Five delicious wine and comfort food pairings

Whether you want to greet your guests at a dinner or pair your takeout meal, picking the perfect wine to complement your food can be a challenge.

However, choosing the right wine is more intuitive than daunting. The key is to achieve the right balance between the wine’s acidity and the flavour of the food.

Here at Ideal Wine Company, we make your food-wine pairing decision easy.


1.    Chilli wine pairings

Spicy and meatier meals need a strong wine profile to stand up to their bold flavour. The rich dark flavours of cherries and plums, with hints of spice and notes of chocolate; make red wine the ideal match for a bold chilli taste.

However, anything high in alcohol or tannins can have an overpowering effect on pepper in chilli. Malbec is always the safest wine option for meaty and spicy foods. Pinot Noir also works well with strong flavours. The subtle notes of tannins cut through the meatiness of the food, while the fruity flavour of these wines pair well with the strong chilli notes.


2.    Fried chicken pairings

No dinner menu is complete without the addition of classic fried chicken. A warming staple, this crispy and juicy meal requires an equally celebrated wine.

With this celebrated meal goes a classic wine option. Rich in flavour and highly acidic, champagne compliments fried chicken tastefully. The acidity of champagne cuts through the fried richness of the chicken while its sharp effervescence clears your palate.


3.    Beef stew wine pairings

Beef stew is a classic comfort food. It’s also a good excuse for bringing out your cellared full-bodied wines.

Prepared heartily with mushrooms, bacon, beef and potatoes – beef stews need an equally powerful and earthy wine counterpart. The dark fruit and rich tannin notes of full-bodied red wines stand up to the strong taste of the beef stew. Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are terrific with beef’s earthy taste. Punchy and peppery French Bordeaux and Syrah also balance nicely with strong flavours.


4.    Macaroni cheese wine pairings

Macaroni cheese is a simple dish to prepare. But its wine pairing depends on how cheesy your macaroni cheese is.

Its classic recipe that is perfectly paired with a light unoaked chardonnay. Its slight acidity and creaminess pairs well with the cheesiness of the dish. However, if you are planning to enhance your macaroni cheese with lobster, then a white Burgundy will match well with your extravagant meal. If you prefer reds over whites, try Cru Beaujolais to complement your meal. Its Gamay grapes brewing gives it a light to medium body and a hint of acidity.


5.    Spaghetti Bolognese pairings

Making a perfect Bolognese sauce is difficult; picking the right wine to complement spaghetti Bolognese is tougher than the former.

This classic Italian dish needs an equally strong wine to match its rich texture. Whether you like red or prefer white, choose a wine with fruity notes and soft tannins with a slight acidity. It can be a daunting task to pair tomatoes well, but the sweetness of this sauce makes it easier. Nero d’Avola cuts through the meatiness while matching well with the tomatoes. The subtle tannins, supple notes of blueberry and acidity of Barbera d’Asti complements well with spaghetti Bolognese.

Learn more about the perfect Italian wines for your dinner parties here.

The bottom line is that, when you’re choosing wines to accompany comfort foods, you should consider the flavours in your dish and how the wine will complement them. Keep the flavour and texture intensities in mind, so that your meal and wine don’t clash. Food and wine pairings are mainly about food. It is the wine that must match well with the food and not the other way around.

Wine innovators are continuing to change the industry

For many wine collectors and aficionados, the wine industry is steeped in tradition. From traditional wine producing processes to ancient vineyards producing grapes that have been used for centuries, it’s an industry with historical connotations. However, in 2019, the wine industry is also home to innovations and new ways of producing wine.

Innovation tends to occur when there is a new problem to solve. But it also happens when people with a new perspective join an established industry. Innovative solutions often build on top of existing tech and adapt them into a new industry. And however simple the end result appears to be to the outsider, the background levels of vision, determination and innovation are fascinating. Every year, the Wine Industry Network (WIN) awards businesses and entrepreneurs for excellence in the wine industry.


Wine innovators recognised in annual awards

Here are three winners from the eighth annual WINnovation Awards. They show the breadth and scope of innovation in this most traditional of industries.

Fighting climate change is ConeTech. There are new challenges facing the wine industry in regions that are suffering from adverse consequences of climate change. For example, in California the now annual wildfires destroy and taint grapes. Smoke exposure from the fires can cost winemakers entire crops, leading to huge financial loss. ConeTech developed a process that removes smoke taint without destroying the wine itself.

The process encompasses two steps. The first is vacuum distillation, which separates the essence and smoke compounds in the wine. The second step is testing the wine for more than 30 markers to work out how much the wine is tainted. This allows for properly targeted removal of the taint, restoring the value to the wine. Since ConeTech launched this proprietary process, they have restored almost one million gallons of wine that was smoke tainted.


New product restores nutrients to the soil

Another company working on climate change is Enartis USA, which linked up with BluAgri. The latter company is based in Europe, and developed a product called BluVite, which is a biofertilizer that restores the soil’s microbiological fertility. This was developed in response to extreme heat events caused by climate change. The fertiliser helps soil retain nutrients, which leads to healthier vines and better-quality grapes.

Enartis USA trialled the product in 2018 across a number of California wine growers. This has led to significantly higher levels of resistance of vines when exposed to environmental extremes. BluVite is an example of the kinds of innovative products that will safeguard the industry against the worsening effects of climate change.


Automating and improving the fermentation process

Another award winner is GOfermentor, which is a great example of a newcomer to the wine industry bringing a new perspective on how things are done. Biotech engineer Vijay Singh completely changed the way pharmaceutical fermentations are processed. He did this by introducing a sterile bag that is used just once to replace stainless steel.

This concept and process has now been introduced by Singh to the wine industry. Grapes are crushed into a GOfermentor single use bag that holds one tonne. It’s then programmed to automatically process the fermentation. The automated process reduces the need for manual labour and improves the fermentation process. This results in reduced sulphides. In addition, the single use bag protects the wine from being exposed to outside pollutants, such as oxygen, bacteria and smoke.

When the fermentation process is finished, the GOfermentor presses the grapes, which leaves the pomace in the biodegradable single use bag. This means easy, environmentally sound disposal, which reduces water usage by 90% too. This kind of innovation is absolutely the future of the industry, with low cost usage and investment and many advantages.


Winemakers are producing delicious red wine from the UK

When it comes to selecting a nice full-bodied red wine, which country of origin do you go for? There are plenty of fine reds available from Italy, France, Germany and New Zealand, for example. But what about red wine from the UK? Not convinced? Read on…

It may not be where you expect to find a delicious red wine. It’s not even where you’d expect to find the location of the future UK wine industry, but a wine maker in Wolverhampton is turning expectations on their head.


How red wine from the UK is making a splash

A vineyard around nine miles south-west from the Midlands city of Wolverhampton is growing a grape from Switzerland. And it turns out that this hardy little grape is turning into delicious red wine.

The Halfpenny Green wine estate is technically in Staffordshire. They grow around 3,000 vines, all of which are producing a brand-new variety of grape for Britain. Winemakers are hoping that this grape will completely transform the burgeoning wine industry in the UK.

And the star of the show is the divico grape. Imported all the way from Switzerland, this grape is different from most grown in the UK. It isn’t used to make sparkling wine. More than 70% of the UK’s wine industry is devoted to making sparkling wine. But the divico grape is making full-bodied, rich reds.


Achieving the previously impossible

A good red wine from the UK was previously thought pretty much impossible to achieve. And for the estate’s founder, Martin Vickers, it was a calculated gamble based on nearly four decades of vineyard experience. He told the Guardian that they “put in a great deal of thought” before installing the country’s first divico vineyard.

Having first learned about the grape during a wine symposium in 2016, which was dedicated to wines from cool climates, he was impressed enough to bring it to the UK. The vines were planted in 2018 and the first bottles of the brand-new red should go on sale in 2022. A consortium of UK based wine producers is backing trials of the grape, including Nyetimber, Chapel Down, Bolney Wine Estate and Gusbourne.

At the moment, red wine makes up a tiny 5% of the UK’s total wine production. However, the industry is keen to develop the divico grape and believe that there is huge commercial potential in red wine from the UK.


Hardy Swiss grape ideal for cooler climate wines

The divico grape is ideal for UK growers as it comes into flower in early June. This is generally late enough in the season to completely avoid any frosts. Temperatures in June in the UK are higher than ever before, and this creates the perfect conditions for pollination. All of this improves both the quality and the yield of the grape. It is also very resistant to the kinds of problems that adversely affect vineyards in the UK, such as powdery mildew.

There have been trials of other grapes in the UK to make red wines. And while some pinot noirs have done fairly well in taste tests, there are rarely dark and rich enough for the consumer. If any producer can produce a consistently good, deep, rich red wine in the UK there will be a market.

It will take about 18 months to see whether the divico gamble has paid off, but early results are positive. Early taste tests from a vineyard in Kent last year have produced a silky red, reminiscent of a decent burgundy. The grape could be used to make a variety of red wines.


Red wine contributing to growth of UK wine industry

We are seeing an increasingly buoyant and successful UK wine industry. There are currently more than 500 vineyards and around 160 wineries across Great Britain. England and Wales export their wines to 40 different countries. The area of land under vine has shot up 160% since 2009, and now covers more than 7,000 acres.

This acreage is currently sustaining a record number of vines. This year saw 3 million vines planted, which is almost double 2018’s number. Predictions estimate that the UK could produce more than 40 million bottles of wine by 2040. And grapes like the divico could further open the market in the cooler north of the country.


Our guide to the perfect red wines for Halloween

Having a well-stocked cellar is a good idea even for the casual wine lover. While some people may think wine collecting is for fine wine aficionados, there’s a lot to be said for having plenty in reserve for special occasions.

We’re approaching party season with all the delicious wines, champagnes, sparkling wines and dessert wines that entails. But before then, there’s a spookier reason to get stuck into some new wine choices.


Stock up on blood red wines for Halloween

When you’ve taken the kids out trick or treating, baked your Halloween treats, dressed them up and decorated your house, it’s time for a bit of adult ‘me time’. Whether you’re throwing a Halloween party or just want to kick back and watch some classic horror films, a blood red wine is the only drink of choice.

An aptly named wine range for this spooky time of year is the Casillero del Diablo from Chile. These are available in both red and white versions and offer an affordable choice. Widely available, these wines from the Concha y Toro winery even offer a premium red named ‘Diablo Dark Red’. The name couldn’t be more perfect for a Halloween choice, and it tastes pretty good too.


Red wines are perfect for colder evenings

Halloween comes with autumn temperatures, and the longer, colder evenings cry out for full-bodied red wines. For the ideal autumn red, go for something spicy and full, such as reds from the Rhone region. Or a reliable Shiraz from just about anywhere will also warm up your evenings, as will tempranillos from Spain.

For an even more warming treat for a cold evening, you could always opt for a fortified red. A glass of port may not be what you’d serve at a dinner party, but the sweet, strong flavour works beautifully for a ghostly evening in front of the TV. It could also fortify you against the influx of trick or treaters too! Here’s a small wine list for the ideal Halloween evening in.


Ideal Wine Company inspiration

For inspiration head to our website to browse fine wines fit for every occasion. You’ll find deep reds and delicious whites, as well as sparkling and festive choices.

Bulgarian shiraz – Zagreus St Dimitar Organic is a shiraz from the Thraciam Lowlands region of Bulgaria. At 13% ABV, it’s a rich, dark, blackcurranty sort of wine, with a hint of cinnamon and black pepper. Unsurprisingly, it goes particularly well with rich meat dishes, such as a hearty red meat stew. The ideal combo for a Halloween themed evening.

Chilean malbec and syrah blend – Diablo Dark Red 2018 is from the Maule Valley region in Chile. Another high alcohol content wine at 13.5% ABV, it’s oak aged in casks for six months, six weeks and six days (666). And while this is a blatant marketing grab, it also makes for a lovely, rich, plummy flavour of wine. Expect a sweet, deep, rounded red wine punctuated with cassis and plum. Goes well with lamb and beef dishes.

Vintage port – If you want to go all out on the fortified reds for Halloween, treat yourself to a bottle of Fonsecas Finest 1977 Vintage Port. This classic vintage is a dependable favourite from Fonseca, one of the finest producers of vintage port in the world. In addition, 1977 is a classic vintage, and this wine is now at the peak maturity. It’s not overly sweet either, with a fresh and fruity depth, that makes it a favourite with everyone.



When is the best time to drink wine when it’s young or when it’s aged?

Fine wine collecting is an art. Some would say a science. And there is definitely some skill in knowing when to age a wine and when to enjoy it straight away.

Some wines age very well and should always be left in the cellar for a while. This is true even of some white wines. But others are more enjoyable if they’re consumed straight away. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best out of your vintage wines is to buy the good stuff early on. And when it’s ready to open, take your time and treat it carefully.


When is the best time to drink wine from your collection?

Whatever your taste in wine it can be tricky to know when to drink your stash. Wines do change as they age, and if you hang on to the bottles for too long, they can be ruined by the time you come to drink them.

This is a common occurrence with people who like to collect wine but aren’t quite sure how to do it well. Lots of people will automatically keep a wine in storage, assuming that aging it will mean a better flavour. But when they do eventually open it, they can be surprised. Conversely, they can also find a hidden gem.

It’s not always red wine that ages the best. Some sweet wines and white wines can also age well. This isn’t the case for all white wines of course. For example, white burgundy has a well-known issue of premature oxidation.


What is premature oxidation and how does it affect wines?

Also known as ‘premox’, premature oxidation was discovered when people realised that white wines were losing their fruity smells faster than anticipated. The fruity aroma in whites left to age too long transformed into heavier scents, such as honey. It was also discovered that the colour of the wine faded to brown.

It’s a form of accelerated aging that makes wines taste and smell worse. And it’s a problem when it happens to wines that are sometimes sold on the basis that they age well. In red wines, premox results in deep aromas, such as dried fruit and prune. While these smells are looked for in heavy wines like port, a young red shouldn’t age this way.


Drink whites and rosés young

In general, rosés and most crisp whites should not be aged. They should be enjoyed young. Having said that, Semillon and Riesling can age well. It’s sometimes down to personal taste. Whether you enjoy the complex flavours of aged whites is subjective. Modern tastes tend to run towards the fresh, fruity wines. Often, older vintages need specific food combinations to demonstrate their best flavours.

If you’re a wine collector with a taste for aged wines, then it’s a good plan to buy them while they’re young. Not only is this generally easier due to their availability, but it’s also cheaper. High quality wines are always cheaper when they first come onto the market. As they age, their prices rise.

Wines made in a good vintage year are the best investment. For example, 2016 was particularly good for Bordeaux and Rhone. Before you buy any more wine though, check your wine collection and find out exactly what you have.


Go by price – drink cheaper wines and store pricier vintages

A good rule of thumb is to go by price. Anything below £10 should be enjoyed pretty swiftly, while wines from £25 and above should be savoured. It’s simple enough to find out online how long a wine should be aged. Most fine wine merchants will include information about the drinking date.

If you’re not sure about the wines in your collection, the best way to enjoy them is to dive straight in. For any wines that have been hanging around for a while, it’s a good idea to have some back-ups ready, in case it’s corked or impaired. For any reds with a deposit build up, decant like you would a port, and be sure not to chill aged whites for too long.

When shopping for wine, buy from an established merchant like Ideal Wine Company. We have vintages, high-end varieties and plenty of information on wines to add to your collection.