It’s time to make dinner. You open up one of your old trusty cookbooks, stained with food splatters and the remnants of floury fingers, hoping to find a recipe that will tickle your fancy enough to make it onto your dinner plate. That seafood linguine sure looks good…well, it did until you saw that dry white wine was one of the required ingredients and you quickly flipped the page, not wanting to sift through your entire collection trying to guess which wine would fit the bill.
When a recipe calls for wine – whether it be a dry white or a full bodied red – it can strike fear into the hearts of even the most accomplished cooks. Knowing that a recipe needs white wine is one thing, but does that mean you should go for a Chardonnay or settle on something sparkling? Or what about a fresh Pinot Grigio, or a more robust Riesling? Don’t even get us started on reds.
Foodies and wine lovers abound agree that the key to cooking with wine is to know that white means white, and red means red. Using that open bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in your creamy fish-based dish may save you a trip to the bottle shop, but it definitely won’t do your dinner any favours. Ditto for a succulent porterhouse steak – the less tannic profiles of a white wine won’t complement the richness of this meaty dish.
The one takeaway? If a recipe calls for either a red or white wine, your safe bet is something with a medium-dry to dry finish. Matthew Gerard from Grand Cru says that wines with minimal sweetness should be your ‘go-to’, because “they are versatile enough to work in a range of dishes”.
Here are our top cooking wines to ensure you avoid any dinner time disasters.
Crisp whites such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and an unoaked Chardonnay are your best bets when it comes to cooking due to their moderate alcohol content and generous acidity. If you’re not a white wine drinker and don’t want to purchase a whole bottle for it to linger in your fridge, consider shelling out for a bottle of dry vermouth – it has a longer shelf life, but a similar effect, to your typical dry white wine.
Some recipes call for specific types of red wine, such as a full bodied Cabernet in a braised meat dish to boost the richness and flavour. However, heady varieties aren’t always your best bet when it comes to cooking with red wine. Merlot and Pinot Noir are fail-safe options, as they are both relatively low in tannins and have soft, medium-dry finishes that will work in a number of dishes.
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