Cooking With Wines

What kinds of wines can be used in cooking?

Dry red wine, dry or sweet white wine, sherry, Madeira, Marsala, and Port are all used in cooking. The wine need not be expensive, but it should be good quality. And it should be appropriate to the dish. 

Some rules of thumb:

  • Use red wines with red meats
  • Use white wines with seafood
  • Use a wine of origin with Regional preparations—i.e., Italian wine with Italian 
  • Use sweet wines in desserts
  • Most important: Use the wine suggested in a recipe

Avoid cooking with:

  • A wine you wouldn't drink (Why put something in your food that you wouldn't drink?)
  • Anything called "Cooking Wine" (Cooking Wine or Cooking Sherry is just bad wine with a lot of salt!) 
  • An oaky wine (When the wine reduces, the oaky flavor is concentrated and lends a wood flavor to the food.)

Wines are great for flavoring, marinating, making stews, and making sauces.

Flavoring:
A dollop of wine can add flavor to all sorts of dishes. Many Italian cooks add a cup or so of Chianti to their red spaghetti sauces. A cup of white wine to the kettle of steaming mussels, makes a terrific broth. A couple of table spoons of Madeira makes a vanilla pudding into an elegant dessert.

Marinating:
Marinating tenderizes meat as well as adding flavor. A marinade is a liquid concoction in which the meat is soaked for a period of time before cooking. Marinate a steak in olive oil, garlic, red wine and fresh herbs, then blot dry before grilling.

Stewing:
Stewing turns tough cuts of meat into tender morsels. Classic examples of wine-y stews are Boeuf Bourguignon—Beef-Burgundy—and Coq au Vin, both great affordable winter meals that can be prepared days ahead or in the slow cooker.

Making sauces:
Deglazing the sauté pan with wine makes a quick sauce that transforms any pan-grilled dish. Deglazing is using wine to dissolve food or caramelized remains left in a pan after an item is roasted or sautéed. Depending on the type of sauce you're planning to make, skim off the excess fat before adding the wine. In order to deglaze with wine, it is necessary to pour a small quantity of the wine into a hot pan with the food particles and caramelized drippings. After the pan is deglazed with wine and it is sufficiently reduced, pour the thickened sauce over the sautéed meat, fish or vegetable.

 

Varietals

In 10,000 grape varieties around the world, only around 230 are prominent in the world of fine wines.