Cooking With Wine

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018
cooking with wines from heart of the desert

Enjoying a glass of wine while cooking is always a good idea. Adding some wine to your dishes, might even be a better one.

Recipes are often vague only calling for a dry white or dry red wine. So, anything goes, right? NO! The rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. Julia Child once said, “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.” That being said, it doesn’t mean you need to break the bank for your cooking wines, it just needs to taste good. Save the expensive bottles to enjoy with the meal.

How do I choose my wines to cook with?

The two biggest things you need to be aware of when selecting your cooking wines, are the sweetness level and acidity level, as those are the two things that will come through the most when cooking. A sweet wine when cooked down almost turns to syrup, so it will make your dish very sweet. That might be great for a dessert, but not so much for your filet mignon. An acidic wine will become much more pronounced when cooked down. If you are looking for an almost lemon finish on a fish dish, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but on your pasta?

Whatever you do, avoid “Cooking Wines”. They are salty and full of other additives that aren’t adding any good flavors to your dishes. If you taste one, you most likely wouldn’t want to consume it.

You really won’t be able to discern an expensive bottle of wine from a cheap bottle, once cooked, so don’t be afraid of a “Two-Buck Chuck” AKA Charles Shaw wines from Trader Joes, if they taste good and have the right profile for the dish. (Did you know these wines are award winning?!) Yes, you do have to taste it first to decide if it tastes good and isn’t too sweet or too acidic. If you cook with wine a lot, but don’t necessarily drink it a lot, you might consider going for a white and red boxed wine. The plastic pouch that the wine is in, keeps air from getting to it, which keeps the wine fresh much longer. A bottle of wine, once opened, can start getting funky after about 2 weeks, even if corked tightly and kept in the fridge.

On the other hand, if you are enjoying a bottle of wine while cooking and want to share it with your dish, all the merrier.

Which varietals of wine should I cook with?

Now that you know that the wine you cook with should taste good, shouldn’t be too sweet and not too acidic, which varietals should you choose?

If a recipe is calling for a dry white wine, select a Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay. Typically, these wines are used with fish, chicken and vegetable dishes.

If a recipe is calling for a dry red, select a Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz/Syrah, or Zinfandel. These will typically be used for red sauces and braising meats.

As you begin cooking more with wines, you may also consider stocking your pantry with fortified wines, such as, a dry Sherry, dry Marsala and dry Madeira. Sherries are often used in soups. You’ll find Marsala and Madeira in sauces and marinades. These wines get a boost of brandy or pure alcohol during or after fermentation. The timing of the addition determines how sweet the fortified wine will be: the earlier it’s added, the sweeter the wine will be. The alcohol burns off during cooking, leaving bold flavors. But again, taste it first to make sure it has the correct profile for your dish.

For a final review, taste that wine before you use it in your recipe. If it tastes good and has the right profile, it will enhance your dish.

Cheers and happy cooking!

Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.