Andrea Pollock on Wine

Spring 2011

In This Section:

Choosing Wines for Chicken

If It Looks Good It Tastes Better

Picking Wines For Pork

Long Legs and Big Aromatics Benefit by Swirling

Homemade Hamburgers and a Chance to Enjoy Big Reds

Keeping Your Wines In Good Shape After Opening


Choosing Wines for Chicken
   originally published February 23rd, 2011, The Northern View

Heading into the spring chicken usually becomes a larger part of the menu; it’s a little lighter, it’s very versatile and wonderful in all kinds of dishes as a main ingredient or simply one component.  When you start to think of all the different ways you can prepare chicken, it is very daunting to think of all the possible choices there would be for wines to match as well.  So hopefully next time you are preparing a chicken dish and are looking for a wine to pair with it, you will think of a few of these quick tips.

Chicken’s light natural flavour lends itself to picking up a lot of the flavour elements in sauces or other ingredients it is prepared with.  Don’t worry so much about matching a wine to the chicken – figure out what will be the biggest flavour in the dish and try to find a match for that.  For example, a chicken stir fry with a coconut curry sauce and rice will find the coconut and curry to overpower most of the other flavours and predominate.  Choosing a wine to pair with these is essential – I might choose a Riesling, some sweetness to battle the curry and acidity to highlight the coconut.

Flame roasted chicken with a bbq sauce would pick up an entirely different set of flavours, like hickory, smoke and molasses.  These types of flavours would pair nicely with a light bodied red wine with low tannins – think pinot noir or merlot.  These grapes both show a nice earthiness and can show nice charred qualities when aged in toasted oak.  This would match well with the flamey flavours absorbed by the chicken.

This week I have chosen two great chicken wines that can help highlight the big flavours in your next poultry entree.


Peller Estates Chardonnay 2007 – 14% alc/vol [VQA Okanagan Valley]

A familiar nose with lemon and grass cuttings; a weak nose that is very gentle.  Clean tart flavours of lemon and lime zest, a dry style that is easy to drink on its own, but would also match nicely with simple seafood or chicken dishes made without heavy spices.  87/100  (October 11, 2010)  $12.99 BC Liquor Stores


Peller Estates Private Reserve Merlot 2004 – 13.0% alc/vol [VQA Niagara Peninsula]

The hue has a slight bit of brown suggesting that this wine has passed its peak.  Green pepper and charred oak with a little bit of detectable red fruit in the background.  As the wine sits and opens there are some delicate smells of chocolate, clove and chives.  Flavours are nicely balanced with a punch of smoke with some nice earth and wild mushroom flavours.  This is easy to pair with a variety of pork and chicken dishes.  90/100 (November 30, 2010)


 If It Looks Good It Tastes Better
   originally published March 16th, 2011, The Northern View

Fancy decanters are a little more mainstream these days than a decade ago.  The decanter is a glass vessel that increases the surface area exposure of a bottle of wine to help oxygenate it and open up the aromatics.  There are lots of interesting shapes and styles of decanters on the market, proving that people not only eat, but drink with their eyes.  Many decanters are designed for their presentation effect – making wine look beautiful while it is being poured.  You can also find much more practical decanters for sale in stores that are more like big carafes – these are affordable and effective. 

Decanters make a great gift, a pretty centre piece and they can even make your wine taste better.  When using a decanter you will want to empty the entire bottle of wine into it, sediment and all.  Decanters are designed to pour the wine off of the sediment for serving, so if you are careful you can enjoy your fully aromatized wine without the grit.  Decanting filters are also available and they can help to lessen the grit and diamonds that can fall out of the wine.  Decanters can also improve the drinking quality of the wine by allowing for oxygenation.  Oxygenation of wine allows the aromatic components to be released; it’s what is referred to as ‘breathing’.  Letting a wine open up and breath will give you the chance to smell new aspects of the bouquet.

You can decant any wine, red or white – this isn’t just for the benefit of expensive cellared bottles.  The breathing opportunity will help most wines and may even show you something new in a wine you try often.

This week I have chosen a couple of wines that could stand for a good decanting.  Both these wines taste great but also have huge eye appeal.  Enjoy!

The Show Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – 13.9% alc/vol [California]

A deep, rich ruby colour on this wine makes it look so scrumptious.  The nose opens with young cedar and sweet vanilla with hints of pomegranate.  Easy drinking with big jam sweetness to start and mellow fruit flavours with some smoke leading towards the dry finish.  Great with roasts and gourmet burgers.  92/100  $ [BC Liquor Stores] (January 16th, 2011)

McLaren Vale Razor’s Edge Shiraz 2008 – 14.5% alc/vol [Australia]

Off the bat there is a bit of licorice, plum and strawberry jam.  There are nice fruity flavours of raspberry and minty earth.  A heavy wine with balance and the ability to stand up against big bold flavours.  Great with steaks, roasts and game meats.  88/100  $14.99 [BC Liquor Stores] (January 3rd, 2011)

Picking Wines for Pork
   originally published March 30th, 2011, The Northern View

I absolutely love cooking pork; whether it be a roast, chops, bacon or some grilled tenderloin, I can probably be found cooking up a pork meal a couple times a week.  I love that there are so many different flavour profiles that can come from pork.  You have the salt, the savoury and also the sweet.  There are some very specific grape varietals that can pair very nicely, helping to enhance your overall meal. 

Riesling in particular is a fabulous match for pork cuts.  The tanginess and sweetness of Rieslings has the ability to compliment the saltiness of pork and the acidity to cut through the fat to cleanse the palate.  I can handle a fresh Riesling with almost any style of cooked pork but they are particularly nice with an herb crusted roast.  You can make a nice herb crust by mixing a bit of olive oil with rosemary and black pepper and spreading it over your pork roast or chop before it hits the oven.  Gewurztraminer is another refreshing and slightly sweet grape that can pair nicely with a savoury pork dish done in this style.  The Gewurztraminer grape has a natural spicy element that can be a nice treat with pork served alongside a sweet sauce.

If you are looking for a red wine to pair with your pork you might want to try a light Gamay Noir or a rich Cabernet Franc from Canada.  Both of these grapes have the ability to show nice berry elements while still allowing the rich pork flavour.  Red wines in other varietals that show bright candy flavours can also pair nicely with pork dishes.  The candy elements help to balance the saltiness of pork cuts.

This week I chose a couple of wines that you can pick up for your next pork based meal.

Deinhard Riesling 2009 – 12.5% alc/vol [Germany]

There is some green apple and fresh cut grass in the front of this nose with a background of body sweat that really pronounces itself at the end.  Taste wise, there is a great balance of sugar and acidity – a nice tang that cuts nicely through food to cleanse the palate.  Perfect for pork dishes or a nice scallop ceviche.  83/100 $10.99 [BC Liquor Stores] (February 5th, 2011)

Reserve Pampas Del Sur Cabernet Sauvignon – 14% alc/vol [Argentina]

A nice spicy nose of plums and black pepper – there is also a hint of cigarette smoke.  Flavours are fruity with some red berries, watermelon candy and some dry beach wood.  A very nice value wine that would do well with cellaring.  88/100 $9.95 [BC Liquor Stores] (February 24th, 2011)

Long Legs and Big Aromatics Benefit by Swirling
   originally published April13th, 2011, The Northern View

The swirling around of wine in your glass is an interesting activity that isn’t just fun and stylish looking; swirling your wine can help you do a few things that will add to the total wine experience.

Modern day wine etiquette says that your glass should only ever be filled one third of the way full. This allows for adequate room to properly swirl your wines without losing any of that precious nectar over the edge of your glass.  As the wine swirls it increases in surface area, exposing more of it to the air.  This aeration helps to release the aromatic compounds and will make the different components of the wine easier to smell.  Wine aromatics have a better chance of being identified when they are jostled up and moved around so that they can be sucked up by your nose.  Swirling wine helps to shake it up, oxygenate a bigger surface area and make things easier to smell.

Swirling your wine can also give you an idea about how much alcohol is in your wine.  When wine is swirling in a glass it will go up the sides of the glass and start to fall back down.  As the wine heads back to the bowl of the glass it creates legs.  This is really rather an interesting phenomenon, because longer and slower legs are an indication of a higher alcohol content.  The real scientific stuff will show that alcohol evaporates more readily than water – the alcohol in the wine starts to evaporate and creates the beading effect that leads to legs streaming down the side of your glass.  Legs aren’t really a signal of quality, but they sure can tell you if your wine is high alcohol.  To see some really great legs you should try to give a swirl to a fortified wine like port or sherry.

This week selections are nice wines that have made my dinner table in the last little while.  Some nice picks that I think would be enjoyed.

De Bertoli Vat 8 Shiraz 2008 – 14% alc/vol [Australia]
A nice bouquet of eucalyptus, cool menthol and black licorice.  A mouth of young plum and a sting of chile infused jam.  Lovely drinking.  A high alcohol wine that leaves lovely legs on the glass.  85/100  $ [BC Liquor Stores] (March 2nd, 2011)

Fish Hook Sauvignon Blanc  - [South Africa]

A curious nose with some tropical grass, burnt oranges and a sting of citrus.  Flavours have a nice sharpness with lemon and tart orange rind.  Not overtly sweet and finishes with a short clean burst of chalk.  88/100  $ [BC Liquor Stores] (March 29th, 2011)


Homemade Hamburgers and a Chance to Enjoy Big Reds
   originally published April 27th, 2011, The Northern View

For the past few weeks I have been enjoying the mild weather with a little BBQ action.  One of my favourite things to make is homemade hamburgers because you can really freshen them up with spur of the moment toppings that you feel inspired to eat.  It’s also a perfect meal for big red wines packed with flavour since homemade beef burgers are full of strong flavours.

My homemade burger recipe is pretty simple, some lean ground beef seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper, some very finely diced white onion (enough that you will see it throughout the burger) and a hefty amount of Worchestershire sauce (I love that stuff).  I also add a little squirt of BBQ sauce to my burger mixture and then massage it all together by hand.  I like very thick burgers that eat like a whole meal, so if you try to make them this way just be sure to cook them all the way through, because it can take a little while.  You don’t want to be eating undercooked ground beef.

The homemade burger patty is really just the beginning.  The fun part of making homemade burgers is choosing your ingredients.  I like to go a little bit gourmet with my burgers, so my favourite gourmet burger has a hickory smoke BBQ sauce, some caramelized onions and some fresh sliced avocado..... absolutely delicious.  I also really liked a Greek inspired burger I came up with just last week; some fresh tomato, cucumber, lettuce and feta cheese atop my homemade beef creation.

Fresh made burgers like this cook differently and jam in a lot more flavour than a frozen burger patty, so pick a big, fun red wine from your cellar to enjoy them with.  I picked a couple of wallet friendly picks that would stack up well to any homemade creation.

Full Press Vineyards Shiraz – 13% alc/vol
Burnt wood, fresh green pepper with plums and prunes on the nose.  A pleasant fruit kick next to a rich velvety body.  A nice full wine with medium tannins and flavours of blueberry juice, black pepper and pomegranate.  An interesting wine that is actually a blend of Canadian and International grapes.  92/100 $ [BC Liquor Stores] (December 6, 2010)

Sonora Desert Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – 12.5% alc/vol
A hot berry nose with a bit of menthol and black pepper.  A nice, easy drinking style with a bit of dryness.  Some nice oaked raspberry and rhubarb sweetness.  A great value wine made up of a blend of domestic and international wines.  89/100 $ [BC Liquor Stores] (March 29th, 2011)

Keeping Your Wines in Good Shape After Opening
   originally published May 11th, 2011, The Northern View

Quite often I will open a bottle of wine and not finish it.  When I do get back to this bottle I want it to taste good, just as good in fact as when I opened it.  Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to capture the true just opened essence back in the bottle.  Modern day wine junkies have spent millions devising all kinds of expensive and complex contraptions that promise to make every drop from a bottle even 30 days old taste the same as when the cork is first popped.  But unless you are ready to spend fifteen or twenty thousand dollars on a personal Enomatic machine for your home, you may need to come up with some more wallet friendly tactics to keep an open bottle tasting its best.  So for those of us on a budget I figured I would share a few practical tips that I have learned over the years.

If you know that you are only going to drink part of a bottle, use a decanter and pour out your servings of wines.  Cap your bottle back up as soon as you are done and put whites in the fridge and reds back in the cellar where it’s a little cooler than room temperature.  As bottles are opened and closed (or get left open) the wine starts to oxidize – mixing with the air and releasing aromatic compounds.  This is really what abuses you wine leaving precious little of it, if any to open up for you on round two the following day.  So the real idea is to limit the amount of time the wine you want to drink later is exposed to the air.

Another important piece is where you store your wine in the meantime.  Leaving your wine out on the kitchen counter isn’t exactly ideal.  White wines need to go in the fridge; this is your best chance at keeping crisp acidic and effervescent qualities intact.  Red wines also need to be stored in a cool place, but not in the fridge.  I feel like after a red is open, the cold temperatures of the fridge breaks the wine, muting it, something it doesn’t recover well from.  It needs cool temperatures though, if an opened bottle of red spends the night in a warm room red wine show cooked fruit characteristics the next day.

Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – 13.5% alc/vol [Central Valley, Chile]

Some ripe black fruits with a background of black pepper spice in the bouquet of this wine.  A very simple palate with easy tannins, a thin body and pretty flavours of mixed berry jam and a mixture of summer savoury with cranberries.  Perfect crowd pleaser for a family style dinner or date night with a movie.  86/100  $ [BC Liquor Stores] (February 3rd, 2011)

Painted Turtle Cabernet Sauvignon – 12.5% alc/vol [BC]

Sweet raspberry puree jumps out of the nose alongside a nice field breeze and something that reminds me of strawberry Kool-Aid.  Some dry candy flavours that don’t show as sweet, but more woody.  Simple flavours with a bit of dryness.  Perfect anytime wine and uber-affordable.  85/100 $ [BC Liquor Stores] (February 13th, 2011)


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