Cooking with wine is quite simple. The rule of thumb is, if you won’t drink it, don’t cook with it. It does not have to be expensive or premium wine, but it should be wine you would serve your family and friends. One might ask, “Why use wine when there are so many other liquids available?” Although water and stock are perfectly fine cooking liquids, certain recipes just wouldn’t be the same without wine. Like a savoury Beef Bourguignon or a velvety Sabayon. The alcohol in the wine evaporates while the food is cooking, leaving behind generous flavour. As with any seasoning used in cooking, caution should be exercised when cooking with wine – too little is insignificant and too much will be overpowering. Neither extreme is desirable. Just the right amount will enhance the flavour of the dish.
Here are the basic flavours present in wine:
Tartaric and malic acid is mostly present in wine and this acidity can help “liven” up the flavour of a dish – in the way one might think about squeezing a lemon wedge onto fried calamari. When wine or the sauce it’s in is reduced, the sourness will be concentrated as well. So perhaps, one should be mindful during the reduction process to not take it too far as it can get unpleasantly sour.
We all know wine is made from grape juice and grape juice is sweet and sour. It is paramount to use wines with low residual sugar or in other words “dry wine” so that the acidity and aromatics are balanced. It is also a good idea to use dry wine because as the sauce reduces, the sugar becomes more concentrated. No one would appreciate something resembling caramel in what is supposed to be a balanced sauce. So, dry wines are key in savoury dishes.
White wine generally has aromas of citrus, apple, and tropical fruits, while red wine often smells like red fruits like cherries, plums and strawberries. These aromas are pivotal in umpiring the wine on its own, not as much as when cooking with it.
Effects of wine on food
One of the essential “ingredients” in red wine is tannin. It makes your mouth feel dry because the highly complex phenolic compounds bind with the protein in your saliva. So, when you reduce red wine into a sauce, these tannins become more concentrated and even less palatable. There are two ways to allay this. First is to choose red wine that is less tannic, like a Pinot Noir or Gamay. Secondly (and this can get tricky), include some form of protein in the sauce or dish, and the tannins will bind to that protein before it gets into your mouth. It is the same concept as using milk to make strong tea less acerbic. An egg, some ground meat or roast will keep the tannins at bay. Wine should only accent, enhance and balance flavours of the other ingredients in the dish.
Now that you have a glimpse into cooking with wine, keep on reading if you want to know more about the 5 Essential Skills Every Chef Should Master in the kitchen. You will find all you need to know about the most important cooking techniques that should be diligently practiced before becoming a Master Chef.