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Which wines are best for cooking?
Any chef who also loves wine will tell you never to use a wine in your recipe that you don’t think is good enough to drink. One thing most agree on is to not use wines labeled as “cooking wine.” These wines contain salt and do not have the complexity of flavor that you need from this vital ingredient.
Using a quality wine doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be expensive. It would make no sense to use a rare vintage of Bordeaux, either. However, you do want something with style, flavor and depth. Depending on the type of wine, it could cost under $10 and still provide quality.
Wine used in cooking will gradually lose some of its alcoholic strength as it is cooked. The longer it cooks, the more alcohol will be evaporated. What will remain are the basic flavors of the wine, which marries with other ingredients in the pan.
When choosing a wine for a particular dish, try to match the primary flavor components of the wine with those of the dish. Here are some dry table wines commonly used for cooking and their typical flavor contributions:
Another factor to consider when cooking with wine is the timing of the addition of the wine. The earlier the wine is added in the cooking process, the more alcohol will be evaporated. But there are cases when the alcohol is desired in the recipe. A splash of wine added near the end of the process will retain nearly all of its alcohol content.
If you’re thinking of using fortified wines like genuine Sherry, Port, Madeira and Marsala wines, be aware that they contain elevated alcohol levels to begin with. Most also will retain a good amount of their sweetness, although some can be fully dry.
Wine will boil at a lower temperature than water, around 175 degrees versus 212 degrees. So, if you substitute wine for water in a recipe, remember to add cooking time to compensate for the lower boiling temperature.
Len Napolitano lives in San Luis Obispo County and is certified in wine by the Society of Wine Educators, Wine & Spirits Education Trust and Chicago Wine School and continually gains knowledge from his frequent contact with California winemakers. More information is on his website, www.wineology.com.
Send your questions about wine to: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Len Napolitano in care of Wine Country This Week magazine. Wineology is a registered trademark of Len Napolitano.
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