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.

The Perfect Wines to Pair with Your Seafood

Many wine lovers enjoy a glass of wine with their fish dish. The common pairing of white wine and fish is thought to bring balance and supply a palate cleanser between each delicate bite. While many of us think we should avoid red wines and stick to a light and acidic wine with fish. Ideal Wine Company is here to make pairing wine with your fish simple.

Ideal Wine Company seafood and wine
What are the perfect wines to pair with your seafood?

A guide to fish pairing

Fin fish can be categorised into four major groups, by texture and flavour. While there is a general rule that white wine pairs well with most fish, certain white wines work better for each category.

  1. A lean and flaky fish – usually defined by its mild flavour and thin white fillets. Seabass and haddock are key examples of this type of fish. To pair with this, a zesty and refreshing white wine is best to balance the delicate fish flavour. Try Chardonnay or Vermentino as a standard for this variety.
  2. A medium textured fish – firmer and thicker but still flaky, such as trout and red snapper. For this group, try a medium-bodied white with high aromatics. Good examples of this include a Semillon or a dry Riesling.
  3. Meaty fish – firm and with a steak-like texture. This category of fish includes salmon and swordfish and pairs best with a rich white with lots of flavour. Red and rose wines also provide a nice alternative. A white Pinot Noir or an oaked Chardonnay is a good starting point for meaty fishes.
  4. Strong flavoured fish – characterized by their salty taste, these fish are unmistakable. Including anchovies, sardines and mackerel, this strong fish pairs with strong, yet complimentary, wines. Try a Pinot Noir, to match the bold flavours, or Champagne, to bring a fresh note that will cleanse the palate.

Dishes to try

  • Salmon and Pinot Noir:

This meaty fish is adaptable, suiting white, red and rose varieties. Try a Pinot Noir, as the smoothness of the wine perfectly match the earthy flavours of the fish. We recommend that you look for a variety of Pinot Noir that has low tannins as this will compliment but not overpower the salmon.

  • Halibut and Gewürztraminer:

Halibut is mild flavoured with a firm but flaky texture, allowing it to be one of the most versatile and popular fishes available. This allows it to pair well with a wide range of ingredients and wines. Gewürztraminer is slightly sweet and aromatic, bringing fresh notes to the fish. As well as this, the wine acts as a palate cleanser to bring a lightness to any halibut based dishes.

  • Lobster and Chardonnay:

Undoubtedly, lobster is a luxury that must be the star of the dish. When you serve a fresh from the sea lobster, we advise pairing with a less bold wine, as it will be in a supporting role. There may be no better choice than a Chardonnay, as it is light and well-balanced. Look for light and crisp options, as these won’t muddle the flavour of the rich grilled lobster.

  • Scallops and Sancerre:

Scallops defining feature are their sweetness and buttery texture. With this in mind, try pairing them with a medium to full-bodied white, such as a Sancerre. Characteristically citrusy and acidic, the roundness of this wine pairs well with the simplicity of the scallops.

Top Tips on Pairing Your Desserts with Wine

As the festive season approaches, there is a delicious array of desserts to tempt your taste buds. With this in mind, Ideal Wine Company has created a guide to help you perfectly pair your wine and dessert.

Ideal Wine Company wine and dessert
Here are our top tips for pairing your desserts with wine.

Useful Tips

With wine, there are three factors that must be kept in mind: acidity, intensity and sweetness. From here, you can make judgements over what wines to choose to pair with your desserts. Using these three factors, Ideal Wine Company has made a handy list of tips to remember:

  • It is advised that you pick a wine that is equally sweet or sweeter than the dessert you are serving. This ensures that the wine does not taste sour.
  • If your dessert is very sweet, it is a clever idea to wait and serve your wine later. The intensity of both a sugary wine and dessert may overpower and be sickly.
  • When choosing a wine for dessert, wine experts have a saying: “the sweeter the chocolate, the sweeter the wine, and the darker the chocolate, the darker the wine”. Using this as a guide, it is best to choose a darker wine, such as a full-bodied red, for darker and richer desserts.
  • For simple flavours, such as vanilla and caramel, try an oaky wine.

Dessert Ideas

  • Apple Pie – pairs well with light caramel flavours

This delicious dessert is a popular choice in autumn. Its blend of fruit, cinnamon and nutmeg provides a seasonal spice. This is lighter than most pies, which means it pairs well with a light botrytized wine. Try a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion, which provide caramel and honeyed flavours as well as an acidity that will cut through the sugar and butter. Alternatively, the refreshing sweetness and high acidity found in Riesling enhance the baked flavours and cleanses your palate as you eat.

  • Brownies – rich and dark notes

A classic dessert full of cocoa, chocolate chunks and nuts. Here, it is a good idea to take the rule of “the darker the chocolate, the darker the wine”. The deep chocolate in brownies makes it a perfect match for a dark red wine. Try a Merlot or a Pinot Noir for a decadent accompaniment.

  • Mince Pies – look out for sweet flavours

These sweet and spicy little pies are synonymous with the winter season. However, the difficulty with mince pies is that not only can the mince meat filling be very sweet, it can also be quite acidic. With this in mind, try serving a Madeira or Sauternes. Both wines help to bring out the sweetness of the mince pies, without making an overwhelmingly sugary dessert. The fortified Madeira carries flavours of toffee, raisins, caramel and marmalade, pairing well with the citrusy notes. One the other hand, the lighter Sauternes is French and sweet. Made from botrytized grapes, it results in a sweet and acidic wine, with honey, apricot, peach and nut flavours. You can opt for either wine and still guarantee a delicious pair with your dessert.

With mince pies, serve Madeira or Sauternes. While the fortified Madeira is from Portugal carrying flavours of toffee, raisins, marmalade and caramel, Sauternes is French and sweet, made from botrytized grapes that result in sweet and acidic wines with apricot, honey peaches and nut flavour.

The Best Wines to Serve with Soup

As the months get colder, it’s always an excellent idea to reach for warmer and heartier food. As the natural choice, soup works as a nourishing winter warmer but can be hard to pair with wine due to the interplay of broths and flavours. Here at Ideal Wine Company, we have plenty of recommendations for pairing your soup with wine. This week, we bring you the perfect wine and soup pairings for this season.

Ideal Wine Company wine and soup
Here’s how best to pair your soup and wine this winter.

Pea and Ham Soup with Riesling

Whether you prefer pea and ham soup thin or thick, Riesling pairs well with this simple dish. The honeycomb and beeswax notes of a Riesling pair well with the ham, as it has similar flavours to a traditional ham glaze. The minerality and sweetness of the wine also works as a palate cleanser between bites, heightening a humble meal. We recommend a classic, off-dry Germain style Riesling for this dish.

Indian Red Lentil Soup with Cinsault

While it is often recommended to use white wines or Gamay when pairing with Indian Cuisine, Cinsault pairs perfectly with this dish. Columbia Valley interpretations are fresh, fruity and slightly smoky, elevating the hearty and delicious flavours of the soup.

Butternut Squash Soup with Gewürztraminer

A crowd-pleasing wholesome meal, Butternut Squash soup pairs well with Gewürztraminer. This semi-sweet, aromatic white wine, with notes of cinnamon, ginger and honey, pair wonderfully with the silky texture and spice of this soup.

French Onion Soup with Beaujolais

This classic French comfort food works well with a classic pairing, Beaujolais. The flavours of plum, cherry and peach compliment the distinct sweet flavour of slow-cooked onions. The acidity of the wine should cut through the broth too. We recommend a Cru variety, as they are known for their lighter style and won’t be too heavy when paired with a hearty dish.

Tom Yum with Grenache Blanc

Tom Yum soup has many hard-hitting flavours. Using lemongrass, kaffir limes and galangal, you may think it’s difficult to pair a wine with this complex, spicy dish. However, an unoaked Grenache Blanc and Tom Yum pairs perfectly together. The flavour profile of a Grenache Blanc is similar to Tom Yum, also having notes of lemongrass and galangal, meaning the dish and the wine complement each other and produce a heightened flavour profile.

Beef Stew with Carménère

A staple of colder months, a tender and familiar beef stew is the perfect comfort food. It is popular to combine with full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, with these wines working well with the beef of the dish. However, if you want to try something new, opt for a Carménère. A medium-bodied Carménère can add a much-needed dimension to this dish, especially if peppercorn and herbaceous notes are dominant in the stew. When shopping for this wine, we advise avoid any 2016 Chilean vintages.

The Best Wines for Italian Food

Wine and Italian food is a famous pairing. The rich notes of red wine or the light notes of white often work to enhance the flavours of your meal. But what should you look out for when pairing wine with a dish? Ideal Wine Company has plenty of recommendations to perfectly match your wine to your meal. It is best to focus on the sauce, to get the best pairing and so we’ve kept this in mind in our list of the best reds and whites for every occasion.

Ideal Wine Company Wine and Italian Food
We review which wines work best with Italian food.

Cabernet Sauvignon – hearty and rich

The primary taste of Cabernet Sauvignon is blackcurrant, but other overtones include blackberry and mint. This hearty and rich red wine pairs best with tomato-based red sauces, complimenting the richness of the sauce. This pairs well with lasagna as it balances the richness of the dish.  Try a medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon to really balance your dish.

Sauvignon Blanc – crisp and acidic

Sauvignon Blanc is typically very light, with notes of grass and apple and a soft, smoky flavour. This acidic white wine tends to be crisp, making it a nice match for a cream based sauce, balancing the richness of the dish. This would work well with a Pasta Alfredo, as it would cut through the creaminess of the sauce.

Pinot Noir – light and versatile

This delicious and earthy French wine is one of the most well-known red wines to pair with Italian food. It is a light red wine, with flavours that include earth, vanilla and jam. Its versatility makes it work best with a tomato-based red sauce and it also pairs well with a variety of Italian food. Try this with a pesto dish.

Chardonnay – an adaptable white wine

Chardonnay can taste semi-sweet or sour, heady or light, depending where the grapes are grown and how it’s processed. Typically, the flavours include apple, tangerine, lemon, lime, melon and oak. Like most white wines, it is best paired with cream or oil-based sauces, such as a Carbonara. However, a Chardonnay can also work well with a light tomato-based red sauce.

Italian Chianti – strong and bold

Chianti is a red wine from Tuscany and is one of the most popular wines among Italians, as it perfectly complements a wide range of Italian food. It is perfectly suited for flavourful, well-seasoned sauces, such as Bolognese, due to the strong and bold flavours. It pairs best with tomato-based red sauces but also works well with cream or oil-based sauces.

Riesling – ideal for light sauces

Riesling is usually made to be a sweet wine, but can also create a dry wine. The taste of this wine is usually affected by where it is grown, as Californian Rieslings tend to be dry and have a melon taste, while German Rieslings are tarter and have a grapefruit flavour. Dry Riesling is an ideal wine for vegetarian dishes or light sauces, in addition to seafood and chicken. Often, it is best to pair a dry Riesling with simple fish, chicken or pasta dishes that have some acid to them. Particularly, this pairs well with a risotto, complimenting the delicate flavours without overpowering them. It is best to avoid pairing this wine with any strong sauces, especially those that are tomato-based.