Those who love drinking wine can easily appreciate specific aromas and notes from their favorite bottles.
It might be the oaky, buttery taste that a Chardonnay provides, the crisp, clean bite of a sauvignon blanc or the sweet, tartness only found within a dry vermouth.
When it comes to cooking using wines, it's a different ball game altogether. That's because the taste of a favorite wine transforms once it interacts with heat and cooking ingredients. Fortunately, when used correctly for cooking, the results of adding a complex wine to a tantalizing dish can be a complex flavor profile. At Cedar Creek Ranch Winery, we know that the flavor of a great dish often comes from a quality wine. Here’s our guide to cooking with dry white wine.
Related: The Best Way to Store Wine
How to choose cooking wine
If you’re keen on using wine for cooking, dry white wine is the best option. So what is dry white wine? Simply put, this is any white wine that’s not sweet. Dry white wine is a versatile option for cooking because it can go with so many dishes. It’s of little wonder then that it’s such a staple in any self-respecting chef's kitchen.
Dry white wine can be used for the following:
- Creating sautés with chicken, pork, fish, like or mushrooms
- Deglazing brown bit for a pan sauce
- Adding a flamboyant, acidic flavor to risotto
- Steaming seafood like mussels with chorizo
A characteristic that’s vital in a cooking wine is what cooking professionals define as 'crisp.' In other words, this is a wine with high acidity. Examples of dry white wines that will deliver that trait to perfection include the following:
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Grigio
- Pinot Blanc
High acidity and lower alcoholic content in wine are key fundamentals to look for in cooking wine. One common mistake that people make is using a wine that they enjoy drinking in the hope that it’ll taste the same when used to cook a dish.
More often than not, that experiment does not pan out as intended. For instance, one might love how Chardonnay tastes when they are drinking it. But it’s low in acidity, and when used to cook a dish, the buttery and oaky elements of the wine quickly turn bitter, adding no value or taste to a dish.
Un-oaked Chardonnay is actually better for cooking because it’s higher in acidity. High acidity is great for cooking, since it has a bright tenderizing effect on tough meats. Also, high alcoholic content (above 10 to 13%) in a cooking wine takes longer to reduce during the cooking process.
How to Use Dry White Wine for Cooking
Now that you understand the general framework for choosing a wine that will work for cooking, here’s how you can use it in your dishes.
For the most part, one will want to add the wine earlier in the cooking process to give it enough time to reduce, cook and integrate with all the ingredients in the dish.
It’s recommended that buyers look past the "cooking wines" from the grocery store and up the ante to some wine types like the four mentioned above. Wines that are labeled "cooking wines" contain salt preservatives as well as other additives that can easily botch a dish. Since they’re meant for cooking, they’re often lower in quality.
Benefits of Cooking with White Wine
White wine enhances flavor, especially in white meat dishes like seafood or white fish.
When using wine, one doesn’t need to use as much oil or fat as they normally would in their dish. Wine gives a dish flavor, just like fat, so you can use it as a substitute.
The moisture content in the dish goes up when one uses wine instead of only oil in a dish.
Great for baking
Some dessert can use a little white wine for an infusion of subtle flavor
Below is a sample of a recipe that show how one can incorporate wine in a dish.
Steamed mussels with chorizo and garlicky croutons and smoked paprika is a fairly easy recipe to prepare even on a weekday. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare this recipe.
- 1 small sliced onion
- 5 tbs of virgin oil
- 4 think sliced and 2 squashed garlic cloves
- 1 cup of diced seeded tomatoes
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- 3 springs of fresh thyme
- 6 oz. Of chorizo Spanish style
- 4 pounds of debearded scrubbed mussels
- 1 baguette
The thought of adding wine into a dish can sound complicated. But the addition of wine infuses both moisture and flavor in a dish that needs to be sautéed like mussels.
- Add three tablespoons of the olive to the minced garlic in a separate bowl.
- Add the other 2 spoonfuls of olive oil into a pan together with the onions and pinch of salt. Stir occasionally for about three minutes. Add the sliced garlic and smoked paprika and stir for about half a minute.
- At this point, throw in the cupful of sliced tomatoes, chorizo and thyme as well as about a cupful of wine. Stir occasionally and cook until it comes to a simmer.
- Add mussels into the mix such that they covered by the sauce, stir . Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Enough time for the mussels to open.
Excited to cook with wine? Check out our red and whites grown in the Sierra Foothills.
What can serve as a substitute for white wine?
For those who do not want too much alcohol in their food but would like to enjoy food with flavors similar to those brought about by white wine, they can use vin santo, which is white dessert wine made from unripened white grapes.
Preparing meals with wine is fun and frankly delicious. White wine delivers the kick in the food because of its acidic taste. It's imperative to use excellent wine, though. Anything else may not offer the same results. For an excellent white wine to sip or cook with, don’t forget to try our 2016 Estate Viognier.