Cooking with Wine

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About
Good wine used in the kitchen adds depth and dimension to a dish that no other ingredient can. The recipes of Apicius, the most famous Roman chef, show that wine was commonly used in his sauces and it has found a place in the kitchen ever since.

Wine is an essential ingredient in many dishes and can be used in every stage of cooking from the preparation and tenderizing of meat to providing the final, often sweet, finish to a dessert. It is all the more curious, therefore, that so little research has been done into exactly what happens to wine during cooking, particularly as a result of the application of heat. Since the boiling point of ethanol is 78 °C/172 °F, considerably lower than that of water, however, it is reasonable to suppose that any wine used in cooking becomes progressively less alcoholic if heated to above 78 °C for any length of time. As a sauce is ‘reduced’ with wine, the other components in the wine such as any residual sugar and, especially, its acidity become even more marked. This is presumably why over-reduced sauces can taste so acid, and why they can have an almost caramelized appearance and taste. Other uses for wine in cooking do not involve changing the wine’s composition by heating.