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 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.


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.

Dieting: wine gets the go ahead!

For many of us our one true love and biggest downfall is wine. When it comes to spring time the majority of us frantically rush to the nearest gym to start shaping our summer bodies, in an attempt to lose the bellies gained over Christmas. Soon gone will be the days of looking like a literal pig in blanket (after eating them continuously for a steady month) and in will be the beach bodies ready to show off. Ideal Wine Company deciphers, should wine be cut out from dieting plans altogether?

Ideal Wine Company Dieting
Can wine be included in your diet?

In or out?

The answer is no, wine can be enjoyed whilst dieting as new advice has shown. Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., creator of the F-Factor diet claims there is no need to cut wine out whilst dieting. Whilst speaking to Women’s Health Magazine she said “the key is to count calories like you would any snack” – a sigh of relief for wine lovers!

Tanya recommends: Chardonnay, Riesling, White Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc for white wine – all under 85 calories, 2.6 grams of carbs and one gram of sugar. For red wine, she suggests: Merlot, Pinot Noir or Rosé – less than three grams of carbs, one gram of sugar and 88 calories. She advises avoiding sweet dessert wines/sweet wines like marsala or sherry which have more than 14 grams of carbs, eight grams of sugar and 164 calories.


For those that don’t want to stray from their strict diets, several producers now offer ‘Skinny Wine’. Produced by G.Tribaut, it has only 275 calories in the whole bottle compared to 500 in a normal bottle wine. In a standard 125ml flute it holds 50 calories in contrast to the usual 80-90 calories. Shockingly it has fewer calories in the whole bottle than a single large glass of some red wines.

Tips and tricks

So, what can we do to prevent overindulging? Walking in the early evening helps to keep metabolism up and slows down the body’s ‘need to feed’ impulse. Wine also increases metabolism for 70-90 minutes; however, it should be noted that it is important to drink water when you consume wine to maintain the balance of water in your cells.

Drinking wine before eating has been shown to increase appetite when it is consumed 30 minutes before eating – we suggest saving wine for a meal. If cooking whilst enjoying a glass of wine is a common occurrence, try splitting the wine into 2 servings of 3 ounces each.

Alcohol behaves much like carbohydrates; therefore, it is advised not to drink late at night. As well as this removing indulgent foods and drink from the house will reduce the temptation to have it. If it is out of sight it is said to be out of mind, resisting buying high calorie food and drink and rather swapping it for a lighter alternative.

Introducing Ideal Wine Company’s Burke’s Peerage Selection

Here at Ideal Wine Company, we’re constantly striving to bring you fine vintages from around the world, at affordable prices. We recently added a Burke’s Peerage Selection to our wine range.

Top wines

You can find both old and new world wines here at Ideal Wine Company. When it comes to old world vintages, you receive products which are often light-bodied, while displaying earth, herb, mineral and floral flavours. In contrast, new world wines are typically fuller, more alcoholic and really fruity!

This means that whatever your preferences, you’ll find something you’ll love at Ideal Wine Company. Our old world products come from some of the most prolific wine-making regions in history like Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone, with a variety of full-bodied reds on offer. Meanwhile, you can buy lighter reds from up-and-coming new world regions like California and Australia with us too!

Burke’s Peerage

But if you want something really special, browse our new Burke’s Peerage Selection. Established in London in 1826, Burke’s Peerage is the definitive guide to the genealogy and heraldry of prominent family lines worldwide. You can secure exclusivity by purchasing one of these wines, some which were owned by one of these families, which include barons, royals even presidents, from us.

Our Burke’s Peerage Selection features a host of different styles. We have popular white wines, such as Chablis and Gewürztraminer, which are known for their light aromas and delicate flavours. You can also buy hearty, flavoursome reds in this selection, such as Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Francs and Malbecs. The range further includes elegant roses, luxurious Champagnes and light, gorgeous Proseccos!

Buying wine online

Buying wine online is incredibly easy with Ideal Wine Company. Let’s say you want to purchase the Chateau Meyre 2011, a hearty red produced in Bordeaux’s Haut-Medoc appellation, which is currently featured in our Burke’s Peerage Selection? You should start by going to the homepage on our official website. Browse the ‘search by regions’ column on the left-hand side and you’ll find Burke’s Peerage.

Click the Burke’s Peerage Selection link and browse, until you find the Chateau Meyre 2011. Click this icon and you’ll see a buy button. Click this to add the bottle to your Ideal Wine Company shopping basket, then head to the ‘checkout’ on the top left-hand side of our website, to complete your purchase. You can pay for your wine via credit/debit card, bank transfer or cheques, although credit card payments come with a 2.5% surcharge. Then arrange delivery and we’ll send your wine to you!

Only the best

We only stock the best of the best in our Burke’s Peerage Selection, so by buying one of these wines, you’ll get a quality, truly unique product. We’re constantly looking for new vintages to add to this range so check back with us regularly, to see which new Burke’s Peerage vintages we have for you!