Cooking Wine and Cooking With Wine

Cooking Wine is different than cooking with wine, learn about the differences and a few dishes that need a special touch

Cooking with Wine

Wine has been used to cook amazing dishes for a long, long time. The Romans were known for including wine in sauces, braises, and stews. The French make Coq au Vin, the Italians have risotto and chicken marsala, and the Japanese use sake for all kinds of dishes. 

Food and wine paired or cooked together can be a dream come true. Whether the wine is from your favorite winery or from your local grocery store, a little bit of wine can add a lot of complexity to a dish.


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What Is The Difference Between Cooking Wine and Table Wine?

Cooking wine is a little bit different than your average bottle of wine. This wine was never meant to be drunk, but it was meant to be included as an ingredient in cooking. Cooking wine has salt and other preservatives that extend the shelf life of the product and keep it from spoiling. These small additions allow it to legally be sold at grocery stores, but you wouldn't want to drink it. This also means that when you open a bottle, it can be used for a long long time. 

But let's say a recipe calls for cooking wine and you don't have any on hand. You can substitute almost any leftover wine you into a recipe as long as you stay close to the flavor profile and color called for. Substituting red wine for white wine can have a significant impact depending on the dish, but if you are an adventurous cook it could be a fun journey. 

Fortified wines are another good option for cooking as the high alcohol content preserves them from going bad. 

It should be noted that there is contention in the cooking community, and some chefs think that using leftover wine (or bad wine) is fine, whereas others disagree and call for only the finest in their dishes. We think this is a somewhat silly argument when the wine is being cooked (as opposed to being used as a final topping). Heat exposure will destroy many of the flavors.  

Uses For Wine in Cooking​

There are so many applications for how we can use wine when we cook. Wine brings acidity, sweetness, and flavor to a dish which enhances the complexity and makes a better final product. 

Marinades

Marinading meat or vegetables in wine, herbs, and other flavoring agents is a great way to ensure what you cook is flavorful and retains some moisture in the cooking process. 

Stocks

Stocks are used as bases for soups and grains, and can be much more flavorful when accompanied by the right type of wine. 

Braising

Roasting meats in a liquid base (especially when flavored by wine) creates a robust flavor and tender finale. 

Deglazing

Wine can be poured into a hot pan that has been used for searing or for braising to help loosen what has stuck to the pan (called the fond). This is the base for many pan sauces which are the foundations of French cooking. 

Poaching

Fruit can be cooked in wine to form the base of many Italian desserts, or poached fruits can be used to form the filling for pies. 

Floats

Simply pouring a bit of sweet wine over the top of ice cream or other cool desserts is a delicious way to finish a meal.

Some Dishes Featuring Specific Wine Varietals

If a recipe calls for cooking wine a table wine will suffice, but the reverse is not always true. Different wines bring different flavor profiles, and sometimes when a recipe calls for a dry white wine, a Marsala will not cut it. 

We wanted to list a few dishes that are either closely associated with a certain wine, or are a particularly good use for a varietal. 

Pinot Noir: A good Pinot is earthy, but still has good forward fruit. We would love to pair this with braised meats and mushrooms or maybe roasted duck breast. Pinot is also a good candidate for making a rich pan sauce. 

Chardonnay: The buttery full-bodied Chards will be a great addition to a Coq au Vin Blanc. It could also be used to make a beurre blanc, a delicious butter and wine mixture that can be spooned over vegetables and other meats. 

Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc typically doesn't carry heavy flavors that will overwhelm lighter dishes, so we would recommend cooking the Sauvignon into a cream sauce or with seafood dishes. 

Riesling: Riesling has many different flavors that can show through depending on how it is made, but look to classic German and Alsatian dishes. Pâtè in a Riesling jelly is a classic, as is chicken braised in Riesling and cream. 

Pinot Grigio: The lightness of Pinot Grigio will be very helpful for seafood dishes and could be used to poach light, Mediterranean fish with olive oil. 

Zinfandel: The big fruit flavors of Zinfandel work well with gamey dishes. Think about cooking venison or wild boar and using Zinfandel to make a pan sauce. 

Merlot: We love the flavors of duck breast and Merlot. Make a rich, buttery pan sauce to accompany it. 

Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet tinted risotto is a great side dish that can be paired with pan-seared scallops or roasted chicken. 

Chianti: Classic pairings for cooking with Chianti include lamb, boar, and offal all braised in rich Chianti. 

Syrah: Syrah is another wine that is great for making pan sauces and braises. We really love it as a pan sauce that gets spooned over grilled red meats. 

Sparkling Wine: Sparkling wine (and particularly Champagne) is a classic addition to a lot of desserts. Truffles, mousses, and foams can be pepped up with a little bit of sparkling wine. 

Vermouth: Vermouth is a classic cooking ingredient due to its high acidity, and can be used as a base for sauces and braises. We would recommend trying it in chicken Provençal. 

Madeira: Madeira can be a magical addition to dishes, and works particularly well with gamey flavors. It can make great sauces for game birds and it is an integral part of making some types of cake. 

Sherry: Sherry is used to add acidity to many glazes (for desserts or savory dishes) and makes an incredible vinaigrette.

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FEATURED ARTICLES

Petit Verdot
Chianti (Sangiovese)
Sparkling Wine
Sauvignon Blanc
Sauternes
Riesling

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Join Firstleaf to taste delicious wines from all over the world and learn more about these grapes. The club has featured amazing examples, take the quiz to get the pairings for your individual palate.

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