This morning I was reading a very good article written by Stephan Lagorce, culinary composer, from “12°5 des raisins et des hommes”* and I thought about you my lovely English speakers and maybe not fluent in French. As the french culture is recognized for its cooking you’re surely know about cooking with wine, but maybe not sure why we are doing this to our great wines ? May you let me explain you the secret about cooking with wine.
First: The reason why…in theory
Well let’s be clear there is no only one reason but 6 reasons why we are using wine in our recipes, and you can find thousands of thousands recipes add to this the diversity in wine and you get a countless possibilities.
Reason 1:The wine add acidity to the recipe
The wine interacts with the water inside the recipe and gives it freshness and delicate aromas, and actually makes the recipe lighter and more digestible.
Exe: Le beurre blanc, The Normandy sauce (using white wine instead of cider), the nages…of fish, vegetable, fruits…
Reason 2: The wine support the aromatic expression
The components inside the wine (anthocyanosides, tannins…) have the ability to fix the recipe ingredients aromas and will help to develop the flavours.
Reason 3: The wine add aromas to the recipe
In this operation is the wine adding its own aromas to the recipe. That could be freshness due to its acidity, or more complexity, spices with its richness in tannin…
Reason 4: The wine is the main ingredient
No don’t drink the bottle !!! There is some food to add to it…not a lot that’s true. This is not the most frequent but you can have it for some sorbet or fruit salads.
Reason 5: The wine is a tenderizer
And we all need some tenderness in our life, so let put our meat, fish our vegetable into wine. The natural acidity will “digest” the vegetable cellulose and the meat collagen. Still this process is soft and need to be followed by the cooking (roast, stew, fire)
Reason 6: The wine reinforces and colours the recipe
Again the component (anthocyanoside, tannins, acidity…) attract and fix the molecules of colour and aromaticity from the other recipe’s component. The method is to boil the wine and only keep the wine lees to be preserved for a next recipe. Also you can use them to create coloured ice creams.
Exe: Stew, wine sauce, brown sauce…
Second: How to choose your wine for cooking ?
Go to the kind of recipe you want to do with your wine and select a wine with the right component in term of acidity, colour, tannin, complexity. If the wine is supposed to boil don’t waste your money in an expensive one but take care to have enough colour and tannin as what you supposed to have at the end it’s the lees that you can use straight away or you can preserve in a jar or frozen for later.
to make it easier I am gonna give you the name of the main grape you should look for and some key areas.
Looking for acidity ?
Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc are a good option as they can be find for a reasonable price and can be neutral in term of aromaticity if you choose them from a cool climate (Loire valley, some part from NZ).
Looking for aromaticity ?
Again Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc can be good option but for warmer climate (NZ, Australia, south of France, California) avoid the woody ones. Try the Riesling which offers acidity and aromaticity (Germany Mosel, Australia Adelaïde hills, France Alsace, chile Casablanca). If you don’t want the acidity the Gewurztraminer or the Viognier will be a good option. Aromaticity and spices will be find in Pinot gris (Alsace or German version not the Italian version)
Version red look for Shiraz, Merlot, Bonarda grapes you will be able to find very good value for what you need to do. I suggest to select a wine from the same area than your recipe if it’s possible.
Looking for tannin and rich components ?
Avoid white wine indeed! And go for Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Malbec, Tannat (that will be the best option actually look for France, south west, Madiran)
Wine is the main ingredient ?
Look for red fruit flavours if it to goes with red berries, Pinot noir, Merlot, young syrah
Look for compolementary spices and aromaticity if it to go with white fruits or fish, Pinot gris, Gewurztraminer, Viognier
I hope you enjoyed reading this article, let me know your own tips in the comments below…
*As it’s called itself this magazine is the jajazine, jaja meaning wine in slang, of the 180°C culinaire magazine. Only twice a year a remarkable work and expression of the french wine terroir and secret.