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How to Cook with Wine

By Inspired Taste
Created January 10, 2017
These quick tips and tricks will take the mystery out of what wines to use in recipes.

Which bottle of wine do you buy and, more importantly, how much should you spend? Well, you’re not alone in all of this and we’re here to help!

Let’s talk basics for second, shall we? The number one rule when cooking with wine: buy something you would drink. Period. When cooked, the flavors of the wine will be stronger and more concentrated. So, if you don’t like the wine straight out of the bottle, you’re probably not going to be a fan of it after cooking it.

We love our wine and the individual nuances each bottle can provide, but we also love simple. So, when cooking with wine, we stick to the following guidelines:

If the recipe calls for a “dry white wine” or if a savory dish calls for “white wine”, we’ll use an American Sauvignon Blanc. It’s pretty dry, fresh and provides a grassy or herbal flavor, lifting up and complementing the rest of the ingredients.

* When using red wine, it depends. If we’re cooking for a long time, say we’re braising meats, a safe bet is Zinfandel. They’re pretty well priced (score!), dry and hearty, which means they stand up to longer cooking times. If the dish is a little lighter, Chianti or Pinot Noir is a good choice.

* If you’re feeling like going a little further, you’ll want to get to know fortified wines, such as port, sherry, Marsala or Madeira. They’re pretty intensely flavored and are on the sweeter side. Use these in sweet and savory recipes. Marsala and mushrooms are heavenly, and port works wonders on rich meat dishes.

* As for how much to spend, that’s up to you. Remember the golden rule–don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink. After that, be reasonable. For us (and our budget), we cap the price at $12 to $18, but you can spend more if you wish. Don’t ever think you need to spend a ton, though. If you buy what you like and buy what you can afford, you’ll be fine. With that said, don’t buy anything labled “cooking wine”...they’re not worth the money.

Thinking about all this wine got us a little hungry (and thirsty), so we came up with two recipes, one using American Sauvignon Blanc and the other using Chianti.

Shrimp Pasta with Mushrooms

For the white wine, we cooked earthy shiitake mushrooms and shrimp with butter and garlic. (Not a bad start, right?) Then we poured in about 1 cup of the wine.

White Wine Shrimp Cooking

After allowing the wine to bubble for a minute, we tossed in cooked pasta and top with fresh parsley. It’s light, buttery, fresh and so quick to make! 

For the red, we took a chance and actually cooked pasta in red wine. It may sound crazy, but it tastes delicious.

Red Wine Pasta

All the flavors of the wine are absorbed into the pasta, leaving you with a fruity bite. Butter is added, too, so the pasta is moist, not dry.

Red Wine Pasta with Feta

Both recipes use wine in different ways. For the shrimp pasta, the white wine brightens up the dish and adds an herbal freshness. The red pasta, however, takes on an earthy and deep flavor, creating a much more decadent dish.

Let’s say you have some wine left over. What should you do with it? Well, you could pour the rest into a glass and drink it, but you could also save it. If you do, keep it with the cork in your refrigerator not on the counter. That should extend the life of the wine a bit (about a week). Another idea is to make wine spritzers. Pour a little wine into a glass, and add some fruit puree or juice. Then top with sparkling water or soda.

Now, go and have some fun!