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Should you aerate or decant your wine before serving?

Many wine experts will agree that most red wines need to be aerated before they are consumed. This process exposes these wines to the air prior to drinking, usually opening their flavours and letting the wine comfortably settle into their own taste and character. Both a decanter and an aerator will help in this process, but what is the difference between the two and when should you use these techniques? Ideal Wine Company has plenty of tips to guide you through the process.

A decanter and an aerator both serve a similar purpose. They expand the surface area of wine, which allows the air to mingle with it. Whether placing the wine in a larger vessel, a decanter, or forcing air to be circulated throughout it, an aerator, the result is a wine with an expanded aromatic profile and softer tannins.  So, what’s the difference between the two?

Ideal Wine Company decanting or aerating
Should you aerate or decant your wine before serving?

Decanter – the preferred choice for many

Decanters are wide, tall, glass pitchers that are used to serve wine. They give the wine a wide surface area that is exposed to the surrounding air. As the wine mixes with the air, the process results in a reduction in tannins, chemicals which create a drying sensation in the mouth, as well as the development of the bouquet. Through doing this, it is easier to smell and identify the essence of the wine. Uncorking the bottle in advance of serving does not lead to this result, as it will not infuse enough air into the bottle. The wide surface area of the decanter is key to this process. This is the preferred method for many people, as it works slowly. This slow process allows air to mix organically with the wine and can last for hours without spoiling.

Old reds benefit from some amount of decanting. This is because some chemicals and tannins can begin to bind together and create sediment in the bottle after an amount of time in the bottle. This is generally a non-issue in wines that are younger than 10 years. However, after reaching the decade mark, sediment begins to be a concern and decanting can help separate it from the wine.

Aerator – a useful speedy tool

Although the decanter may be the preferred method for allowing wine to breathe, an aerator is still a useful tool. Much like a decanter, it serves the purpose of mingling air with wine. In this method, the wine is poured into a funnel-like device, which infuses air into the wine as it passes from the bottle to the glass. The main benefit of this method is time, as it is a much quicker process. Air is infused as it is poured, which has the benefit of highlighting the bouquet and tannins without the necessity of time.

Young reds often benefit the most from aeration, including Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon.

When should I use these methods?

Not all wines need to be infused with air to be enjoyed. As a rule, plan on decanting or aerating red wines and not white. This is because red wines have a higher tannin profile and will benefit from allowing air to infuse and mellow the tannins. However, there are exceptions. when a white wine is full bodied and dry, such as a White Bordeaux or Alsace, it should be decanted for 30 minutes before serving, being careful not to warm the wine.

Finally, there are some red wine groups that should not be aerated. This includes softer reds, such as Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, and lower priced wines.

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How to cook with wine – 8 top tips from the Ideal Wine Company

Wine can blend beautifully with a variety of dishes, including meat, soup, risotto and shellfish. The rich notes of red wine or the delicate flavour both work to make delicious recipes, but what are the best techniques when using wine in cooking? The Ideal Wine Company has plenty of recommendations to help you when cooking with wine.

Ideal Wine Company cooking with wine
The best wines to use when cooking.

Use Wine That You Would Drink                                                                                                                                       

The wine used in cooking needs to be drinkable, in that it is clean, fresh and not corked. If you have leftover wine, decant into a smaller bottle or container, to prevent it from oxidizing. A wine that has been open for 4-5 days is usually fine to cook with. If it has been longer than this, the wine will have lost all its fruit and will no longer add a delicious flavour to your cooking.

 

Avoid Cooking Wines                                                                                                                               

Wines labelled as cooking wines usually tend to be particularly poor quality and will not add an appealing flavour to your food.

Fortified Wines                                                                                             

Fortified wines, such as Sherry, Madeira and Marsala are ideal for cooking. A small quantity adds strength, depth and a welcomed sweetness. These have a much longer shelf life than most wines, making it a good option to have in your store cupboards.

Versatile Wines                                                                                                                   

If you are cooking with red wine, look for medium-bodied but not overly tannic reds, such as Merlot. For white wine, wines that are crisp, dry and unoaked, such as Pinot Grigio, work well. Wines with pronounced aromatic character, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer, are less flexible, but work well with a creamy sauce. Experimentation will help you find an ideal wine for your dish.

Wine-Based Marinade                                                                                                 

A wine-based marinade will help to tenderize meat, but will often change the flavour. The meat takes on a ‘gamey’ quality if it is left to marinade for longer than a couple of hours. The marinade should also be discarded unless you’re going to cook it well.

Reducing the Wine                                                                                                                       

Reducing the wine through simmering will accentuate its dominant character. This will help to bring out the sweetness, tannin or acidity of the wine. It’s also the best method to use in order to concentrate the flavour when you only want to add a small amount of wine to a dish or dressing.

Slow Cooking with Wine                                                                                                                                   

The quality of the wine is less important if you’re cooking a slow-cooked dish than quickly deglazing a pan. To still achieve a delicious flavour, add a small amount of good quality wine at the end of a long braise, which will make it the dominant wine flavour of the dish.

Does The Alcohol Cook Off?                                                                                                                                 

There is a common misconception that cooking with wine will also cook of any alcohol. Unless you are cooking the dish for 3 hours or more, there will be always be a residue depending on how much wine you’ve used.

Is a cork better than a screw top bottle?

The cork versus screw-top debate may finally be over. While the wine community has long debated whether wine tastes better enclosed with a cork or a screw top, a recent Oxford University study has provided the answer. Wine really does taste better if it is sealed with a cork.

Ideal Wine Company cork or screw top
Cork or screw top? Which is better?

Although this news is no shock to wine traditionalists, who have long favoured the cork, the reason behind this finding is perhaps surprising. The scientists’ suggest that, rather than affecting the smell or taste of the wine, it is the sound of the cork that makes the drink taste better.

The study, by a team at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, was supervised by psychologist Professor Charles Spence and included 140 participants.

In the experiment, they were each asked to sample two Argentinian Malbecs. First, after listening to the sound of a cork bottle being opened, and then after listening to a screw top bottle being opened. After this, people were then asked to resample the wines after opening bottles sealed with both cork and screw tops for themselves. Unbeknown to them, they were comparing the same wines, but the two bottles were sealed differently.

The two wines were rated on four factors: sight, sound, ambience and aroma. Based on this rubric, the bottles sealed with a cork were rated as 15 per cent better in quality to its screw top counterpart. Overall, 113 of the 140 participants said they preferred the choice of wine served with a cork. This compares to just 13 participants who favoured the screw top.

From these results, the study concluded that: “The majority of those questioned preferred the taste and flavor of the wine from a cork stoppered bottle.” As the wine remained the same, the results suggested that the enjoyment of wine was reliant on mood. The study drew a link between wine preference and auditory experience, hypothesizing that the sound of the cork was key to its positive results. They stated that: “These results are consistent with the view that the effect on mood might be driving part of the change in ratings elicited by the sound of the cork.” The study also found that the perception of the wine was further enhanced in festive settings, with the corked wine bottles more likely to produce a “celebratory mood”.

Professor Spence, author of ‘Gastrophysics: The new science of eating’, further argued this point. He states that: “The sound and sight of a cork being popped sets our expectations before the wine has even touched our lips, and these expectations then anchor our subsequent tasting experience.”

With over 12 billion bottles of wine sealed with a cork each year, the industry remains strong. This experiment only enhances the preference for cork, providing the first empirical demonstration that a cork closure really does result in a more positive drinking experience.

Wine prices rising still further in the UK

Since the vote in June 2016 for the UK to exit the European Union, wine prices have been on the rise. And in summer 2017, there seems to be no let up in these price increases.

According to recent figures released by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), price rises are only going to get worse.

Ideal Wine Company UK wine prices
To what extent are wine prices rising in the UK?

Average price up by 4%

Between the Chancellor’s Budget announcement in March 2017 and 17 June 2017, the average price of a bottle of wine rose to £5.58. This is an increase of 4% on 2016’s prices for a bottle of wine in the UK, according to the WSTA.

The information released by the WSTA came at the same time of the first reading by Parliament of the Brexit ‘divorce bill’ that would shift EU laws into UK legislation.

Already up in 2016

Average prices for wine had already exceeded the £5.50 per bottle mark for the first time ever in the last quarter of 2016. And, the WTSA warns that the whole industry, including fine and premium wines, are facing a “triple whammy” of pricing pressures going into Autumn 2017.

The WTSA said at its annual conference on 12 September: “For the first time we can see the how prices have been affected by the triple whammy resulting from Brexit’s impact on the pound, rising inflation and the 3.9% inflationary duty rise on alcohol imposed by the Chancellor at his Budget in March.”

Autumn budget looms

The WTSA also warns that the Autumn Budget is likely to see alcohol duty rise yet again by inflation. They have called on the government to have a period without tax rises.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the WSTA clearly shows the concern levels by consumers about the ever -increasing cost of food and drink. It found that four out of five respondents to the poll were worried about the prospect of paying higher prices in this sector.

However, the WTSA also says that it is “committed to working with the government in order to achieve the best possible deal in Brexit negotiations.” What this will mean for the wine industry is yet to be seen.

Would you bake with ‘wine flour’?

It’s pretty common to see plenty of wine flavoured products on shelves, particularly with the recent interest in Prosecco flavoured goodies. But what about flour made from wine. Is that a step too far?

US-based company Finger Lakes Wine Flour doesn’t think so. They have created a range of flours using by products from wine production. Their flavours include flour made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewürztraminer.

As well as selling the flours for use at home, the company also makes truffles, cupcakes and crackers from the flour.

Ideal Wine Company wine flour
Will wine flour be the next big thing?

Recycling wine by products

Initially, the creator of Finger Lakes Wine Flour Hilary Niver-Johnson, set out to create bio-diesel using grape-seed oil.

As the company continued to research into the by products of wine production, they learned that grape seeds are only a tiny part of waste that’s discarded. The overall grape pomace (the solid matter left after pressing) consists of grape skins. These hold many nutrients.

The company recycles every part of the pomace they can source. However, they’re not the first to come up with the idea of wine flour. Other companies have also produced some, including WholeVine.

Supplementary product

The flour made from grapes should be used in addition to regular flour, rather than as a total replacement. The flours in the range have flavour profiles that match the grapes they’re made from.

They can therefore be paired with complementary dishes. For example, Merlot flour works well with strawberry bakes, Cabernet Sauvignon with blackberry, Cabernet Franc with blueberry, Gewürztraminer with peach, Riesling with apple and Pinot Noir with cherry.

The company is constantly refining flavours and will be releasing three more varieties of wine flour this year. They cost £63.52 for a pack of eight wine flours made from different grapes (excluding shipping from the US).

How will Brexit affect the wine business?

The fall out from Brexit continues to cast economic uncertainty over pretty much every sector in the UK. And the wine business is no different.

For anyone selling or importing wine in the UK, and for those making wine destined for the UK, the exchange rate is the biggest problem of all.

Ideal Wine Company brexit
How will Brexit impact the wine business?

The collapse of Sterling

Sine the Referendum in June 2016, the value of Sterling has nosedived. Right now, it costs 92p to buy a Euro. This is unprecedentedly low for the pound. Morgan Stanley predicts that by the end of this year the pound will be worth the same as the euro and by next year less.

Its previous record low came in December 2008 at the onset of the global financial collapse, and Brexit’s influence looks set to beat this. The pound isn’t doing much better against the US dollar. Historically, it’s the currency strength that shows the world how well a country is doing, which isn’t great news for retailers in the UK.

Europe’s economy growing

While the government carries on its mysterious negotiations for leaving the EU, it seems that Europe’s economy is doing well. With America looking uncertain due to its own political changes, the euro is set to become the world’s leading economy.

The result of all this is that wine prices will definitely rise over the months and years ahead. This comes at a time when the consumer in the UK has less to spend in general, and certainly less on luxury items.

Market niches

This is likely to lead to an increase in the British grown grapes where possible, in order to increase British made wine. However, it will also lead to retailers needing to source wine from niche areas.

 

In whichever direction the Brexit negotiations take the country, and whatever the grounds for leaving the EU eventually show themselves to be, it’s unlikely to improve prospects for anyone in the wine trade over the next 12 months at least. 

Blue wine launches in the US

It’s never going to appeal to traditional wine lovers, and it came in for a fair amount of criticism on its launch in Europe in 2015, but Spanish ‘blue wine’ is heading to the US undeterred.

According to its creators, it will launch in Texas, Florida and Massachusetts later this month, bringing its quirkiness to new shores.

Ideal Wine Company blue wine
Will blue wine be the next big trend?

A brand new category?

While the EU doesn’t allow the creator of ‘blue wine’, Gïk, to call it wine at all as there is no category for it under EU law, the owners are pushing on regardless.

Co-founder of Gïk, Aritz Lopez has announced the US launch, although he has said that there are no specific retail chains signed up as yet. The company is talking to operators and there have been pre-orders by US consumers online of around 30,000 bottles, costing $48 for three.

No EU category

Gïk was also banned by Spanish wine officials from using the word ‘wine’ on its labels, and in addition the company was fined 3,000 euros due to EU legislation. While it’s not clear whether the brand will have similar problems in America, it has made sure its homepage on the website carries a strapline that clearly says ‘blue not wine’, which could be enough to keep it safe.

The ‘wine’ has an alcohol content of 11.5% and is made from organic grapes. Gïk says that it’s already on sale in 25 countries, including South Korea, Japan and most of the European Union.

How is it made?

The company says it uses grapes sourced from various regions in Spain, including Navarra and Rioja. The blue colour comes from two organic pigments, from indigotine and anthocyanin.
A launch party is set to deliver the wine to US shores later this month in Miami and the company plans to target California and Washington on the West Coast and the Northern and Southern part of the East Coast.

It will be interesting to see if blue wine catches on in America – perhaps it’s the start of a whole new trend.

How climate change could alter the taste of cava

As if there aren’t enough worries surrounding the impact of climate change on our world, it seems that it could also alter the flavour of cava.

New research published in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology shows that conditions will change the way the grapes grow.

Ideal Wine Company cava taste
How might climate change alter the taste of Cava?

Warm and dry

With less rainfall and warmer, drier conditions, the grapes that are used in making cava will become ripe faster. This will alter and impair the Spanish sparkling wine’s aroma, flavour and quality.

Cava is made in a similar way to champagne. The Catalonian sparkler is made with a blend of white grapes that are grown in north east Spain. The grapes are particularly loved for their rich and creamy flavour.

Two grapes varieties studies

The research was conduced between 1998 and 2012 and studied two main grape varieties that are used to make cava. These grapes are Macabeo and Paralleda. A formula was created that copied how the different grapes would grow under conditions altered by climate change.

Assuming that climate change causes moderate warming, then the average temperature during the season when grapes are grown could increase by 3.2 degrees C by 2020. However, if emissions aren’t controlled then the temperature increase rises significantly to 4.4 degrees C over the next three years.

Water deficits in vineyards

The hotter temperatures and dry conditions caused by global warming will likely cause a water deficit in vineyards. This means that more water will be lost through evapotranspiration and won’t nourish the crops.

This reduction in water will change the flavour of the wine. Cava will become more acidic and sugary as the grapes are exposed to higher temperatures as they ripen. It will also become more alcoholic.

Thirst for the fizz

There has been a huge increase in demand for cava and other sparkling wines in the UK recently. HMRC published figures showing an 80 per cent increase in sales of cava and prosecco over the last five years.

Can wine improve creativity?

Wine lovers tend to cast their favourite tipple in a positive light. There have been numerous studies purportedly showing that it can improve everything from the chances of getting dementia to dealing with insomnia (in moderation of course!). A new study shows that wine can even help with creativity.

The research from Austria backs up claims by writers that there is a positive link between creativity and drinking wine.

Ideal Wine Company wine and creativity
Can wine have an impact on creativity?

Scientific proof

Researchers based at the University of Graz have discovered scientific proof that backs up the long-held theory that wine can help writer’s block. The study, by Dr Mathias Benedek, was published in Consciousness & Cognition, and looked at the effects of minimal alcohol on creative thinking.

The research reports findings from 89 people who were asked to solve creativity measuring tasks after drinking alcohol. Some of the participants were given actual alcohol, and some drank alcohol free servings. Neither group were told whether they were drinking alcohol or not.

Mild intoxication

Each person who was drinking alcohol was required to reach a level of mild intoxication. This equates to a blood alcohol level of 0.03% (out of every 100ml of blood there is a measurement of 30mg of alcohol). This is less than half the limit on drink driving in England, by way of example.

When they had reached the required limit, they were asked to carry out word association tasks. For example, they would be asked to find a link between apparently unrelated words. The study found that the participants who had been drinking alcohol could reach the answers faster.

Creative thinking tasks

Those that were drinking alcohol were also found to perform better (albeit only slightly) during tasks that measured creative thinking. For example, they were asked to come up with as many uses for a specific object as they could.

However, the study also showed that too much alcohol can limit ‘cognitive control’ and essentially loosen the focus of attention. This can then allow problems to be solved.

The report ends with a caution that the results are not a reason to drink excessively if you’re struggling to complete your novel! Dr Benedek said: “Beneficial effects are likely restricted to very modest amounts of alcohol, whereas excessive alcohol consumption typically impairs creative productivity.”

Million-pound investment scam uncovered in the UK

The police have busted a wine investment scam that has conned people out of at least £1 million. Three people have been arrested under suspicion of running a fine wine scam aimed at embezzling investors out of their money.

Ideal Wine Company uk wine scams
A recent million-pound wine investment scam has been uncovered in the UK.

Elderly investors conned

It has been reported that many of the investors who were caught out in the scam are elderly and collectively have lost around £1 million. The suspects have been accused of running the ruse from their base in central London.

Police have stated that victims were repeatedly cold called by salespeople offering the chance to invest in fine wine. They promised returns of between 8 and 40% and seem to have been convincing enough to suck more than a few unlucky investors in.

Latest in series

If the suspects can be proven to be responsible, then this fraud is the latest in a long line of similar. There have been a series of wine investment scams across the UK over recent years, all involving fine wine investment.

As a way to increase their sales, the scammers urged investors to buy extra wine, as buyers were already lined up for them to sell it on to, police say. It’s not clear whether all three of the suspects arrested have been charged as of mid-August.

It’s a kind of fraud termed ‘boiler room’, which describes outbound call centres selling bogus investments via the phone.

Boiler room scams

Andrew Thompson, a detective inspector from the City of London Police, said: “Boiler rooms continue to be a major threat to individuals in this country and statistics show that those who are over 60 are particularly vulnerable to this type of crime

“Fraudsters will do everything they can to manipulate potential victims and convince them that they are making genuine investments.”

So far, 39 victims to this fine wine scam have contacted Action Fraud to complain and the police are contacting others taken in by the fraud.