What Are the Best Tips for Cooking with Wine?

Sheri Cyprus

The best tips for cooking with wine include coordinating its flavors and textures with characteristic in the dish. It's also important to consider the acidity of wine with different foods as well as its effect on certain types of cookware. A basic tip to keep in mind when making wine-based sauces is to allow the liquid to simmer and reduce to about half its original volume so the outcome is flavorful.

Some dishes require drinking-quality wines to be used.
Some dishes require drinking-quality wines to be used.

Wine added to sauces won't interact well with the other ingredients to bring out their full flavors unless it cooks enough to reduce down and become concentrated. The alcohol in the wine needs to be cooked out or the taste is likely to be too sharp rather than rich. When cooking with wine, researching and reading labels to discover unique taste notes can help you add similar foods to your dishes to create rich layers of flavor. For instance, pinot noir is often said to have mushroom flavors, so using it in a beef stew or other dish with mushrooms may be a delicious addition that brings out maximum flavor.

Chardonnay would be a great wine for cooking fettucini Alfredo or other creamy dishes.
Chardonnay would be a great wine for cooking fettucini Alfredo or other creamy dishes.

As a general guideline, red wines are best in hearty beef dishes and white white varieties tend to suit poultry, fish and vegetarian recipes. It's crucial to consider the texture and not just the flavors when cooking with wine. For example, cabernet sauvignon has a heavy texture that combines well with rich proteins such as beef. In contrast, chardonnay has a creamy texture and would be a much better choice for a fettuccine Alfredo recipe. Sherry can bring out the flavors of many fruits and vegetables.

A glass of red wine.
A glass of red wine.

Sherry can even be used in desserts such as chocolate fondue. Merlot is another wine that is ideal for chocolate, especially the dark variety to match the rich taste of the wine. Yet, merlot doesn't usually complement acidic foods such as citrus fruits and tomatoes. To help protect pots and pans when cooking with wine, stainless steel is a better choice than aluminum or cast iron, as the finish of these materials may be ruined by varieties with a high acid content.

White wines are best with poultry and fish dishes.
White wines are best with poultry and fish dishes.

When cooking an ethnic recipe, a great tip is to used wine from that region or country. Not only could the dish be enhanced by cooking with wine from that kind of cuisine, but the beverage may also be served with the finished meal. Serving appetizers as well as desserts than are associated with the region or country can nicely tie in the wine and the main dish to make a cohesively flavored meal.

Chicken Marsala simmered with Sicilian wine, mushrooms, and fresh thyme.
Chicken Marsala simmered with Sicilian wine, mushrooms, and fresh thyme.
Sherry is a type of wine that goes well in a chocolate fondue.
Sherry is a type of wine that goes well in a chocolate fondue.
Chicken piccata calls for white wine and lemon juice to deglaze the pan.
Chicken piccata calls for white wine and lemon juice to deglaze the pan.

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