Top tips for cooking with your favourite tipple
“I love cooking with wine, sometimes I even put some in the food.”
If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it!
It's easy to find a good wine to drink while you cook ― in fact, it's often easier than knowing which wine to cook with. You may be hesitant to cook with your most prized red wine but be careful not to cook with absolute plonk. A
poor-quality wine with sour or bitter flavours will only impart them to the dish. Julia Child once said, "If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one." It's worth the investment to buy a quality wine. Just don't forget to sip a little as you stir.
Why cook with wine?
• Wine is basically an acidic ingredient and is used in the kitchen as a marinade, cooking liquid, or as flavouring in a finished dish.
• The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance, and accent the flavour and aroma of food – not to mask the flavour of what you are cooking but rather to fortify it.
• As with any seasoning, care should be taken in the amount of wine used – too little is inconsequential, and too much will be overpowering.
• The alcohol in the wine evaporates while the food is cooking, and only the flavour remains. Boiling down wine concentrates the flavour, including acidity and sweetness.
Which wine, which dish?
• If a recipe calls for dry white wine, the best all-around choice is a Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc which will offer a fresh, light herbal tilt.
• If the dish has bold or spicy flavours, go for a more aromatic white wine. Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Viognier all have dynamic fruity flavours and exotic floral aromas that counterbalance heavily spiced dishes.
• Sparkling wine is perfectly suited for a vinaigrette or sorbet, but it is also a fantastic substitute for dry white wine. The bubbles dissipate when cooked, so this is a great opportunity to finish any leftover flat bubbly (not that this is ever an issue in my house).
• If a recipe calls for dry red wine, consider the heartiness of the dish.
A long-simmered leg of lamb or beef roast calls for a correspondingly hearty wine, such as a Shiraz or a Cabernet Sauvignon. A lighter dish might call for a less powerful red – think Pinot Noir or Grenache.
• Get to know port, sherry, muscadel – these are some of the best wines good cooks always have on hand. They pack the most intense flavours and because they're fortified with a little more alcohol than table wine, they have the longest life on the pantry shelf.
Subtle food-like flavours that can come through in wine:
• White wine: Melon, apple, pineapple, pear, citrus, vanilla, caramel, olives and mushrooms.
• Red wine: Berries, currants, plums, cherries, spices, tea leaf, chocolate, and coffee.