When selecting wine to cook with it is essential to consider its main components – alcohol, acidity, sweetness and tannins.
Acid levels are generally higher in white wine than they are in red wine. High acid wines compliment, balance and mimic the acidic components in a dish – ingredients like lemon, tomatoes or vinegar.
Note a wines sugar and alcohol content. Alcohol may evaporate during cooking but sugar remains, sweetening a dish. If a recipe calls for parsnips, tomatoes or onions, a slightly sweet full-bodied red wine is an excellent choice. Here, the sweetness in the wine compliments the rich, sweet roast vegetables.
Tannins are the component in red wine responsible for its astringent, drying texture. Use tannic wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, for recipes with bitter ingredients, high protein and fat. These wines are also an important ingredient in marinades and may be used to deglaze.
Use light-bodied wine for light dishes, and a rich, flavorful and full-bodied dry white, such as Chardonnay, for a creamy sauce. Muscadet, Pinot Grigio or other crisp dry whites compliment seafood with their mineral and citrus aromas and flavors. For a dish containing artichokes, green beans, peppers or asparagus select a dry crisp, high-acid white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.
A reliable and fool-proof method is regional pairing. Consider where the dish is made and select a wine from that area. For example, use a red Burgundy for beef Bourguignon.
In general, dry wines, whether red or white, are most often used for cooking. It is best to select wine with similar flavors and aromas as other ingredients and if possible use the type of wine, or the same wine, you intend to serve with the dish.
Kate Wagner Zeke, Sommelier(ISG)
Certified Specialist of Wine, Certified Wine Educator(SWE)