Cooking With Wine: A Simple Guide

Cooking With Wine

Cooking with wine: it’s not just for professional chefs and fancy dinner parties anymore. Who says your favorite Pinot Noir can’t take a dip in the saucepan?

At Hipcolony, we’re all about embracing the versatility of wine in the kitchen. And let’s face it, what better way to enjoy food AND wine together? When it comes to how to cook with wine, it’s essential to understand how cooking transforms those beloved flavors we know and love.

Don’t let the complexity of wine intimidate you; it’s not rocket science. Once you know how acidity, tannins, alcohol, and sugar behave when the heat is on, you’ll be unstoppable in the kitchen. So, grab that apron, pour yourself a glass, and let’s get cooking!

Cooking With Wine

We’ll start by looking at the different types of wines available for cooking. Dry, sweet, and fortified wines each have their own unique characteristics when heated—like acidity, sweetness, and tannins—that can be used to craft delicious dishes. We recommend trying different varietals as you experiment in the kitchen so that you can find out what works best for your particular dish.

Cooking Wine Types

Dry Wine

Dry wine, which ranges in alcohol content from 11-14%, is the most common type of wine used for cooking. It’s usually made with a combination of mostly white grape varieties like Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as some red grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dry wines have a higher acidity than sweet wines and are usually used in cooking to balance out heavy, rich flavors. Most dry wines also contain tannins which can contribute an astringency or bitterness to the dish.

Sweet Wine

Sweet wine is made with grapes that have been allowed to retain more sugar during fermentation. This type of wine is usually used to add a hint of sweetness and complexity to savory dishes. Popular sweet wines include Reisling, Muscat, and Gewürztraminer. Due to its higher sugar content, sweet wine can also be used in desserts or as a finishing glaze for meat dishes.

Fortified Wine

Fortified wine is a type of wine that has been blended with a distilled spirit, such as brandy or sherry. It usually has an alcohol content of 17-20% and can range in sweetness from dry to very sweet. Fortified wines are often used to add depth and complexity to slow-cooked dishes like stews, braises, and roasts. It’s also a great way to add subtle sweetness and complexity to sauces, glazes, or even desserts.

These are just some of the many types of wine that can be used for cooking.

Cooking With Wine

What Makes a Wine Dry or Sweet?

The primary factor that determines whether a wine is dry or sweet is the amount of residual sugar left after fermentation. If the grapes used to make the wine have retained more sugar during fermentation, then it will be sweeter, and if they have fermented more completely, leaving less residual sugar, then it will be dryer.

Other factors like acidity, tannins, and alcohol content can also affect how sweet or dry a wine tastes. Generally speaking, the more acidic the wine, the drier it will be; while tannins add an astringency that can make a wine taste less sweet. Alcohol content is another factor to consider when selecting a wine for cooking; higher-alcohol wines will generally be drier than lower-alcohol ones.

Cooking Methods

Now you know the types of wine you’re working with, let’s look at some cooking styles.

Braising and Stewing

Braising and stewing are two classic methods for cooking with wine. Both involve slow-cooking meats or vegetables in a flavorful liquid, like dry white wine or fortified red wine. This technique allows the flavors from the wine to slowly seep into the ingredients, resulting in tender and flavorful dishes.


Basting is a great way to add flavor and moisture to roasts or grilled meats. Simply mix together some melted butter, garlic, herbs, and a dry white wine, then brush it onto your dish before and during cooking. The liquid will help keep your dish tender and juicy, while the flavors from the wine will add depth.


Glazing with wine is a great way to add sweetness and complexity to dishes like pork chops or salmon. Simply mix together some dry white or sweet red wine, butter, sugar, garlic, and herbs in a saucepan until it’s reduced by half. Then brush the glaze onto your dish and bake or grill until it’s nicely browned on top.


Marinating with wine is a great way to add flavor and tenderize tough cuts of meat. To do this, simply mix together some dry white wine, garlic, herbs, oil, and vinegar in a container large enough to fit the meat. Let the meat marinate in the mix for at least 4 hours, then remove it and cook as desired.


Wine can also be used in baking to add flavor and complexity. A small amount of sweet or dry wine can be added to cakes, muffins, breads, and other baked goods for a subtle flavor boost. This is especially true with dishes like biscotti, which are traditionally made with a little bit of wine.


Wine is also an excellent ingredient for sauces. Dry white wine can be used to create a flavorful pan sauce for sautéed fish or chicken, while sweet red wine can be used to make a rich and velvety reduction for beef dishes. You can also use dry white or sweet red wine in combination with stock, cream, butter, and herbs to create a delectable sauce.

No matter what type of wine you choose, the key is to select one that complements the ingredients in your dish. Balance out heavy or rich flavors with dry wines, while sweet wines are best used to add sweetness and complexity.

So there you have it – a few simple yet flavorful ways to use wine in your cooking. With the right ingredients and techniques, you can elevate any dish with a splash of vino! Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the perfect pairing for your recipes. Bon appétit!

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