Thought You Could Cook with Just Any Wine? Here’s Why You Can’t

Cooking with wine can be a little intimidating for your average amateur chef. It’s a tricky ingredient to judge – too much or too little can go very wrong, and you don’t want to waste any.

On top of that, there is a common misconception that, since you’re cooking with it, you needn’t worry about quality. Here, we’re going to dispel that. Don’t fall for the “cooking wine” trap.

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Beef bourguignon, a dish made with beef and red wine

If it’s good in the glass, it’s good in the pot

Cooking with wine doesn’t make it any better, so first off you probably shouldn’t be cooking with any wines that you wouldn’t also enjoy drinking. You don’t need to break the bank, but it’s worth using a wine that you actually enjoy, rather than going for the cheapest bottle you can find.

Part of that’s in the flavour – using wine as an ingredient or a reduction will change its flavor, to be sure, but it won’t make it better if the standard isn’t already there. 

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Spaghetti served with claims cooked in white wine

The second element is quality. Wines that are not well-produced will transfer their imperfections and additives, like excessive sulfites, into whatever dish you cook, whilst properly produced bottles will give you nothing to worry about.

Besides, there are virtually no recipes that call for a whole bottle of wine. Why not choose a good wine and give yourself the chance to enjoy the leftovers?

How to cook with wine

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Coq a vin, a French classic made with chicken & red wine

There are two main ways that you’ll find yourself cooking with wine. One is creating a wine reduction – wine that has been cooked down and had the alcohol cooked out – as part of a simple pan sauce, combined with ingredients like butter or olive oil.

Otherwise you’ll likely be braising, cooking ingredients in a sauce or stew that includes wine for a longer period of time. This method, used for of hearty French dishes like beef bourguignon and coq a vin, gives the wine plenty time to pass its flavor into the dish.

Some recipes require a final splash of wine to be added after cooking – here, the quality of the wine is perhaps even more important, because its flavor will stay fully intact.

Read to the bottom of the article for a simple recipe. But first…

Which wines should you use?

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White wine-steamed mussels served over pasta

Cooking evaporates the alcohol in wine, leaving behind strong flavors and concentrating attributes like sweetness and acidity. Because of that, you should aim for wines that land somewhere in the middle.

Dry, unoaked white wines like a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio can work well, while light-to-medium bodied options like pinot noir or cabernet are ideal when it comes to red wine.

You can also give a bit of thought to the cuisine that you’re preparing. If you’re cooking beef bourguignon, a French red would be a good look. Or, if you’re whipping up a white wine and seafood pasta, why not try an Italian bottle?

If you follow these general principles, cooking with wine will be easier than you ever thought.

RECIPE

CLAM PASTA WITH
GARLIC & WHITE WINE

We couldn’t leave you without a recipe to test out your new kitchen knowledge. Read on for a delicious, simple recipe for Clam Pasta with Garlic & White Wine. (Image and recipe via thespruceeats.com).

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INGREDIENTS

25 small clams
3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 small brown onion, diced
1/2 cup of dry white wine
2 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter

METHOD

1)
Boil some water in a large pot for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and have it ready around the same time as the clams or just a bit before.

2)
Soak the clams in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water.

3)
Heat the oil and butter over a medium heat in a large, heavy-based pot. Add the onion and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the garlic, chili flakes and salt and stir for about 20 seconds.

4)
Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for about 7 minutes until their juice starts to evaporate.

5)
Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the clams to the pot. Cover with a lid. After about 2-3 minutes add the wine to the pot. Cover again and shake the pot from side to side.

6)
Cook the clams for a further 5 minutes or until they open. Add the parsley and stir with a wooden spoon. Cover and shake pot again.

7)
Drain the pasta and then pour the clam mixture on top. Stir well and serve immediately.

So, next time you cook with wine, you should cook with wine you would drink. You’re in luck – we only sell wines that we love to drink ourselves! Click here to download the BottlesXO app and get great wines delivered to wherever you are in Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hong Kong. That’s chilled and ready to drink with no delivery fee, in an average time of just 29 minutes.