Cooking with Wine

Using wine in your cooking is an easy way to enhance and intensify the taste of any dish, as wine can release flavors in food that may not otherwise be experienced. As with any seasoning, a careful balance is important.

As the alcohol in wine evaporates during cooking, the wine's flavor remains and concentrates, leaving you with a pleasant acidity and sweetness. The amount of alcohol that remains is dependent of the manner and length of cooking. For example, after 15 minutes of simmering, approximately 40 percent of the wine's alcohol remains in the dish.

One of the most important rules for cooking is to use only wines that you would drink. An expensive wine is not necessary — a good-quality wine that you enjoy will provide you with the same flavors. If you choose a wine of poor quality or one with unpleasant flavors, the taste will be intensified by cooking. Be sure to avoid "cooking wines," which are typically salty and include additives that can result in strange or harsh flavors.

Here's a look at the four main ways to use wine in the kitchen:

Marinating With Wine 
Wine is a wonderful addition to marinade ingredients, which typically include vinegar, oil, and seasonings such as herbs and spices. It adds moisture to meats, while the tannins in wine help tenderize them. Remember to marinate in the refrigerator and discard any marinade that has been in contact with uncooked meat. If you want to use a marinade as a basting sauce while cooking, be sure to set some aside from the original batch before the uncooked meat is added.

Creating a Sauce With Wine 
Create an intense and complex sauce by deglazing with wine. Deglazing means dissolving the layer of particles and juices left in a pan after meat has been sautéed or vegetables have been roasted: Remove the meat or veggies from the pan and add wine to what's left. Heat in the uncovered pan, and reduce the volume by half. The flavors of the wine combine with what's in the pan to create the sauce or gravy for your dish. The longer the liquid is cooked, the thicker the sauce will become since the liquid is evaporating. Add some fresh herbs like parsley, basil, or mint for that final touch.

Poaching With Wine 
When recipes call for water or broth as a cooking liquid, replace all or some of that liquid with wine. A dry white wine is perfect for this type of cooking because its taste is subtle. One of my personal favorites for poaching seafood is white wine infused with fresh dill, basil, whole coriander seeds, and lemon juice. Keep in mind that poaching is a gentle cooking technique that should not reach boiling temperatures.

A few final notes on cooking with wine:

  • Avoid adding wine to a dish just before serving it. The wine needs to have enough time to simmer with the food or sauce to develop its flavor and to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Wait ten minutes before you taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Use non-reactive cookware such as stainless and enamel when cooking with wine and avoid cooking in aluminum or cast iron.
  • Freeze leftover drinking wine in ice cube trays for future cooking use. Leftover table wine can be refrigerated and used in your cooking for up to two weeks.