Every chef knows that a little wine is a lovely addition to a meal and we don’t mean just in a glass beside the plate. If you’re looking for an excuse to crack open a bottle, adding wine to a recipe can add a lot of flavor and complexity to the most simple dishes. You can use wine in pasta sauce, marinades, stews and desserts. But with so many different types of wine available, how do you know which to cook with? A basic rule of thumb, don’t buy cooking wine. You want quality wine, that doesn’t have to mean expensive, but it does mean drinkable. Here are a few other guidelines to help you add depth to your dishes.
Choose wine and ingredients from a similar region. Food and wine from the same region will naturally compliment each other. The grape vines were surrounded by the same types of herbs and vegetables in dishes from that region so they will pair nicely on the table. When cooking an Italian meal, buy an Italian wine and add a little to the dish to intensify the flavors.
Red or White?
Wine is very versatile and the components determine which food it will pair best with. Consider the sweetness, acidity and whether or not it’s been oaked as these will all play a role in the final flavor of the dish. If the wine will pair well with a meal it will usually also taste good in the dish itself.
Red wine is used in cooking hearty dishes and meals with meat. Dry red wines are great for tomato sauces, wine reduction sauces and Bourguignonne Sauce. Sweet reds are delicious in a berry compote. Choose a Cabernet Sauvignon for a pot roast or beef cheeks while a Sangiovese is adds depth to a simple marinara sauce.
Most versatile red for cooking = Merlot.
White wine has an acidity and structure that make is perfect for light dishes and dressings. The acid in the wine means you can cut back on other acidic ingredients in the recipe such as lemon or vinegar. Add to a cream sauce, soups and to marinade seafood. Use an unoaked white such as pinot grigio for delicate fish and shrimp scampi, and an aromatic Riesling in a creamy white sauce for chicken.
Most versatile white for cooking = Pinot Grigio.
Feel free to experiment, after all that’s what cooking is all about. Cheers!