Food goes better with wine – even when cooking |

Food goes better with wine – even when cooking

SUSANNE JOHNSTONspecial to the daily
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

I always cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food. I am not the first to say this, but so many have been attributed to it, and it is a truth in my house, so I am going with it. Wine is a very complex beverage and its use in cooking has many implications. The characteristic flavor of a wine is intensified during the cooking process; in other words, as the alcohol evaporates the flavors concentrate. Alcohol evaporates at 178 degrees Fahrenheit, well below the boiling point of water. So, long before a sauce is finished, the alcohol will have evaporated and all is left is the flavor of the wine. The fruitier the wine is, then the more intense the fruity flavors imparted into the food. You can use wine throughout the cooking process. Marinating foods in wine is a good starting point. The acids and alcohol help to break down and tenderize meats. They act on the tough fibers in meat and effectively soften them so the cooking time is shortened and the flavors are richer.

Deglazing or reducing wine to use in sauces is very common. The amount of time spent reducing wine is more dependent on color of the wine than anything else. White wine needs less time than red to burn the alcohol off. Red wine should be reduced until almost gone. Red wine needs more reduction or your food will be purple. By reducing the color compounds, the result is a deeper, richer red that will blend better with the browns of a rich stock.Fortified wines such as Marsala and sherry are frequently added at the end of the cooking process to “finish” a sauce. These aromatic wines add subtle aromas and their sweetness is minimal. The most important rule to remember when cooking with wine is to only cook with wine that you would drink. You do not need expensive wine to cook with, but steer clear of wines that are labeled “cooking wine” or “cooking sherry” for most of these have added salt.A couple of easy guidelines to follow when cooking with wine include keeping a lot of Sauvignon Blanc in your cellar. Most of these wines are bone dry, have crisp acidity and because of its herbal quality is one of few wines that compliment difficult herbs such as rosemary and tarragon. Chardonnay is more difficult to work with, usually due to the oak characteristics in the wine, but it does make an awesome beurre blanc. Aromatic white wines such as Gewurtraminer and Riesling have dynamic fruit qualities, as well exotic fruit aromas and a touch of sweetness that work amazingly with spicier dishes.

Consider the heartiness of the dish when the recipe calls for a dry red wine. I find Zinfandel a wonderful wine to use in marinades for lamb, duck or beef. Chianti is less powerful and I prefer it for dishes that are lighter like pork or tomato based sauces.The last helpful hint is to get to know Port, Sherry, Marsala and Vermouth. These are great wines to cook with; they pack the most intense flavors and being fortified have a much longer shelf life than regular wine. Remember that vermouth is different than the rest because it has assorted herbs and spices that have been steeped in the wine, giving it a very unique flavor. Cooking with wine is easy really, and the more you experiment, the more confident you will be. Buy an extra bottle of whatever you are cooking with and serve it with the meal. I always cook with wine, and more than not, add it to the food.

Susanne Johnston is the owner of Frisco Wine Merchant. For more information, contact her at (970) 668-3153, or at

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