The first and most important rule: Use only wines in your cooking that you would drink. Never, never use any wine that you WOULD NOT DRINK! If your do not like the taste of a wine, you will not like the dish you choose to use it in.
Do not use the so-called “cooking wines!” These wine are typically salty and include other additives that my affect the taste of your chosen dish and menu. The process of cooking/reducing will bring out the worst in an inferior wine. Please promise yourself never, never to stoop to such a product! Linda’s rule of thumb is: I do not cook with something I will not drink.
An expensive wine is not necessary, although a cheap wine will not bring out the best characteristics of your dish. A good quality wine, that you enjoy, will provide the same flavor to a dish as a premium wine. Save the premium wine to serve with the meal.
How to cook with wine:
Wine has three main uses in the kitchen – as a marinade ingredient, as a cooking liquid, and as a flavoring in a finished dish. The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance and accent the flavor and aroma of food – not to mask the flavor of what you are cooking but rather to fortify it. As with any seasoning used in cooking, care should be taken in the amount of wine used – too little is inconsequential and too much will be overpowering. Neither extreme is desirable. A small quantity of wine will enhance the flavor of the dish.
The alcohol in the wine evaporates while the food is cooking, and only the flavor remains. Boiling down wine concentrates the flavor, including acidity and sweetness. Be careful not to use too much wine as the flavor could overpower your dish.
For best results, wine should not be added to a dish just before serving. The wine should simmer with the food, or sauce, to enhance the flavor of the dish. If added late in the preparation, it could impart a harsh quality. It should simmer with the food or in the sauce while it is being cooked; as the wine cooks, it reduces and becomes an extract which flavors. Wine added too late in the preparation will give a harsh quality to the dish. A wine needs time to impart its flavor in your dish. Wait 10 minutes or more to taste before adding more wine.
Remember that wine does not belong in every dish. More than one wine-based sauce in a single meal can be monotonous. Use wine is cooking only when it has something to contribute to the finished dish.
Sulfites in Wine – All wines contain at least some small amount of sulfites. They are a natural result of the same fermentation process that turns grape juice into alcohol. Even wines that have not had any sulfites added during the winemaking process contain some amount of sulfites. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is used by winemakers to keep freshly pressed must from spoiling. It keeps down the activities of native yeast and bacteria and preserves the freshness of the wine.
When cooking with wine containing sulfites, you do not concentrate them as you would flavor, but rather they evaporate like alcohol. The sulfite goes through a conversion in the liquid of the wine to produce sulfur dioxide. This is actually the compound that prevents the oxidation. It also is a gas, and when subjected to heat, it dissipates into the air. All that remains is some salts, but they are so minute in quantity that they have no affect on flavor.
Storage of Leftover Wine – Leftover table wine can be refrigerated and used for cooking if held for only one or two weeks. If you have at least a half bottle on wine left over, pour it off into a clean half bottle, cork it, and store in the refrigerator. without air space at the top, the rebottled wine will keep for up to one month.
Wine Reduction for Pan Sauces:
1/2 to 3/4 cup raw wine = 2 tablespoons of wine reduction
For ultimate flavor, wine should be reduced slowly over low heat. This method takes more time and effort, but will achieve a superior sauce because the flavor compounds present in the wine are better preserved.