A little for the Sauce, A little for the Chef
With over 37 years of experience in the Wine Industry, Mr. Bill specializes in wine sales, customer service, wine education, training, and event planning.
We know we should drink a little wine, but what about cooking with it? Grab a glass of fine Virginia wine while we discuss wine in the kitchen.
The first rule is to not use the stuff labeled “cooking wine”, which you will find in many stores. It’s terrible plunk and has salt added to it. Add your own salt, if any, to the recipe. The next rule is to use a wine that you would also drink. Two things happen with really cheap wine. Any off flavors in the wine will likely magnify as it reduces. Also, cheaper wines are usually thinner in flavor taking more wine to reach the richness you might desire. Using a really great or expensive bottle of wine is overkill and a waste.
There are several reasons for cooking with wine. Perhaps the most popular use is to deglaze a pan, and wine is wonderful for this. It adds so much more flavor than water would. Use a wine that matches the dish. Dark, rich sauces would call for a red wine. A lighter sauce would likely need a white wine. Think it out a step further. Does the sauce have some berry fruit in it? Perhaps a Zinfandel would help accentuate those flavors. Sauvignon Blanc for a herb based sauce. Chardonnay would work well in a butter sauce.
Don’t forget the fortified wines, such as Port, Sherry, and Vermouth. They are rather intense in flavor, and are usually added towards the end of cooking so there is less reduction and intensifying, which could make them too strong.
You have probably heard that the alcohol cooks off. Some does, but it does not necessarily all disappear. It depends on how long the wine is cooked. Still, in most recipes there would not be a major amount that you would need to worry about.
I need to mention box wine. If you cook with wine a lot, you may want to keep a box of better quality wine in the kitchen. Since the box keeps air from the wine it will last longer. Usually the 3 liter boxes are of better quality, while the 5 liter boxes are less desirable. However, the best wine to cook with is also the best to drink; Virginia wine, don’t ya know. What time is dinner?