Food with Flair

Wine, it’s so versatile—in the glass and on your plate. Cooking with wine can definitely bring about it’s own pleasure, or pain if you use it incorrectly

Although cooking with wine is not so common outside certain European countries, especially in places like Vietnam where it’s costly because of the tax on wine, some of us still do it because it can make dishes, and especially sauces, taste better.

When you surf through food recipes that include wine among the ingredients, it usually just mentions color, red or white wine, without mentioning anything else, so most people just use generic wine and the results can be disastrously inedible.

When you cook with wine you should know that after some minutes of cooking at the right temperature the alcohol will evaporate so forget about having an alcoholic meal. Why use wine then? Flavor, and sometimes texture, hence the importance of which wine you choose for cooking. So, let’s start with the basics of what to consider when choosing a wine for cooking. There are a few key things you need to bear in mind; first is sweetness, some wines like port and sherry are used for cooking not only because of their flavor but because of their high sugar content, so if you are not looking to make your dish or sauce sweeter, make sure you use a wine with low sugar content.

Next comes acidity. Are you adding wine aiming to reduce current acidity or just the opposite? For example, it is very common to add Sangiovese wines to tomato pasta, the natural acidity of the Sangiovese grapes perfectly matches that of the tomatoes in the tomato sauce, but if you add this to a sweet sauce then disaster arises.

Two more factors to consider are the bitterness and umami (protein) of both dish and wine. There are a few wines that can provide a bit of a bitter taste like a Verdejo or a Camernere so be careful when using them unless bitter is what you want, it may be just a hint but it will be there.

“Umami” is the Japanese term for “protein,” never easy to explain, so imagine eating a spoon of pure fat and compare that to a spoon of water, the first would be at the top of umami, same applies to wine, so if you choose a full body wine to cook with a very delicate dish, disaster comes again.

Overall, wine should be used to add flavor, and always looking at it to balance with both the sauce and the dish.

As a a general rule: mussel marinara with thin light white wines like albarino, pinot grigio, Vermentino, and white fish with cream with oaked chardonnay. Dishes with vinaigrette dressing or sauce with high acidic use white wines like Sauvignon Blanc (France) or Chenin Blanc. Dishes and sauces with butter with oak Chardonnay; tomato sauces with Sangiovese, and beef with Burgundy or young Grenache.

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