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.

Fireside Red Wines to Try this Winter

The festive season is nearly upon us, the perfect excuse to enjoy a glass or two by the fireside. Here at Ideal Wine Company, we have our perfect picks for you to enjoy with family and friends.

With fireside wines, we’re always drawn to big earthy powerful reds. The cold weather is naturally paired with a robust red, with the body and structure to compete with hearty food. Fruitiness, weight and richness help to provide much-needed warmth.

Ideal Wine Company festive red wine
Here are some of the best fireside red wines to try this winter.

Amarone – bright and juicy

An iconic Italian wine, this typically dry red is made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina. The blend is fermented then refermented, giving the wine rich and complex flavours. Concentrated redcurrant and cherry flavours can be detected. The brightness of these fruits pairs well with the subtle notes of clove, cocoa and spiced vanilla. This provides a structured taste, with juicy tannins providing a satisfying finish.

Ribera del Duero – smooth and luscious

This full-bodied red offers a real flavour of the Spanish countryside. The oak ageing adds notes of vanilla to the wine’s natural blackberry and herbal flavours. Its smooth and luscious structure provides a long finish. This wine is perfect for firesides or with a hearty casserole, ideal for the colder weather.

Syrah – complex and fruity

Providing plenty of character, intensity and complexity, this variety produces an inky depth of flavour. By nature, it is a big red. Its strong fruit flavours bring the rich and sturdy structure a delicious warmth. Try pairing this wine with a meat dish or even a mince pie, as the juicy fruit provides the perfect counterpoint to heavily spiced dishes. The acidity, tannins and richness create a mid-palate complexity that will be well-received by all your guests.

Bordeaux – fragrant and ripe

A great and classic choice for the festive season. This wine is a fine accompaniment to festive meat, with its fragrant and ripe taste. With a great balance and a velvet finish, it offers notes of chocolate, black cherry, spice and vanilla. An ideal combination for winter’s spiced treats.

Carignan – warm and intense

Originating from southern France, this wine is famous for its robust and intense flavour. This blend is perfectly balanced with concentrated aromas and flavours of blackcurrant, plums and brambles from the Grenache. A warm clove spice creates a rustic and smoky nuance. The full-bodied fruitiness, aroma and tannic structure create a warming wine choice. This wine is a perfect match for a charcuterie or cheese platter, making it the perfect choice to try for a festive party.

Carmenère – a subtle spiciness

This medium-bodied French wine is often noted for its smoky, spicy and earthy aromas. Its berry and mocha notes provide a richness that is rounded off with a subtle blend of spices. Working well with hearty dishes such as casseroles and chilli, this wine is the perfect winter warmer.

The Perfect Wines for This Winter Season

As the nights get colder and darker, and with more time spent inside and socializing with friends and family, it’s time to reach for a more comforting choice of wine. We tend to shift away from the rosé and stainless-fermented wines, leaning towards heavier, oak-aged varieties. The plummeting temperatures are a natural accompaniment to fuller-bodied reds and fortified wines, perfect for fireside nights and comforting, slow-cooked meals. From generous reds, for pies and stews, to warming fortified wines, Ideal Wine Company have a few tips on what to drink this winter.

Ideal Wine Company winter wine
The perfect wines to try this winter season.

Rich red wines

Unquestionably, red wines are an instinctive choice for this time of year. Big, rich red wines, usually with a higher alcohol content, are the most popular option. The major elements you’ll find in these wines are fruit, tannins and alcohol, with this interplay being key to the success of the wine. Not all big reds are the same, differing on their reliance on subtler fruit, warming spice or even strength. From this, we’ve created a list of popular wines to try:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: with this classic choice, you’ll -get classic flavours of dark berry. These blackberry and blackcurrant notes will be complimented by chocolate and toffee. This luxuriousness is balanced out by medium tannins and a hint of spice, which make it a delicious heartening option.
  • Malbec: unsurprisingly, Malbec makes most lists of big red wines. With a smoky and rich taste, complimented by dark blackberry and blackcurrant, this dark red gives earthy and plush aromas. The structured tannins and warm oak lend itself to a bloom of spice on the finish, making it no surprise this wine is a firm favourite for winter months.
  • Rioja: another structured and fruity wine, Rioja provide a lot of character. The ripe plum and berry taste is balanced by its moderate tannins, spice and cocoa. A perfect wintery choice.

Balancing fortified wines

Making the perfect addition to winter food, fortified wines get their extra alcoholic kick through the addition of another spirit. They are great choices for balancing out the season’s sweet food, with rich flavours such as toffee, coffee, nuts and spices. Our recommendations include:

  • Amontillado Sherry: part of the anti-sweet wave, this sherry promises a subtle, bitter finish that will cleanse your palate of any overly sweet festive food. With tastes of toasted walnut, burnt sugar and bitter orange peel, this sherry is perfect as an ending to a meal or to accompany a sweet treat.
  • Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel: this sweet red wine is made of 90% Grenache and is the perfect pairing for chocolate. Through its notes of sweet raspberry, exotic spices, cocoa powder and Darjeeling tea, this perfectly matches so many winter comfort foods. From chocolate treats, such as truffles and yule logs, to blue cheese, this warming choice is always sure to be a hit.

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.

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.

Costs

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.