 

4. It’s not just about the ingredients

You might think that matching wine to food depends entirely on the ingredients used in the dish. But how the meal is prepared is just as important. For example, a piece of chicken is going to taste very different depending on whether it’s pan seared, grilled, smoked or roasted. And the resulting wine pairings also change.

A classic wine pairing to go with roast chicken is Pinot Noir from Burgundy. It’s a lighter, but still earthy, red wine and is less fruity than the same wine from the New World. Too much fruit can overpower the dish. For spicier chicken dishes, choose a richer wine. Something like a Grenache or Zinfandel goes well with barbecue chicken, for example. You’re looking for juicy, lush notes.

 

5. Create your menu around the wine

Most people plan a dinner party menu by starting with the food and adding the wine on afterwards. But what if you did it the other way around? It’s a good way to get out of your comfort zone and explore some wines you’ve been wanting to try. Start with what you enjoy drinking. This gives you more freedom in your approach to selecting wine. What are you in the mood for? What have you always wanted to try? Start there and match your food accordingly.

Abover all, remember that there are no strict rules about matching wine and food. And while complementary flavours can be satisfactory, it’s also true that completely contrasting notes can work well too. A wine can either echo or reflect the flavour of the dishes, so if you want to go for a contrasting choice then don’t be afraid to do so.

Try these four undervalued but delicious white wines

 

White wine can sometimes feel like the underdog in the wine world. There is always a lot of love out there for red wines, and in the world of fine wine, it’s reds that tend to attract more prestige and higher prices.

 

But white wine is just as complex to produce, and results in just as spectacular end products. Whatever the reason behind the slightly lesser reputation that white wine holds, it’s excellent news for wine lovers. This is because it means there are plenty of fabulous and very collectible white wines around at reasonable prices.

 

And while Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay will always be popular, we decided to showcase some less well-known white wine varieties. All delicious, and all deserving of high praise, these undervalued yet opulent white wines are definitely worth adding to your cellar. In this blog we’ll be looking at Viognier from Oregon, US, Semillon from the Hunter Valley, Australia, Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France and Dry Furmint from Hungary.

 

White wines to try from Oregon

 

Oregon is now home to the Viognier white grape. Originally from the Rhone Valley in France, the grape has taken hold in the Pacific Northwest over the last few years. Despite being a tricky grape to grow and make into delicious wine, it is contributing to some great white wines from this region.

 

Maryhill Winery produced almost 8,300 cases for its 2016 vintage in a bid to become the biggest producer. Owner Greg Lethold said at the time: “It’s our second-largest production wine, and demand has grown 38% over the last year.” Much of the grapes they use comes from the vineyards surrounding their winery, and the winemakers have been winning awards for their Viognier for around ten years.

 

Using French oak production techniques, their Maryhill Winery 2016 Viognier maintains its ripe fruity characteristics, with a delicate sweetness. Expect flavour notes of honeysuckle, orange and apricot with a pleasing balance between sweetness and acidity. The 2016 vintage was awarded the gold medal in the Washington State Wine Competition and is definitely worth trying. It goes particularly well with a creamy, rich pasta dish.

 

While Oregon was previously mostly well known for its Pinot Noir, it is one of the most interesting hotspots for chilled white wines. Other great varieties include Arneis and Melon de Bourgogne.

White wines to try from the Tokaji region in Hungary

The Tokaj wine region in Hungary is known for its sweet white wines. It was the very first region to be officially classified as a wine region back in 1730. In 1757 it was formally recognised and officiated by noble decree. Tokaji wines are noted for their sweetness, due to the grapes being affected by ‘noble rot’.

 

There are six grapes approved for wine making in Tokaj: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat, Zeta (once called Oremus), Koverszolo and Kabar. Furmint accounts for almost two-thrids of wine produced in the area and is the most important grape, followed by Harslevelu.

 

Tokaji wine is traditionally made from grapes grown on a very small plateau around 1,500 feet above sea level close to the Carpathian Mountains. Its soil has high levels or lime and iron, and the region benefits from sheltered winters and hot summers. Furmint grapes have thick skins which become thinner as they age, allowing the sun to evaporate a lot of the liquid. This results in high sugar levels, and long ripening times. The grapes are left on the vine long enough to develop ‘noble rot’, which is a certain type of mould.

 

Today, the Tokaji region produces lots of delicious sweet wines, but is also producing more dry versions too. Wines such as Kikelet Dry Tokaji offer a really delicious and decadent feeling alternative to the sweet versions. It’s more delicate than the sweet Toakji wines, and is packed with citrus flavours, including fresh green apple, lemon and lime.

 

Why Hunter Valley Sémillon is a white wine worth trying

The very first vineyards ever planted in Australia were in the Hunter Valley. And Semillon was first made in 1831 with grapes brought over from its native France. It’s a real underdog of a grape but comes into its own in Hunter Valley dry and sweet white wines.

 

In its early days it was often mislabelled as Hunter River Hick or Chablis, which didn’t help to establish its name as a great grape in its own right. But it’s always been popular with winemakers in Australia, as it’s relatively easy to grow in this humid climate. Hunter Semillon’s delicious flavours and aging capacity is down to great winemaking. The grapes are picked at low levels of alcohol (about 10%), and delicately handled, before being fermented at low temperatures.

 

When it’s initially bottled, Hunter Semillon is very light and delicate, with notes of grass, citrus and straw. But in just five years it transforms into a toasty, rich, honeyed, nutty wine. It’s also one of the lowest alcohol white wines on the market with such a complex and fabulous flavour profile.

 

Try white wines from the Alsace region of France

Alsace white wines are hugely influenced by the German traditions of winemaking. There are 12 different white wine grapes grown in the region, and 13 whites hailing from there. And while Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer are well known, there are other more obscure white wines worth trying.

 

Muscat is a deliciously refreshing Alsatian white wine, with a fruity, dry finish. It’s an accessible white that most people will love, but it also feels rich and a bit special. It often has a floral aroma, with fruity flavours and a hint of sweetness. Alsace is home to a number of varieties of Muscat grape, and different blends produce different styles of white.

Choosing wines worth cellaring can be tricky – here are five perfect red wines ideal for storing

 

Not every wine lover focuses on cellaring bottles of wine. Many people like to buy wine and enjoy it immediately. But for the serious fine wine collector, or for someone new to the idea, it’s worth knowing that aged bottles can be more delicious after a few years.

And while aged bottles can taste better after a number of years, there’s also much to be said for wine evoking memory and nostalgia. For example, celebrating a wedding anniversary by opening a bottle stored since the big day can make it extra special. Or, by opening bottles stashed after a trip to a winery, you can take yourself back to that holiday.

 

Are all wines worth cellaring?

So, how do you choose which wines are worth cellaring? Around 95% of wines aren’t designed to age, and actually taste better when opened quickly. And this means that finding wines worth ageing is more of a challenge.

Given that most wines last around two years, what should you look for in a wine you intend to store for between ten and 20 years? Primarily, you’re looking for wines with structure. This refers to the taste attributes in the wine that act as preservatives. For example, red wines for cellaring must be packed with great fruit, bold tannins, good levels of acidity and oak and boast a solid structure. You’re looking for the more expensive red wines in this case, as mass-produced wines generally don’t cellar well. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines work well for cellaring, particularly if you’re new to it.

To cellar wines, you don’t need an actual wine cellar, of course. Most of us don’t have the kind of cool, dark basements that are necessary for storing wine for years. If you have a room with a constant, cool temperature then that will do, or you can invest in a wine fridge. Many fine wine collectors choose to store wines in temperature controlled bonded warehouses, which ensures it’s kept properly and fully catalogued.

At Ideal Wine Company, we’ve come up with five excellent reds worth cellaring below.

  1. Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This is one of the most popular red wines from the Californian Napa Valley region. The 2013 vintage is very intense, and has layers of sweetness, fruitiness, and a lot of tannins. It’s possible to find vintages going back to the 1980s, but if you’re considering buying one of these, check that they were stored properly.

  1. Coudoulet de Beaucastel Rouge 2013

Winemaker Marc Perrin’s flagship wine is Cheateau de Beaucastel’s Chateuneuf du Pape, which goes for more than £100 a bottle. But this dark and complex Cotes du Rhone is made with grapes from vineyards just opposite those used to make the more expensive wine. This is perfect for buying a few bottles now, enjoying some and storing the rest away. Aim to cellar them for between five and ten years, and you’ll be enjoying this delicious red wine for years to come.

  1. Domaine Raspail-ay Gigondas 2014

A classic Gigondas, this is made by a family producer who has been in the business for five generations. It’s packed with dark cherry flavours and notes of white pepper. If you enjoy it now you will find a rich and lush red, but if you store it for around a decade or more, you can expect an even richer, deeper, spicier wine later on.

  1. Tasca D’Ameritae Rosso del Conte 2012

This Sicilian red was first created back in the 1960s by wine enthusiast Count Giuseppe Tasca. It was one of the first reds to show that Sicily can produce top-class wines, and not just those that are nice to drink on holiday. When it’s young and new it has plenty of tannins but keep it for a couple of decades and you can expect a deep, luscious, warmly spicy black cherry wine.

  1. Chateau Meyre Haut-Medoc 2011

This Bordeaux style blended red wine from Chateau Meyre is a deep, richred with lots of black fruits. It has a solid structure thanks to the tannins and blackberries working in partnership leaving a full, rich texture on the palate. Store for up to ten years and enjoy this excellent red with good potential.

 

Confused about fine wine terminology? Read on…

You don’t need to be a sommelier or fine wine collector to be interested in all things vine related. But have you ever felt confused by some of the fine wine terminology used by wine sellers, makers and enthusiasts? Here’s a rundown on some of the fine wine terminology we think needs debunking.

 

Debunking fine wine terminology

Many of these phrases will be familiar to a wine industry professional, or to a fine wine collector. And lots of them will be well-known to a wine enthusiast or beginner, but their actual meanings aren’t always clear. Here’s what some common (and not so common) wine terms mean.

 

  • Complexity – the complexity of a wine is about all of the different aromas and flavours it has. It also covers how these aromas and flavours interact with each other. And the better they interact, the higher the quality of the wine. For example, if when tasting a wine, you can pick up a whole raft of flavours and they all blend well on the palate, then that wine has a complexity that ups its quality and value.

 

  • Cork tainted – a common misconception is that ‘corked’ means that a wine has bits of cork physically floating around in it. This isn’t the case. Rather, ‘corked’ is used to describe a fault in the wine causing it to smell a certain way. Instead of whatever floral or fruity flavours the wine should have, if it is corked, it tends to smell like damp paper or mildew. The most significant chemical that causes this ‘off’ smell is TCA, which is transferred to the wine from the cork. TCA stands for ‘2,4,6-trichloroanisole’, an incredibly powerful chemical that can cause ‘corked’ or ‘cork-tainted’ aromas and flavours in wine even in tiny amounts.

 

  • Full-bodied – you’ll often read this term in articles about wine, or hear it thrown around by a wine expert, but there is rarely an explanation as to what it really means. This is partly because it’s quite difficult to fully define. The ‘body’ of a wine refers to how to how it feels on the palate and in the mouth. An easy way to think of it is to consider water as ‘light bodied’ and heavy cream ‘full bodied’, and to compare the way a wine feels in your mouth to these. A typically light bodied wine has a high acidity, such as Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc, while deep reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon are generally described as ‘full-bodied’ wines.

 

  • First growth – refers to Bordeaux, specifically the Bordeaux Classification back in 1855. Wine brokers ranked Chateaux based on price and reputation, in categories known as growths or ‘crus’. For example, in the Medoc sub-region, ‘first growth’ means one of the top five chateaux. These wines are also referred to as ‘Premier Cru’, which refers to the land rather than the wine itself.

 

  • Grand vin – you’ll see this French wine term on bottle labels. It indicates that the producer thinks that it’s the best of their wines. However, because it’s a subjective term, it’s unregulated. In other words, it’s no guarantee that the particular wine producer’s ‘grand vin’ is excellent, or even OK. But it does tend to bump the price up anyway.

 

  • Natural wine – another commonly used term with no regulated definition, it’s usually used to describe wines that are produced using few or no man-made chemicals. Natural wine vineyards will normally be sustainable, biodynamic and organic. They tend to use natural fertilisers and treatments and harvest their grapes by hand. Wines are fermented using wild yeast, with hardly any sulphur dioxide or additives. Natural wines are usually lightly filtered before they reach the bottle.

 

  • Tannin – this is the chemical you find in tea. It’s what gives black tea the bitter flavour. Tannins in wine come from the skin of the grapes used. How much tannin ends up in your wine depends on the amount of contact the wine skins had in the process of making it. Tannins give wine that dry, bitter flavour.

 

  • Terroir – this is a complicated term used in wine making. It encompasses many factors and refers to the natural environment in which the grapes have been grown. It covers everything that makes the site unique, from its soil and topography to the climate. All of these factors play important roles in determining the ultimate flavour and quality of the final product.

 

For more on fine wines, head to Ideal Wine Company’s blog where you’ll find industry, product and regional information.