Cooking with wine

Cooking with wine is a great way to add flavour and complexity to a recipe.

What sort of recipes can I cook with wine?

Wine can add a depth and character to recipes such as pasta, risotto, stew, and casserole, as well as serving as a flavoursome foundation to a sauce, gravy, marinade, glaze, or jus.

Is it ok to cook with cheap red wine?

When it comes to wine, price is generally not your primary indicator of quality – you can get excellent wines at all price points and personal preference is a leading consideration.

When choosing a wine to cook with, as a general rule, consider this: wine lends its flavours to the dish, so if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. The upside of selecting a wine this way means you can enjoy what you don’t use in your recipe – after all, most recipes that use wine don’t call for the use of an entire bottle.

Can I cook with the bottle of red I’ve already opened?

That depends. Did you just open it tonight to pour a glass… or did you open it a week ago? Once a bottle of wine is opened, its flavour changes because of the exposure to oxygen. Red wine can last 3-5 days if resealed and stored in a cool dark place. Any longer than that and oxidation can leave the wine tasting unpleasant. Again, it is useful here to consider whether you would drink the wine. If the answer is no, steer clear of using it in your recipe.

How alcoholic will my recipe be if I cook with wine?

When cooking with wine, the alcohol reduces or burns off, but not completely. It’s important to know that the alcohol won’t completely ‘evaporate’ from the food you are cooking.

When cooking with wine, some of the alcohol from the wine will remain when you serve the dish. Exactly how much alcohol remains depends on time and heat.

If you are adding wine to your recipe in the early stages of cooking and simmering for a considerable period (like you might do with a casserole or stew), you will generally be creating a dish with less alcohol than if you are to add wine in the latter stages or cook a dish more quickly, as the alcohol is given less time and generally exposed to less heat and therefore experiences less opportunity to reduce.

The amount of alcohol remaining in your food will also depends on the amount of wine you use to begin with.

The recipe said to use red wine, can I use white wine instead?

Red and white wines have very different flavour characteristics, and the flavour of the wine you select will contribute to the overall flavour of the recipe. If you swap red for white or white for red you’ll be fundamentally changing the recipe. You might stumble upon a flavour combination that works well and enjoy the result, but swapping red wine for white wine or vice versa should not be considered a like-for-like swap.

So how do I choose a red wine to cook with?

When selecting red wine to cook with, make it a wine that you would be happy drinking. Generally speaking, if you enjoy its flavour on its own, you will likely also enjoy it in food.

You might also find that your palate is expanded as a result of cooking with red wine as the flavours of the food combine with the wine to produce new complementary characteristics. For example, you may typically prefer less fruity red wines, but find that when it comes to your poached pear recipe, a fruit-forward red is the perfect pick. Or perhaps a dry full-bodied red is not your usual first pick, but in your casserole, it works a charm.

What should I consider when selecting a wine to cook with?

Dryness: a dry red or white wine is a good pick for most recipes. Where you can select a sweeter wine such as something fortified or late harvest is when making desserts or sweeter sauces and syrups.

Tannins: Tannins can bring out bitterness or harshness in certain foods. To avoid this you can try cooking with a red wine like Pinot Noir which is typically lower tannin or Merlot which is moderate. A higher tannin wine such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Montepulciano can work in a heartier red meat-based dish such as a casserole or stew. The protein in meat is better able to stand up to the texture and flavour of higher tannic wine.

Acidity: Red wine is delicious in tomato-based pasta and tomato sauces. However, the acidity in tomatoes can make a low-acidity wine taste flat. Choose a higher acidity wine, such as Sangiovese, for bringing out the flavours in tomato-based dishes.

TLDR: Can you just tell me which wine to cook with?

Still struggling on which wine to cook with? Steer clear of anything too sweet or too oaked …and step away from the so-called ‘cooking wine’ with its additives.

Best Red Wine to Cook With

A go-to red wine for cooking is a dry, medium-bodied red with moderate tannins such as Merlot or Sangiovese.

Best White Wine to Cook With

For a go-to white wine for cooking, try a dry, crisp white wine like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Though, if it’s a dessert you’re creating, a sweeter white wine is what you’re after. Try a late harvest Riesling or Sauternes.

Red rose with a green lawn and stone building.

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article from Jim’s Mowing