Cooking with wine

To me, wine is and always will be more than just a drink. One of my earliest symbolic memories of eating out at “good” restaurants is that heady aroma of red wine that floats through the air…

Wine is always linked to food, as it has the ability to enhance and improve our experience of any particular meal. However, it can also be used as a cooking ingredient, and learning the many intricacies of its use is an important objective for anyone who wants to find the best flavours in cooking.

Wine can be used in three primary cooking methods – to marinade, to include as liquid cooking ingredient, and to use to flavour a dish that’s all but complete. When using wine in your cooking, you’re not aiming to create champagne-flavoured meatballs, but to use wines to help bring out other flavours, or add to the mix of tastes in the dish already present (a great recipe example I keep coming back to is my delicious Greek Stifado).

It can also add to the overall smell, and that’s a major factor in cooking – some dishes will taste fantastic, but will smell horrible. You want the smells of your cooking to get people’s mouths watering in anticipation of getting them to consume the various culinary delights you have crafted, kitchen tools in hand. The right wine can both balance smells and conjure up new aromas; for example, red wine is often found in Italian cooking, and really helps bring out the flavour of sauces and meat dishes.

Be mindful of which stage in your cooking process would be ideal for incorporating wine into the dish; add too late and it may be somewhat harsh in taste (this can really ruin a dish – something I’ve done more than once). Add it early enough, though, and you’ll find that the alcohol will evaporate leaving nothing but the flavour behin, which is wonderful for those who want the taste of the wine without having to drink it.

The best thing about using wine in cooking is that you can simply take a bottle you opened last night and use it in your current dish, if the taste matches. Don’t forget your approaches to choosing wine to be drunk with food, as well – acidity, etc, will make a significant difference to how your meal tastes.

Go ahead and get yourself stocked up on some wine for your next culinary experiment. I recommend the new Marks & Spencer wine section to have wine delivered to your door.