What makes one year’s wine vintage better than another?

If you’re serious about collecting wine for investment, it’s critical to understand what goes into making a great wine vintage. The Ideal Wine Company Collector’s Guide is the perfect place to get an overview of where to start in wine investment. 

But how do collectors and investors choose one vintage over another from the same vineyard? What sets one year apart from another? Why is one year’s production highly sought after, while another is much lower in value? Here are some answers.

What is a wine vintage?

We’ll start with the basics first. What exactly is a wine vintage? Simply put, it is the year that winemakers picked the grapes for a particular bottle. It may sound straightforward, but there are a number of important factors that go into making a particular year’s crop of grapes better than another.

The quality of the process and the ability of the winemakers themselves is crucial, of course. The timing of the harvest, when the vines are pruned and how well they manage pests are all significant. One poor decision can easily lead to wine of a lower quality.

But the winemaker’s broader vision for their wines also contributes to a great vintage. A winemaker who thinks longer term is more likely to make the right growing, harvesting and making decisions year-on-year. It’s why it pays to get to know the winemakers you respect, and to follow their careers closely.

We talked about an example of this recently in terms of champagne production. The top champagne makers only release premier cuvées when the conditions are exactly right. They maintain their good name with investors as a result.

How does the climate affect the making a great wine vintage?

Most of the growing and harvesting decisions that the winemaker takes are usually in response to the weather. An experienced grower will know how to respond to everything from hard spring frosts to wet summers and damp harvests. All of these factors and the quality of a maker’s response to them impact the investment value of a particular vintage. The wrong weather can even badly impact an entire year’s production.

To create a vintage wine harvest, the most critical factor is the amount of sunshine during that growing season. This directly impacts the rate and amount that the grapes ripen on the vine. Too much sunshine and the grapes raisinate. Too little sun (or too much wet, cloudy weather), and the grapes are less likely to ripen and more likely to rot.

Crucially, it’s worth remembering that not all grape varieties respond in the same way. So, if you have a favourite producer, understand how the weather in that region impacts the wine variety they use. And before choosing a particular vintage, research the specific weather that year. Finally, in regions where the weather is more consistent, vintage is less important. Unpredictable weather is unlikely to impact growers in Australia, California or even South Africa. It’s why they produce wines of a similar quality year on year.  

Why low-alcohol wine doesn’t have to be disappointing

Low alcohol wine may be slow to catch on, there are plenty on the market full of flavour. It may even one day become an investment category for fine wine collectors.

Technically, a wine can’t be called a wine if it doesn’t contain alcohol. At least, according to the EU it can’t. However, it’s possible legal definitions like these will change after the UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020. For now, in order to be called wine, fermented grape juice must have at least 8.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) content.

 

Zero alcohol versus low alcohol wine

But for most people, it’s not the legality of the name that concerns them about non-alcoholic ‘wine’, but rather what does it taste like? Wine with no alcohol at all has a distinctively different flavour.

However, low-alcohol wines are a different story. A winemaker in New Zealand called Dr John Forrest makes a popular range of low-alcohol wines. He says that while he’s happy to drop levels to the EU minimum, he won’t go lower because the alcohol is important for the flavour. According to Dr Forrest, the alcohol volume adds sweetness to the wine’s aroma, “ripeness to the fruit flavours, weight and ‘oily’ mouthfeel.”

Any lower than 8.5% ABV and you lose what Dr Forrest calls “the secondary chemical interactions” of alcohol to the wine. This affects the flavour and impact of its tannins and the complexity of its aroma.

Four low alcohol wines to try

This is probably why any ‘wine’ with zero alcohol definitely does taste different. It will be thinner, lighter and much simpler, without the complexity that wine usually gives the drinker. Good quality low-alcohol wines work by maintaining the robust flavour that people want, without resorting to just replacing the alcohol with sugar. So, we’d definitely suggest sticking to low-alcohol wines rather than cutting it out completely. Here are five of the best that are worth trying.

  1. Forrest The Doctor’s Sauvingnon Blanc 2018

Made in Marlborough, New Zealand, this is a cleverly low-alcohol wine. The work goes in at the vineyard and during production to cut alcohol but not compromise on quality. This version cuts alcohol down to 9.5% ABV but tastes like it’s much stronger. Packed with passion fruit and gooseberry flavours, it’s a lower alcohol wine that fools your palate into thinking it’s more like 14% ABV.

  1. Vale dos Pombos Vinho Verde 2018

This wine comes from the cooler northern region of Portugal and is a great choice if you’re looking for lower alcohol. This one is at 9.5% ABV and is a refreshing wine with a spritzy, citrusy finish.

  1. Les Nivieres Saumur 2018

From the Loire Valley in France, this is actually at 12.5% ABV. While that used to be thought of as an average strength for a red wine, but these days this is certainly on the lighter side. Despite the lower alcohol, this is a rich cabernet franc, rammed with blackcurrant fruits.

  1. Dr Loosen Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese 2018

From the Mosel in Germany, this wine generally comes in at less than 8% ABV. It’s a delicious medium sweet Riesling, with a minerally flavour interspersed with spicy mandarin.

The Perfect Wines for Your New Year’s Eve Party

What better way is there to ring in the New Year than with friends, family and a good glass of wine. No matter what your preference is, see out the year in style. From reds to white to sparkling, Ideal Wine Company has amazing suggestions for the final party of the year!

Ideal Wine Company New Year Wine
What are the perfect wines for your New Year’s Eve party?

Champagne – synonymous with celebrations

The ultimate celebratory tipple, champagne really is a great way to toast the new year. Whether you’re heading out to a party or staying in, this full-bodied wine with a rounded sweetness is a perfect choice. Its citrusy freshness adds a complexity to a fruity expression. Try a dry option if you don’t want something too sweet. Alternatively, you could try other sparkling wines if you want to break away from the seasonal norm. Prosecco, for instance, is less intense than its French counterpart and pairs well with light cheese and dark chocolate. Perfect for parties.

Unusual red blends – an adventurous change

This party season, why not try something completely new? A blend of red wine brings together all the flavours you look for in a wine into a surprising yet delicious glass. These create a memorable experience for all who try them, the layers of depth, complexity and rich flavours offering a twist on a classic. Try expanding your blend choices. A classic Cabernet and Merlot blend always goes down well. But if you’re feeling adventurous, the unique blend of Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Petite Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Mourvedre, Grenache, and Cinsault currently gaining popularity is sure to be unforgettable!

Pinot Noir – a go-to for elegance and refinement

New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy the classic staples done well. This light-skinned grape offers a less intense red that pleases both red and white wine drinkers. Offering an exotic bouquet of ripe red fruit, Pinot Noir is a graceful addition to any party. Notoriously difficult to perfect, a well-made Pinot Noir is a truly delicious and memorable choice. Try finding a vintage from 2010 or 2012, both of which were good years for this variety.

Vinho Verde – a refreshing option

Gaining in popularity over recent years, Vinho Verde is perfect for those who enjoy a crisp and refreshing glass. This Portuguese white is light, fizzy and easy to drink. Look out for the more serious versions of the wine being created. These textural and dry offerings often include notes of citrus and pear. As a lighter option than most, this wine is perfect to enjoy with a heavier New Year’s Eve meal or if you want to stick to a less intense option.

This New Year, find a wine to suit your palate that mixes well with a variety of foods. Whether you want to toast to 2018 with unexpected red or white, or a classic glass of sparkling wine, there’s a wine out there to keep everyone happy and in a fine celebratory mode!

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?

How to Perfect your Mulled Wine

You know Christmas is close when you’re enjoying a warming glass of hot, fragrant mulled wine. The traditional festive beverage, usually made with red wine together with various mulling spices and raisins, can be served hot or warm. With its heady aromas of sweetness and spice, this fruity drink is synonymous with Christmas. While it is a treat that many can’t wait to enjoy, it can be difficult to perfect the right balance of flavours being a struggle for many. At Ideal Wine Company, we’ve gathered our top tips to help you make sure your mulled wine is a winner this winter.

Ideal Wine Company Mulled Wine
Here are our top tips for perfecting your mulled wine.

How do I make mulled wine?

Start with a classic recipe – there are hundreds available free online – and they’re easy to follow. While you’re looking make a note of the spices used in them. The more traditional mulling spices are cinnamon, star anise, cloves and nutmeg. But others also include allspice, bay leaves, cardamom, vanilla or ginger.

What wine should I use?

One of the most common questions for how to make mulled wine is what type of wine you should use. While there are many varieties that can work, we know that it is best to look for certain characteristics. The ideal reds to use are young, bright, fruity and unoaked. These will create a good base to build on, while still bringing a rich taste. We recommend using very fruit driven wines, as these tend to make the best mulled wines. Try using an Italian red, a Southern French or New World Merlot. A Shiraz would also be a wonderful choice.

It is also worth noting that quality is important. Always use a wine that you would enjoy drinking. However, it may be best to avoid anything too expensive, as the spices will overpower the subtlety of the wine and that would be a waste.

What flavourings should I use?

After you’ve chosen your wine, add sugar or honey to sweeten it, but be careful not to use too much as overly sweet wine can become overwhelming quickly. Then you add your spices to give it festive flavour. These should include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise and ginger. Make sure you’re careful when you put in the spices – a little at a time so that it isn’t too strong – you can’t take it back out again. Try gathering the spices in a muslin cloth to avoid small floating spices in your drink.

In addition to these classic flavours, try adding a spirit to compliment the flavours. You could add sloe gin, Cointreau or Grand Marnier for added kick.

How do I mull wine?

When you’ve added your spices, it’s now time to mull your wine. The time spent on the heat is very important. You need to infuse the wine long enough for the spices to take on the flavour, but must be careful not to boil it. This will bring out the natural bitterness of the wine that will overwhelm the entire drink. By lightly simmering it, you will emphasise the wine’s fruitiness, perfectly rounding out the flavours. We recommend serving your mulled wine comfortably warm.

Mulled wine is the perfect comforting choice for a cold December. Nothing says winter like a steaming mug or glass of festive mulled wine.