Which Italian red wine is ideal for a special occasion?

Italian red wine is familiar territory for wine aficionados. Most wine lovers know the big names like Amarone and chianti, for example. But if you thought Italian reds were all Brunello and Barolos, you might be surprised to find out that there are loads more varieties to try.

From the wines made from the barbera grape in Piedmont, to the dark, perfumed wines from Puglia in southern Italy, there lots to sample. And they’re all perfect for special occasions or simple spring time dinner parties.

Italian red wine from the Langhe region

Vineyards have been producing luscious red wines from among the hills of the Langhe region in Piedmont for centuries. This region of Italy sits at the foot of the Alps and shares borders with France and Switzerland. It’s known for its Barolo and Barbaresco wine, but there are also plenty of medium-bodied red wines from the region.

For example, the Michele Chiarlo Barbera D’Asti Le Orme 2015 is from one of the most successful producers in the region. It’s a juicy and sweet wine, with plenty of minerally blackcurrant flavours, and goes brilliantly with pasta dishes.

Super Tuscan wines from further south

Moving down the country, we come to Tuscany. Most people know this region is famous for its Chianti, but there are also so-called ‘super Tuscans’ from different grapes.

Toscana la Massa 2015 is made from grapes tended in the Conca D’Oro, which is at the heart of the classic chianti region. It’s made from merlot, sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon, and is a luxurious tasting wine. It has notes of black cherries and chocolate, which makes it delicious with roasted meats or rich vegetable dishes.

If you want a typical chianti, then try Fontodi Chianti Classico 2015, which is made mostly from sangiovese grown in the same area as the Toscana la Massa. It’s rich and dark, yet fresh and elegant. Both wines are good choices.

Wines from Southern Italy

All the regions so far mentioned are the classic winemaking regions in Italy. If we go much further South to the Avellino part of the Campania region, we can also find delicious red wines. This region is just inland from Naples and was revitalised with a much-needed cash injection from the estate of Feudi Di San Gregorio in 1980 to boost wine production.

The estate makes wines that are growing in popularity all the time, including the Feudi Di San Gregorio Taurasi DOCG. His wine showcases the aglianico grape, with plenty of gentle spice, dark fruitiness and a balanced feel. It’s great with moussaka or slow-cooked pork.

Another major red grape from the south of Italy is primitivo. This is known as ‘zinfandel’ in the UK and the US and comes packed with multiple flavours. You’ll taste rich fruit, chocolate, violets and peppery spices. A great example is the Schola Sarmenti Cubardi Primitivo IGT Salento 2015, which is made from very old vines cultivated in Puglia. It’s best enjoyed after being decanted and left alone for a few hours and goes really well with red meat and cheeses. Watch out for the alcohol content of wines made from primitivo, as they tend to be on the high side.

Report shows 2018 broke fine wine investment records

Reports show that investing in fine wine is a more stable bet than buying gold, making it one of the most sought-after asset classes. The Liv-ex summary of the 2018 fine wine investment market says it is “a record-breaking year.”

The research shows that most of the top 100 investment wines revolve around Bordeaux, which has been “steady, consolidating after two years of strong gains”. Burgundy comes out the most impressive performer.

Fine wine investment index

The Fine Wine 1000 index by Liv-ex is described as “the broadest measure of the fine wine market”. Over the year, the index increased by 10.2% and Burgundy is responsible for a lot of the growth, rising by 35.5%.

The ten most impressive price rises were all Burgundy. This shows that demand for the highest end wines in this region is high and is likely to continue to increase prices over the next year.

Record-breaking wines in 2018 include two bottles of Romanee Conti 1945 that sold for just over £443,000 and £394,000 respectively. And while these grabbed media headlines, the wider market for Burgundy has been quietly growing. Collectors are buying more into estates including Roumier, Leflaive, Leroy and Rousseau.

Widening interest from investors

As well as the strong interest in Burgundy, the research also shows a clear trend for investors to widen their interest. Many are now looking past Burgundy and Bordeaux to other regions including the Rhone, California and Champagne. Wines from these regions are making impressive gains, but from smaller base levels than Burgundy.

Leaving aside the Live-ex 1000, the more exclusive index (Liv-ex 100) concentrates on only the most expensive wines. This increased in value by 0.22% within a narrow range of 2%, making it “more stable than gold” over the course of this year. This Is partly because the index is in Sterling, and there has been a somewhat stable pound against the Euro over the year.

For 2019, the index says that the fine wine market is “in good health, offering steady returns and low volatility compared with other mainstream assets”. The summary also mentions the doubts cast over the industry due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, saying: “The outcome of Brexit negotiations will likely affect the price of fine wine because currency volatility influences the levels of interest from non-Sterling buyers. However, this might be less of an issue for regions with high demand and relative scarcity such as Burgundy and Piedmont.”

Which trends will dominate the wine industry in 2019?

Wine may be considered a luxury for many people, but the way the wine industry reacts to challenges often shapes the way consumers make their choices.

There are lots of reasons why people buy wine. For example, it’s the most gifted product at Christmas. But according to a 2018 study on the habits of wine consumes, 79% of wine buyers just like the taste, indicating they are not swayed by origin or ingredients. The survey also showed that 80% of people say that the cost is the main factor to consider when choosing wine.

Wine industry reacting to consumer tastes

Getting value for money will remain top of the list for the average consumer in 2019. As many countries are going through a period of political and economic changes, this inevitably affects the way people choose to spend their money. Often, this means more people spending less.

In the US, the relative strength of the dollar means certain German wines are more affordable. German Rieslings are likely to be popular, as buying trends pick up after a slow few years. Other great value options for UK and US buyers include rosé from French regions outside of Provence. For example, rosé from Loire, the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux and Gascony will be popular next year.

Environmental impact on wine-making

This year has been phenomenal for UK wine makers, with the biggest and best grape harvests likely to lead to a bumper vintage. And while this is a positive side-effect of rising temperatures, it also shows how much the wine industry must adapt to the new normal. Weather patterns are far more unpredictable, and this will continue. Winemakers are taking note of the changes in climate and their effects on the industry all over the world.

In California, winemaker Laura Diaz Munoz says that increases in temperature and the corresponding stress on water supply are among the environmental concerns for 2019: “Cooler regions are not cooler regions anymore.” She suggests that the industry will adapt by planting in new regions and changing varieties of grapes to match the climate changes.

Owner of Garden Creek Ranch Vineyards & Winery in California, Karin Warnelius-Miller agrees. She says: “In California, we are now living in a different reality than years past. Fires, smoke taint and drought – these are our dominant concerns for 2019 and into the future.”

Health and well-being

As well as the effect on wine-making from climate change and a drive towards value by consumers, 2019 will likely see a continuation of people balancing alcohol intake. Wine is being enjoyed more as part of a meal than as a standalone drink, and there is a corresponding interest in lower alcohol options. Journalist and expert on trends in the wine industry, Deborah Parker Wong says: “The wine industry’s commitment to education is exemplary and the emphasis on consuming wine with food is ever present.”

These are just some of the industry and consumer trends that will affect how people choose their wine as we move into 2019.

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?

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!