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Cooking with Wine

By Julia Jenkins, 19th November 2016

If you enjoy a glass of wine with your meal why not use it as an integral part of the recipe? The myriad of flavours in the wines available to us from around the world provide the opportunity to add nuances of taste to our meals as a low fat high flavour ingredient.

It’s important to remember that cooking with wine is a great way to use up bottles of wine but not to get rid of unwanted poor quality ones as the flavours are directly transferred to the food, off flavours become much more noticeable once heated. Equally, as the wine loses its innate distinctive characteristics once added to food so using a first growth claret or premier cru Burgundy isn’t recommended!

There are a few rules of thumb for cooking with wine based on basic chemistry and common sense. For dishes with milk, cream, eggs and butter it is better to add the wine first to prevent curdling and when adding wine as a main ingredient in a sauce it is best to add it at the start so the alcohol evaporates over time and a subtle taste from the wine is developed. As you can imagine creamy sauces will require a soft rounded style of wine such as a New World unoaked Chardonnay whose pure fruit flavour will enhance those of the sauce as would a similar wine from the South of France such as the les Volets Chardonnay.

Fortified wines should be added at the end of the recipe such as when adding a dash of sherry to soup; try the Gonzalez Byass Vina AB in spinach or courgette soup or the Alfonso Oloroso Seco in a vegetable broth.

Marinating meat in wine before cooking will tenderise and add an intrinsic flavour to meat and fish. Try leaving braising steak in a New World Cabernet or Carmenere such as a Chilean Los Tres Curas Carmenere or the Rolleston Vale Shiraz Cabernet from Australia at the same price for a few hours before casseroling with a little more of the same wine. Matching a wine to drink with it is then very easy as the same wine will be a perfect complement or another more expensive version such as the Pugilist Cabernet or the Viu Manent Merlot both under £10.

There are some obvious wines to use in Italian dishes as that country’s wines are a great match for dishes using tomatoes and garlic as the native grape varieties use din Chianti such as the Sangiovese or the Nero d’Avola in Sicily have much fruit and fresh acidity to easily complement the tomatoes and garlic in many dishes. Thus add a delicious Barbera such as Araldica Ceppi Storici or Carlotta Nero d’Avola to enhance and support the flavours.

In chicken dishes where wine is a key ingredient in a marinade forming the basis of a sauce then a white wine of your choice with inherently fresh but not concentrated flavours will be ideal. Try a Touraine Sauvignon from the Loire Valley or a traditional Italian Pecorino or Sicilian Catarratto with light lemony overtones. Shiraz or Grenache based red wine sauces are great robustly flavoured red wines to add to casseroles though if you want to be traditional then a French Pinot Noir is the wine for Boeuf Bourguignon. However, the wine for cooking doesn’t have to break the bank – try the Les Volets Pinot Noir from the South of France, it’s great to drink with it too. If it’s a special meal then a wine from the same grape from Burgundy such as the Latour Mercurey or New Zealand such as the Escarpment Pinot Noir form Martinborough will be a treat!

Remember, it’s not rocket science and cooking with wine is a time experiment with different flavours in food and wine to create your own delicious matches. Have fun!

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