What wines should I use for cooking? by John Gerum

wine cooking
A reader asked me a to write a blog outlining the types of wines to use when cooking up favourite recipes. I’m only too happy to oblige since I have had the privilege of working with top chefs across the country and learned a trick or two from them!

The reason wine is added or used in cooking is to enhance and add flavour without using extra salt or fat, and to add an extra dimension of flavour. The good news for people with a low tolerance for sulphites is that simmering removes sulphites from wine. Also simmering a dish with wine removes alcohol from the wine; after 30 minutes of simmering about 35% of the wine’s alcohol is all that remains.
Wine is used as a marinade or as a cooking liquid but beware of cooking wines sold in supermarkets, they contain a high amount of salt and other additives you may not want in your dish. Do not add wine to a dish at the end of the cooking process, it needs to cook at least 5 to 10 minutes to blend into the dish, otherwise the wines’ strong flavour will overwhelm the recipe.

The general rule to use when purchasing wine for cooking is don’t add anything that you would not drink by itself. Cheap, poorly made wine will not help in adding flavour to a recipe, it is better not to use any at all. That doesn’t mean that you have to buy an expensive bottle, a well thought out $15 bottle will work out nicely, and you can drink a glass while cooking or enjoy it with your meal.
cooking wine
White wines are generally used for cream and cheese sauces or poultry and fish dishes. Reds are used for brown sauces and red meat recipes.

If a recipe calls for a dry white wine, consider a Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps a Carmen or Sendero from Chile. If you are cooking a spicy or bolder dish a Riesling/Gewürztraminer from Hardy’s of Australia will work well. Sauvignon Blanc works well with fresh herbs as it accents the flavours found in herbs. Avoid heavily oaked Chardonnay as this can overwhelm lighter dishes.

When the recipe calls for a dry red wine consider a Shiraz, Grenache or Merlot for full flavoured, longer simmering dishes. I suggest Las Rocas Garnacha, Spain, Nero del Nago, Italty or Rosemount Shiraz, Australia. To deglaze a pan or for pasta sauces look to lighter styles of wine. I love cooking with Chianti from Italy; it brings pasta sauces to life. I use basic Chianti such as Cecchi, or search for La Bastide from France.

Fortified wines are a great way to add intense and bold flavours to your sauces. They have a longer shelf life than table wines but make sure that they are still sound before adding them to your recipe. Many are available in 375 ml half sized bottles, ideal for cooking. Meat based casseroles and slow cookers are making a comeback and Ports are perfect for these types of foods. I use a LBV (Late Bottle Vintage) Port; any producer from Portugal will do just fine. Use an authentic dry Sherry when sautéing or adding to stews; a dry Olorosa Sherry works well. If you desire the flavours of the Mediterranean when sautéing use a splash of Pellegrino Marsala, its light fruit and caramel flavours will add punch to these dishes.

Remember that your meal is only as good as the ingredients, so use the above guidelines and bon appetite!


Pope receives surprise answer from 92 year old Grandmother

Yesterday in St. Peters Square the Pope stopped his motorcade to talk to an excited Grandmother. He asked her the secret of her joy this late in life and she replied, “I make homemade Ravioli”.


Now I don’t know about you but this struck a chord, sometimes the simplest things in life are the best and food made with love that spreads joy is definitely one of them.

Along with pasta wine adds pleasure to meals and this made me think of what types of wines I would pair with grandma’s ravioli. The wine match will depend on the sauce and the filling. Red tomato based sauce with meat filling would work well with Chianti or a light Brunello. Cream and butter sauces with cheese filling are best with whites, perhaps a Pinot Gringo or Pinot Blanc.

Slowing down and cooking a homemade meal, thoughtfully pairing it with a good but simple wine and sharing it with friends and family is the way to enjoy life to its fullest. If you don’t believe me ask some grandmas in Italy, they’ll set you straight.

Wine is all about fun

There has been some discussion among wine educators and wine industry members about the benefits of wine education. The idea put forward was that the average consumer does not need any education to appreciate or enjoy wine. I agree to a certain extent, a large majority of consumers will enjoy wine without any formal education or training. However if you are curious and want more out of your wine then a class or two may work for you.
lucy wine

The main point is that wine should be fun and therefore learning about wine should be entertaining. Learning about the people who make wine, why, and the story behind the winery is a lot more pleasurable than endless facts about soil types, fermentation methods and barrel management.

Discovering a wine that you enjoy at a tasting or workshop that you would probably never tasted outside that setting can give you a life time of pleasure. We have too many formal classes for subjects so it’s always fascinating to learn and sip at the same time.

In the spirit of discovery I have put together some suggestions for summer styles of wines that are often overlooked when most wine consumers are shopping. It can get dull drinking the same old Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay during the summer months when relaxing with friends and family.

The first white style to discover are Vinho Verde wines from Portugal. They are for the most part dry, crisp and bursting with citrus flavours. These wines are first-rate and inexpensive; usually around $12 or less for a bottle. To reduce the alcohol and keep you hydrated during hot summer days add a splash of soda to the wine and a wedge of lime or lemon.

Another wine style that has been around for a long time is Riesling. Riesling has received a bad rap because of the overly sweet versions that flood the marketplace. Avoid the cheap German sweet versions and try a BC Riesling which does not have too much sweetness and balances the acid and sugars. St. Hubertus and 8th Generation wineries are good bets.

Other white wines to enjoy are Pinot Blanc from BC, especially Lakebreeze Vineyards’ version if you can find it and to add a bit of fizz try a Prosecco from Italy. There are many different brands at your local wine shop which are all refreshing, bubbly and a bit off dry.

You don’t need a Sommeliers diploma to enjoy these summer selections, but if you get hooked on these new wines and want to discover more you may want to attend a tasting or workshop in the near future.

Your next wine and cheese party made easy

One of my favorite activities is to plan a wine and cheese gathering. Last week I travelled to my local cheese maker, Golden Ears Cheese in Maple Ridge to purchase some cheese for a tasting. When I thought about matching wines it occurred to me that there is a lot of information on the web regarding ideal matches but because they are typically from the US or Europe they feature suggestions that are not easily available here in British Columbia.
To assist fellow British Columbians I have created wine and cheese selections that are widely bought at most grocery stores and local wine shops. After all it’s very frustrating to have a list and find that most are not available with 100 kilometres of your home.
There are four basic categories of cheese and so I will recommend the cheeses in those categories and the matching wines that are easily purchased:
Soft cheeses: These include goat cheese, camembert and brie which are the perfect foil for Sauvignon Blanc, a lightly oaked Chardonnay or a refreshing Prosecco.
Semi-soft cheeses: Cheeses in this style include popular selections such as Swiss, Colby, Fontina and Havarti. Riesling, Pinot Grigio and sparkling wines like Spanish Cava and German Sekt are value driven wines that will deliver great taste.
Semi-hard cheeses: favorites like Cheddar, Sonoma Jack, Gouda and Blue reside in this category. Look to reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti Reserva or Ruby Port to impress guests at your next gathering.
Hard cheeses: Gruyere (look for the Swiss version), Edam, Manchego and Asiago pair well with Sauvignon Blanc (yes, a white wine!), Rote du Rhone (a value blended French wine) and Rioja from Spain.
These selections will make it easy and fun to plan your next soirée and as a note many of these grape varietal wines and cheeses are crafted right here in our own province. More reason to shop and buy local this summer! Wine and cheese tastings at BC Uncorked Wine Festival. Visit bcuncorked.ca

Labels and design key for wine marketing

A typical Liquor store has hundreds of wines available for sale at any given time. How do consumers choose their wines? If customer does not know how a wine tastes, how do they decide which one to purchase? Wineries understand that quality is important but the design of the wine is critical.

Most wine lovers choose their wines based on grape type, such as Merlot, and then the price. In other words they look for a Merlot for $18. That narrows it down but there still could be many wines in that bracket. The next decisive decisions are mostly based on bottle and label design.

There are two basic considerations for label design. One is to attract the attention of the buyer and the other is conveying a sense that the bottle looks more expensive than its selling price therefore indicating a value purchase. So the theory goes that if you are selling a $12 wine and create a label that looks like a $20 wine the consumer will perceive it to be good buy.

Most premium wines that sell for $40 and up tend to have a conservative label with a white and cream background. They tend to have limited content and traditional fonts. This is what most consumers expect from a premium wine unless it is a famous or very prestigious winery. In this case the label becomes unimportant as the wines’ reputation and status becomes the main selling point.

Many entry levels wines under $15 market themselves as critter wines. These are wines with images of real or imagined animals such as dragons, giraffes, puppies, goats, etcetera. The idea is if you have a positive image towards that animal that will also make you think that you like the wine.

Color is also important on labels. A New Zealand wine with a tiffany blue label recently sold very well because customers responded to the color. The tiffany motif conveyed a sense of high value and class. Most labels will use bright colors such as red, yellow or bright blue. Dark green is the kiss of death on a wine label.

A well thought out design may work well in convincing a customer to purchase a wine for the first time, but the proof still lies in the taste and quality. No matter how well designed the outside of the bottle is what really counts at the end is what is in the inside of the bottle.

Best of BC Uncorked Wine tasting to showcase new wineries!

best of bc

In British Columbia there are presently over 220 wineries and this number is growing rapidly as more grape growers are establishing wineries to produce their own wines. This results in hundreds of new wines and brands available to ever discerning consumers.

We are pleased to announce that the Spring 2014 BC Uncorked food and wine festival is featuring a number of new wines and wineries from across British Columbia. This includes wineries from Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan Valley and Lillooet.

The selection of wines available for tasting is equally impressive. These include sparkling wines, white wines, red wines, fruit wines, dessert wines and even samples from BC’s first Meadery (honey wines). This event is sure to widen your palate and increase your enjoyment of the range and quality of wines this great province has to offer the discriminating wine consumer.

Join us in this celebration of outstanding BC wines on May 31st, 2014 at Heritage Woods SS beginning at 7pm. Ticket sales support the Port Moody Art Centre and are available online and on your phone at http://www.bcuncorked.ca, by phone at 604-931-2008, or in person at 2425 St John’s Street in Port Moody.

West Coast Wine Academy debuts!

We welcomed our first students on March 23, 2014. The first class was a big hit, our April 13 class is also sold out ! Thank you for your support!

This beginner wine course is meant to be entertaining and informative resulting in a lifetime enjoyment of wine.


March 23- SOLD OUT

April 13- SOLD OUT

May 4- 5 seats remaining

June -22 perfect for Fathers Day gift

Time: 2-5 pm
Cost: One seat: Spring rate $79 (regular fee $159); Two seats: Spring rate
$155 (regular fee $318); Three seats: Spring rate $225 (regular fee $477); Four seats: Spring rate $299 (regular fee $636)
Backyard Vineyards is pleased to partner with West Coast Wine Education to offer a new wine academy experience! Please book online at http://wcwed.com/wineschool_WC.html or by calling 604-463-1998
• Certified wine instructors educate students in a relaxed and casual
atmosphere at Backyard Vineyards in Langley.
• Classes focus on identifying the main varietals, blends and styles of
wines, proper storage and service, how to pair wines with food, and how to professionally assess wine quality.
• Students will be taken on a private educational back door tour of the
winery focusing on the understanding of the vineyard to bottle process. This portion of the class includes an amazing and unique opportunity to sample wines still resting gently in their oak barrels.
• Students have the option of accepting a certificate of completion, or
they are able to write a 20 question multiple choice test and receive an Academy Wine Diploma.
• Included in all wine academy experiences: printed class materials,
professional tasting glasses, wine and barrel samples, gourmet cheese samples, and either a personalized certificate of completion or Academy Wine Diploma