When we say ‘cooking wine’ - we don’t mean a wine to sip whilst you cook. Although it must be said, that’s a very worthwhile endeavour in itself!
When a recipe calls for wine as an ingredient, it can be tricky to know which to use. Do you splash out (pun intended), in the hope that the better the wine, the better the flavours in the end result? Or does it literally not matter one tiny bit, and are you best reaching for the cleanskin…?
People often say that it’s best to use a wine that isn’t the cheapest of the cheap, but instead opt for something you would drink yourself. Although that might ring true for a few people who know their stuff, what happens if you’re not a wine buff at all? Or only like sweet wines when the recipe calls for dry? Or don’t particularly like red wine? Or any number of random problems which are likely to throw this rule of thumb out the window? It would also seem, by this common rule, that the more highly rated the wine, the more you’d be encouraged to use it in your kitchen… but we’ll hazard a guess that you’d probably not want to use Penfold’s Grange Hermitage in your Bolognese, at a rough value of $500 a bottle.
A good thing to remember is that when you cook wine, the characteristics change. The alcohol burns off with intense heat, usually reducing it and concentrating its more dominant flavours. By using a cheap wine, you could end up making an offensive sip worse by strengthening its unfavourable features in a dish. Using something super premium, by contrast though, is a bit of a waste - as the cooking process does intrinsically change the wine’s flavour, killing its nuances and disguising most, if not all, of its subtle notes.
To help out - as we know choosing wine for any purpose can cause many of us to fret - we’ve compiled a list of handy tips to refer to when cooking with wine.
As with most things when it comes to wine, we could get into complicated descriptions of flavours, and which wines to use with different meats, different cooking styles, yada yada - but the truth is, most of the time the differences in home cooking produce very similar results (providing you follow the basic points outlined).
Once you hit a winner with recipe/wine flavour combination, you’ll know - so it’s worth having a bit of an experiment in the kitchen with the general tips above used as guidance.
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