Wine For Cooking

Most writing on wine doesn’t address wine for cooking. Some cookbooks do and some of them do a pretty good job, others not so much. So here are some thoughts on the subject.

There are some recipes that call for expensive wines, “Beef in Barolo”, Chicken Gevrey Chambertin, anything in a Champagne sauce, etc. By and large using expensive wine for cooking is a waste of good wine and money. On the other hand the rule that if you wouldn’t drink it don’t cook with it is a pretty good rule. A quick note, there are some wines that are so distinctive or an inherent part of the dish that I would not make a substitute. Riesling comes to mind. But I still would use an inexpensive one.

White wines for cooking: Most white wines work well for cooking. There are two things I would stay away from, oaky wines and sweeter wines. Oak flavors can get harsh when heated and sweetness gets concentrated and is rarely a flavor that is desirable when a recipe calls for white wine. Some wines like Gwertztraminer and Riesling are so distinctive I would tend not to use them unless the recipe calls for them or you are feeling adventuress. Inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc from France or Chile work well as do most inexpensive Italian and Spanish white wines. I find inexpensive California whites frequently lack the acidity I am looking for even when they aren’t oaky or sweet.

Red wines for cooking: Once again I am leery of sweeter styles but it is excessive tannins that cause most of the problems when cooking with red wine. If brought to a boil, tannins can become very bitter in a sauce. My go to red is Barbera as it has good red wine flavors with low tannins. Merlot’s can work well too.

Sparkling wines are called for in some recipes. If they are going to be heated you will lose the bubbles so there isn’t much point in paying for them. A light acidic white like a Pinot Grigio should work well. If you insist on bubbles, I probably would use an inexpensive Cava.

I haven’t seen may recipes that call for Rosè but they are out there. With its growing popularity I expect to see more popping up. Once again I would avoid the sweeter ones. I have had some nice Vin D’ Pays level Rosès that were inexpensive and would work well.

Fortified wines for cooking: Most recipes that call for fortified wines are pretty specific about what to use. Just try and match the level of sweetness without breaking the bank.

Enjoy

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