Ideal Wines to Serve This Winter

Winter is the perfect season to stay in and enjoy wine. Here’s what Ideal Wine Company is reaching for when the temperatures drop.

Ideal wine company winter wines
Here are our ideal wines to serve this winter.

Nebbiolo – pleasant with surprising form and grip

Nebbiolo is a deceiving wine. While its appearance is pale and pleasant, it is often compared to a Pinot Noir, it has many unexpected qualities. With a high acidity and grippy tannins, which give the wine form and grip, you won’t forget this red quickly. Showcasing complex rose, cherry and leather flavours, this complex wine will keep you satisfied. It pairs well with winter squash, mushrooms, truffles and charcuterie, making a perfect accompaniment to plenty of winter foods.

Sangiovese – earthy and rustic

A high-acid and high-tannin Italian wine is a must have for this colder and darker season. A traditional Sangiovese is the perfect wine to enjoy with all kinds of winter foods, including roasted winter vegetables and hard cheeses. Its earthy and rustic notes bring smoky overtones to the glass. As well, its complex nose is perfect for sitting and sniffing as you relax.

Shiraz – rugged and fruity

When it comes to winter, we all enjoy something a bit more hearty and powerful. A Shiraz is the perfect answer to those needs. Described as big and brooding, this red is an ideal warmer. It is known for its powerful black fruit flavours and savoury undertones. It has a high ABV (coming in at around 14-15%) but if you can’t indulge at Christmas, when can you? It’s not for the faint of heart, but is a delicious choice for when it’s cold outside.

Cabernet Sauvignon – an undeniable classic

Cabernet Sauvignon is such a classic, it’s almost seen as a cliché this time of year. This speaks to the popularity of the wine this time of year. Undoubtedly a favourite of many, this wine is a layered and complex option. Pairing well with a seasonal roast and red meat, this fruity red is a staple of the season for good reason. Try an Old World variety for a surprisingly subtle option.

Chardonnay – rich and buttery

An oaked Chardonnay works well with the hearty food of the season. It’s lightness cuts through the richer fare and provides a palate cleanser between bites. This works particularly well with turkey, sea bass and gruyere cheese. Rich and buttery, this full-bodied white has dominant flavours of vanilla, butter and caramel, with a touch of citrus. Reminiscent of other holiday favourites, such as eggnog and hot buttered rum, a Chardonnay will pair wonderfully with your Christmas feast.

Champagne – light and refreshing

To add to a thoroughly festive season, Champagne brings a party atmosphere. It is light and versatile, providing a refreshing quality that is often overlooked. When it comes to winter food, it pairs well with so many favourites, from Christmas ham and bacon to cheeses and nuts. Whether you want to enjoy this at a party or celebrating at home, Champagne provides the perfect uplift to cure any winter blues. Try on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve to properly celebrate the occasions!

With all the wines this time of year, it’s important to find one suited to your needs. A bold red is always a popular winter warmer, while a refreshing white provides a welcome respite from heavy foods and drinks this time of year. With many of us spending more time indoors due to the cold weather, what better way to do it than with a glass of wine?

Matching Your Christmas Starter to Your Wine

Christmas dinner is undoubtedly one of the most important meals of the year. While you may have decided what wine to serve alongside your classic turkey dinner, starters offer more variety and therefore more trouble. With so many options to choose from, it can be a bit daunting to find a wine to match. At Ideal Wine Company, we’ve compiled a list of perfect starter and wine combinations that’ll earn their place at the Christmas table.

Ideal Wine Company Christmas starters and wine
Here’s how to match your Christmas starter to your wine.

Smoked salmon and Riesling

A classic choice for a Christmas starter, this option pairs well with a light crisp white wine. Try pairing with a dry Riesling. Its vivid green apple flavour works especially well with the fish. The sweetness of a Riesling highlights the smoky taste. Acting as a palate cleanser between bites, the natural acidity of the wine counterbalances the fat content of the fish. A good tip to remember when buying a Riesling for smoked salmon is to avoid sweeter or medium dry varieties. The smoky flavour can overwhelm these options, while a dry Riesling softens and rounds these flavours perfectly.

Roasted pumpkin soup and Chardonnay

A hearty soup is a real crowd-pleasing favourite. Taking the flavours of the season, this creamy starter offers strong and rich flavours. With pumpkin soup, try offsetting this velvety starter with an oak-aged Chardonnay. A medium-bodied option should provide a bright acidity to contrast the soup. The layered light fruit and toast character of the wine provides a refreshing note. This stops the creaminess of the soup from becoming overwhelming, without overpowering it. A perfect pairing for a festive feast.

Grand Marnier paté and rosé

Featuring pork, duck and chicken liver and finished with an orange liqueur and orange slices, this paté packs a lot of flavour. With so much going on, it can be difficult to pair this wine with one specific wine. For this reason, we suggest going with an option that combines elements to fit the variety of flavours. We recommend trying this paté with a rosé wine. Look for a medium bodied variety that has the refreshing texture of a white wine, while also bringing a somewhat deep flavour that is more typically found in a red. This hybrid wine perfectly matches the rustic and hearty offering of paté.

Beef carpaccio and champagne

At Christmas, don’t be afraid to try something a bit different for your starter. A fresh tasting salad made from beef carpaccio is a perfect solution if you’re looking to make a change. With its slightly salty taste and leafy greens, this is a light option. For this reason, it’s best not to choose too strong a wine. Try a Champagne or similar sparkling wine, as these pair surprisingly well with raw beef. Its natural sweetness perfectly brings the entire dish together. What is Christmas without a glass of Champagne?

There are plenty of starters you can bring to your table this Christmas, with an endless variety of wines to pair them with. We recommend choosing lighter options for the first course, to bring a subtlety to a traditional rich meal.

How mould affects the flavour of sweet wines

If you’re partial to a sweet wine, particularly one of the very best (such as Tokaji or Saiternes), it’s interesting to learn that the flavour is affected by different moulds. Ideal Wine Company discusses the research behind this.

Mould wouldn’t normally be the sort of flavour anyone’s after from their favourite drink, but scientists have pin pointed exactly how different kinds of moulds can affect the wine’s taste.

Ideal Wine Company sweet wine mould
Can mould impact the flavour of sweet wines?

Noble rot

German scientists have been studying botrytis cinereal (also known as grey mould), bunch rot and noble rot, and their effect on wine.

They’ve found, with a high degree of certainty, that noble rot increases the aromatic compounds in the wine. This produces a flavour combination that is at once floral, fruit and toasty. It’s what gives sweet white wine that delectable scent and flavour that keeps you going back for more.

Not so noble fungi

Other fungi that commonly affects vineyards includes Eryiphe necator, also known as powdery mildew. This is the kind of rot you don’t want in your grapes as it robs the vines of the vanilla flavour compounds, leaving it flat in taste and much less interesting.

The scientists tested wine made from both healthy and botrytis infected Roter Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Riesling grapes. They also used powdery-mildew infused hybrid Gm 8622-3 in their studies.

The researchers analysed and recorded specific odorants in the wine samples, and then asked a panel of ten ‘sniffers’ to rate them. These sniffers had been extensively schooled for more than six months to recognise 90 separate odours. The sniffers then rated the odours they detected.

Mouldy results

The scientists published their findings in Frontiers of Chemistry and showed that powdery mildew and noble rot both changed the composition of the aroma elements. These subtle changes ‘significantly affected’ the quality of the wine’s aroma.

It was found that grapes infected with noble rot increased the fruity smell that’s characteristic of Tokaji Aszu wines. The study also found that other lactones were also boosted, namely lactone sotolone, which has been likened to smelling of curry. On top of this they found an increase in alcohols and esters, which could account for the toasty flavour notes.

With the powdery mildew infected grapes, they found decreased levels of esters, vanillin and decanoic acid. The wine was not popular with the panel of sniffers, not due to tasting or smelling horrible, but down to the lack of interesting aroma.

Severe frost scuppers French crops

An almost unprecedented run of plunging temperatures and frosts have hit vineyards across central and northern France. In the worst run of weather in many growers’ memories, vineyards in Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy have reported extensively damaged crops. Ideal Wine Company reviews.

Temperatures took a hit across all three main wine making regions in France in the last week of April. Reports from across the board show extremes of cold ranging from -7C, hitting vines hard and causing untold damage.

Weather earlier this year was much milder, encouraging early growth of fresh vines. This means the vines had taken hold and were well developed by the time the late sharp spring frosts hit, and it may not be over yet. Growers are concerned for their income and fear that another cold snap will bite before the summer arrives.

Ideal Wine Company damaged vineyards
This year’s crops have been severely damaged.

Preventative measures by wine growers

Winemakers have been using heaters, candles and even the heat from helicopter down draughts to desperately try and save their crops. But it looks like the wine harvest from France in 2017 will be one of the smallest in three decades thanks to the poor timing of the coldest weather.

Experts are reporting that the frost damage is definitely already worse than the extensive problems caused by cold weather in 2016, when the total amount of wine produced in France fell by 10 per cent. Last year the wine region of Champagne suffered the most with a 20 per cent drop in wine output and it looks to be facing a larger loss in 2017.

More crops destroyed than last year

Last year the wine region of Champagne suffered the most with a 20 per cent drop in wine output and it looks to be facing a larger loss in 2017. However, this year in Champagne, around 25 per cent of vines have been completely destroyed already, compared with 14 per cent at this time last year. And that is a conservative estimate according to experts, meaning the damage could be even more extensive.

In Bordeaux it seems there’s even worse news, with estimates coming in of several thousand hectares of destroyed vineyards thanks to the frosts. Some have been damaged between 50 and 100 per cent. Patrick Vasseur from FNSEA, the largest farm union in France, said: “Today we are likely seeing the most important freeze since 1991. And there are more frosts forecast.”

The Cognac vineyard has been similarly damaged and some vineyards were simply completely wiped out in Bugey, near Lyon. In general, low lying vineyards have been the worst affected, as cold air settles low down and therefore they’re more open to frost damage.

It’s not possible to gauge the exact range of damage as it’s unclear until shoots blacken and die. Growers are continuing to take precautions as they wait to see whether the worst is over.

Gorgona: the Italian wine made by prisoners

The world of wine is evolving each day, how wine is made has stayed the same standardised process for hundreds of years. But who is making your wine? Ideal Wine Company discovers some of the truths behind one of the most highly sought of Italian Wines.

Ideal Wine Company vineyard
The makers behind your wine.

The makers

Just a short hour’s boat ride away from the Tuscan coastal town of Livorno, the island of Gorgona peacefully strides into view. The island is a fair distance from a mainland grocery store, therefore produce is grown on the island. Along with this is a small vineyard that produces some of Italy’s finest white wine. Made by prisoners that have committed some of Italy’s most serious crimes.

The island of Gorgona was established as a penal colony in 1869, today it houses 70 inmates who are in the final stages of their convictions. Prison authorities will receive numerous requests from inmates who wish to be transferred to Gorgona to escape from the overcrowded jail in Florence – in which prisoners will often be incarcerated in their cells for 22 hours a day.

The prisoners are locked up at night and work during the day, there is no physical boundary necessary between the prison and the village around the harbour – inmates are aware of the consequences should they break any rules. Vinified for the first time in 2012, the wine is the result of a partnership between the prison authorities and the Marchesi di Frescobaldi franchise. The company have been making wine for 700 years and produces 11 million bottles on its six Tuscan estates.

The vineyard

In 1989, a single hectare of vines had been planted, however they soon became overgrown and were abandoned. In 2008, an inmate with viticultural experience asked the prison director if he could revive the patch. He managed to save the plantings of white Vermentino and Ansonica as well as four rows of red grapes. In 2010, a wine was made by another inmate under supervision, however the wine was awful and the prison director realised they needed expert help.

At present the vineyard is in immaculate condition with rows of healthy vines stretching as far as can be seen. Frescobaldi employs 15 workers in the vineyard and winery, as well as having extra help at harvest time. They are paid he same union pay as those that work within Frescobaldi’s other wineries. This is a major upgrade for inmates who receive only a nominal salary for other jobs on the island. The aim of the prisoners being a part of the vineyard is so that they learn valuable skills that will help them on release.


The cost of the project is considerably higher than usual, the company pays €13,000 a year to rent the vineyard; as well as other investments for necessary equipment. Overall the investment costs €100,000 per year for a total production of 4,000 bottles.

The turnover of the staff is high, it is important that as many inmates as possible can benefit from the experience; which means continual training of new recruits. The level of productivity is not as high as it may be elsewhere in the industry. This is because the inmates are not accustomed to normal working after being in prison for long periods of time.

The wine has been served to Pope Francis and Italy’s president, as well as other high profile figures. It has turned out to be a great success due to the commitment of the management and workers.