Get to know the flavors that suit you
One of the reasons for cooking with wine is to enhance the flavor of the food. It is amazing how adding wine to a recipe opens additional flavors in foods—and it is so simple!
Most of the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process, but wine concentrates the flavor, and that includes acidity and sweetness. Don’t use too much wine, as the flavor can overpower the dish. Add a small amount of wine and try sampling your dish; add wine as needed. The type of wine you use is important.
Too often I hear, “Give me something cheap. It is only for cooking.” Wrong!!! Cook only with wine that you would drink. This does not mean that you need a very expensive bottle. A well made medium grade for under $10 is just fine. Use something you’re familiar with, and as you get more accustomed to using wine as an ingredient in your dishes, you will be more likely to experiment. Try to use Sauvignon Blanc as a white wine for sautéing, marinating, and in sauces for seafood and chicken. I use Cabernet and Chianti for meats and meat-based sauces. It is good sense to stay away from wines that are aged in oak barrels. These wines tend to give off a bitter taste. If wine is very fruity, sour, or unsavory, these characteristics will also be emphasized during the cooking. So the trick is to experiment. The more you cook with wine, the better you will become in predicting how a specific wine will enhance your menu.
A Few Tips for Cooking with Wine
• When a recipe calls for water, replace water with your favorite wine
• Stir two tablespoons of a full bodied red into brown gravy. Let simmer to create a rich brown gravy for red meat.
• Mix wine with your favorite oil to baste meat and poultry.
• If a meat dish calls for wine, first heat the wine. Do not boil the wine!
• Adding cold wine tends to make meat tough, while warm wine helps tenderize it.
• Serve the same wine with dinner that you cooked with as they will balance each other. If you prefer to use a fine wine during dinner, try to stay within the same wine family.
• Cooking with wine can be a pleasure and a great enhancement to the final taste. Just be sure that you don’t cook with what you would not drink!
Answering Your Questions: What is Tannin?
Tannin is a family of natural organic compounds that are found in grape skin, seeds, and stems. Also during the aging process oak barrels infuse tannin into the juice. They are an excellent antioxidant and natural preservative. Tannin helps give wine structure and texture. Winemakers have a good degree of control and use that to enhance the final product. They use specific juice extraction techniques to reduce or increase the amount excreted. Specifically they can very gently squeeze the grapes to extract the juice, thereby not releasing much of the tannin. In the case of red wine, grape skin contact is longer, the crushing of grapes is more violent, and barrel aging is longer—resulting in a stronger tannin dimension in the wine. In concentrated quantities it will cause an occasional pucker sensation in the mouth and back of the throat. This is sometimes accompanied by a bitter aftertaste, which is referred to as tannic. Visually tannin forms part of the natural sediment found in the bottom of the bottle. Red wines with little tannin should be drunk young. However a red wine that should age and improve for perhaps three or more years requires a lot of tannin. As the wine ages, the tannin softens and becomes less noticeable.
Now you know, and remember, Life is a Matter of Taste!
Have a question about wine or spirits, email Bella at Malbecberry@aol.com. Bella is proprietor of Valley Wine and Liquors and Russky-on-the-Hudson in Napanoch, NY.