Wine is not limited to a glass. It can be used in pots and pans and many other places, depending on the recipe you choose to follow. There are plenty of examples where wine gives the perfect extra touch to your dish – whether it be fish or meat, braised or broiled, in a sauce or in a pasta dish. Wine lends itself well to a variety of uses, giving aroma, body and flavor to your palate.
It’s a well known wives’ tale that when cooking with wine, one should always choose a wine of poor or mediocre quality, considering so much of the alcohol evaporates with the heat. This could be true if wine were made up only of alcohol – but it is not. Would you ever cook a tomato sauce with a scarce quality onion or use a badly stored piece of meat for your Sunday lunch? If the answer is no, then you should use the same criteria for cooking with wine! The better the quality, the higher the chances are that your dish is successful.
A mediocre wine, or even worse an acidic wine, will inevitably alter the flavor of your dish, and even overpower all other ingredients. And what’s worse, you will find that the only flavor that remains is the unpleasant one, especially of you are cooking at temperatures over 70-80 degrees. Wine can easily enhance a dish but it can also add all its defects to a dish as well. This is why it is so important to choose a good wine to cook with, and not only drink.
If you are marinating meat in wine, this is the perfect example of when the quality of a wine comes into play. Usually marinating takes several hours before the meat truly picks up the flavor. Using a quality wine such as a Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino or a Nobile di Montepulciano, instead of a lower quality wine, will certainly make the difference in your dish!
The same goes for younger wines which are also often used for cooking. A young white wine with a good acidity will give you the same fresh taste on your palate as when you are drinking it, if you cook dishes such as mussels, pasta with fish or crustaceans. Even tuna filets take on a whole other taste if cooked with a light touch of white wine.
There are some dishes where wine is simply the main ingredient such as risotto allo spumante which is a simple and light dish, where the spumante is cooked directly with butter and onion in a pan. Spumante brut or extra dry is a good choice for a meal like this as it leaves little residual sugars on the palate. Needless to say in a dish where the wine is center stage, it is necessary to use a quality bottle of wine.
Wine is also an important ingredient in a typical central Italian sweet such as ciambelle, where using a scarce wine would be noticeable. It’s always best to use a sweet, full wine for a dessert like this instead of an overly acidic, unpleasant wine.