Scientists create ‘supergrapes’ to combat fungal attack on vineyards

Growing vines that are impervious to rot or any parasites is surely the dream for wine makers. And now, scientists in France have made that dream a reality by creating four supergrape varieties that they say need almost zero pesticides.

However, traditional vineyard owners say that the supergrapes could lead to lesser quality ‘Frankenstein’ wine in the future. This is because they mix grape genes from different regions and grow the creation in labs, therefore diluting the purity.

Visually identical

The white and red grapes currently growing at the National Institute of Agronomical Research in Colmar, France, look just the same as any other you’d see in the region. But they’re very different.

They’re grown the lab as part of an ongoing programme named “Resdur”, which aims to create grapes that are “durably resistant” to any kind of fungi, including the two that can destroy whole crops: powdery and downy mildew

Over the last few months, scientists at Inra have been given permission by the state to grow four different supergrapes. Named Araban, Floreal, Vidoc and Voltis, wines made from then will be bottled next year and in 2020.

Decades-long research

Growing grapes that are resistant to rot isn’t a new idea. First attempts to do so started in the 1970s when scientists singled out a resistant gene. Since then, Inra has identified three more by crossing European, Asian and American grapes.

The man in charge of Inra is called Didier Merdinoglu. He says that the grapes will allow winemakers to reduce pesticide use by up to a whopping 90%: “We are talking about dropping from an average of 15 treatments per year to one or two, above all to kill off other diseases and parasites.”

Environmental breakthrough

As 20% of all pesticide use in France is concentrated onto vineyards, even though wine grapes consist of just 3% of the country’s crops, researchers say that these new grapes could be an environmental breakthrough. It will also make growing grapes cheaper for the owner.

France is under increasing pressure to reduce pesticide use fast, after a number of cancer cases among vintners. However, some winemakers remain resistant to the idea of a supergrapes.

They say that grapes grown in the lab could decimate centuries of careful growing traditions that have melded European crops with the local soil, producing subtly different varieties of wine. They say that replacing cultivated grapes with cheaper, much more robust but artificially cultivated ones will mean wine lacks the quality and flavour of the existing regional varieties.

Not GM

These grapes aren’t genetically modified, but purists worry that crossing over different varieties from around the world will lead to “artificial and unnatural ‘Frankenstein wine’”. One said: “This is like crossing a monkey with a man: it may be technically possible, but it goes against nature.”

While that may well be hyperbole from a traditionalist, France must lower pesticide use somehow and it’s likely that this will be the fastest way to hit their targets.

Three-quarters of Brits know very little about wine

If you’ve ever felt baffled by the array of wines on offer, you’re not alone. While people in the UK famously love their wine, many have very little understanding of the nuances of the subject. In fact, a recent report says that 75% of British people are foxed by wine and 73% admitted being confused by wine lists in restaurants.

Not confident

Six in ten people (58%) reported feeling that they don’t know enough about wine to feel confident when ordering and more than a third (36%) have no idea what they’re doing when invited to taste a wine at the table.

Typically, people in the UK spend around £25 for a bottle perfect for a dinner party, but a tenth regularly stump up £100. Despite being willing to pay a bit more, most don’t know what to choose in store, with 29% simply opting for anything on offer and 23% always sticking to wines from the same region or country. Only 18% bother to try and match the wine to food they’re eating.

Food and wine

The survey took in the wine-based opinions of 2,000 people in Britain for a Californian winery. In response to the results, wine expert Joe Wadsack from the BBC’s Food & Drink show said: “It’s amazing how far a little useful information can take you. Knowing what food tastes good with what sort of wine, and more importantly why, is very useful information to have.”

Understanding basic food and wine pairings will ensure that you will get the most enjoyment out of your dinner but will also help to avoid matches that just don’t work. Some wine and food combos clash and can make food taste strange.

Correct glasses

Some tips for wine novices include using the right glass. For examples, red wines taste smoother and breathe more easily in big bowl glasses with tall stems, while whites work better in glasses with a narrower rim and smaller bowl as they stay cool longer.

Red wine should always be served at just below room temperature to help appreciate its flavours and savour the subtle aromas. If it’s served too warm, reds can taste ‘jammy’, and not as nuanced as they should.

Don’t be put off by wines with screw tops, which are commonly assumed to be of a lesser quality, and don’t be fooled by prices going up. This doesn’t necessarily mean a better wine, it could mean it was a poorer harvest leading to fewer bottles.

Follow these simple tips and learn some basic food and wine pairings, and you’ll be able to enjoy wine to the full.

Know Your Cork: Ideal Wine’s Guide to Understanding How Wine Corks Work

Put simply, wine corks are the most popular stopper method for a bottle of wine. There are even many wine enthusiasts out there who claim that this is the superior method, making the wine age and taste better. But do we understand how corks work and the different types? As this variety can affect the ageing process of wine, we’re examining what you should be looking out for. This week, we’re bringing you the Ideal Wine Company’s guide to everything you need to know about corks. Let’s get started…

Where do corks come from?

Cork bottle stoppers are made from the bark of cork oaks. It’s interesting to note that the tree is not cut down and only up to half of the bark is removed at any one time. This is a highly skilled, labour intensive process with special tools and complicated logistics. Imagine peeling the delicate bark from a massive tree, cutting it into uniform sheets and transporting it to the processing plant without breaking it. These are reasons why cork closures are more expensive, and why there is some pressure to move to alternative closures.

Ideal Wine - Cork 2

 

 

 

How sustainable are corks?

While corks are by no means a perfect product for sustainability, they are better options than plastic – which takes centuries to break down fully – and aluminium – which takes a lot of energy to make. All this means that cork has stood up very well to synthetic closures in terms of sustainability and environmental impact. While it may not be perfect, corks are the best option we have at the moment for our environment. So, treat yourself to that extra bottle of cork-stopped wine, you are helping the environment after all!

What are the different types of cork?

  • 100% natural cork stoppers: This is perhaps the most popular cork – and is probably the one that comes to mind when you think of corks. This is the only cork stopper you should trust for ageing wine much beyond 5 years or so, because its spongy flexibility keeps its seal viable the longest.
  • Colmated corks: Essentially, this is a natural cork stopper, but with its pores filled with glue and sawdust. Doing this does have some benefits, such as they look smoother and glide out of the bottle when you pull them. While they’re not as good for longer ageing processes, they still work fine for medium ageing.
  • Multi-piece cork: This is two or more large cork pieces glued together. These are denser than single piece corks, and are a way the cork manufacturers can use up their scraps. These are also the only way to make giant corks for giant bottles. While these are useful in some situations, it’s important to note that they aren’t to be trusted for prolonged ageing.
  • Agglomerated corks: Basically, these are a plug made of cork dust and glue. It’s cheaper, pretty dense, and not to be trusted to seal your wine beyond 1 year or so.

Just because your wine has a cork in it, doesn’t mean it will last forever. With so many different types of cork out there, familiarising yourself with what they do can go a long way in saving your precious wine from ruin. By knowing what you’re stopping your wine with, you’re sure to get the maximum enjoyment out of all your delicious wine.

Understanding Wine Vintages and Why They Matter to You

Wine can be dramatically affected by its vintage. The same grapes from the same vineyard take on distinctively different characteristics depending on the year they were harvested. We all know we should try good vintages to maximise our tasting experience, but first, we need to know what we’re looking for. Ideal Wine Company is this week breaking down how vintages can change wine and what to seek to get the best out of the experience.

Ideal Wine Company wine vintage
We’re breaking down how vintages can change wine and what to seek to get the best out of the experience.

What is a wine vintage?

First of all, the vintage of wine is the year it was produced in. When the grape was grown and harvested leads to many changes in flavours. The taste and quality can be affected, primarily because of the different weather. These conditions alter the vines and how they are growing throughout the year. The vintage date is found on the bottle, label or even cork.

The defining feature of a vintage is sunshine. If the year has seen plenty of sunny weather, the grapes are given the best chance to reach full maturity and optimum ripeness levels. However, too much heat, defined as too many days above 33 ºC, and the grapes will dry out which can lead to bitter tannins in your wine. If the year is particularly rainy or cloudy, the grapes do not fully ripen. This makes them prone to rot and disease, delivering lower quality grapes.

Wines without a vintage date are usually made by blending multiple years together. If you opt for a non-vintage wine, you’ll usually find more consistency. They are typically a house style wine that is good value but does not offer unique distinctions from year to year.

Signs to look out for

You can determine how good the vintage will be by looking out for signs in the weather. Each season has key features that can change how your wine tastes.

  • Spring: Look out for early snow and hail-storms, as these can break off flowers and buds. This could potentially reduce the crops by 100%. A sunny spring is perfect for growing wine -and drinking it!
  • Summer: For both us and grapes, rain in summer can put a dampener on things! Wet weather during the simmer can cause disease which ruin grapes. In addition, droughts and exceptionally hot weather can cause vines to pause their growth. A mild but sunny summer are the ideal conditions for a good vintage.
  • Autumn: Harvest time is the most important season for grapes. Bad weather in this period can greatly reduce the quality of the vintage. Rain can cause grapes to swell, which means they can either lose concentration or even rot. Cold weather will stop the grapes from ripening.

When vintage should matter

The wine vintage will play the biggest role in regions where the climate is very variable. If you’re buying a bottle from northern Europe, such as France, Germany or Northern Italy, you should be paying attention to the vintage.

If your wine is from a predictable climate, such as Portugal, Argentina, Australia, California and Southern Italy, you’ll see more consistency year-on-year. This makes vintage less important.

Knowing the vintage of your wine can be important, but may not be your biggest concern. If you’re buying a wine from a region where there is a lot of difference between vintages, however, it is one of the most crucial factors you should know before you buy. A little bit of research here can go a long way!

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.