Dry white wine for cooking.
“Quick question, fabulous ladies – when a recipe calls for white wine, which is the best variety to use? Or doesn’t it really matter? Thanks!” Emily.
Lots of recipes call for a dry white wine for cooking. But how do you know which sort of white wine should only be served in Nanna’s crystal goblets and which you can toss in with your fettuccine?
While it’s important to remember that there’s no hard and fast rules when it comes to what to use, it is good to have some guidelines.
Of course, most recipes only call for a little white wine leaving plenty leftover, which means that what the cook wants to drink should be of the utmost consideration!
Why a Dry White Wine for Cooking?
Adding dry white wine to a recipe gives it a zing. An X factor. Damn it, adding white wine to a dish will pretty near win you the MasterChef title.
Why? Because it adds a range of flavours to the finished dish that just can’t be added any other way or with any other single ingredient. After you’ve added a slurp – okay, appropriately measured quantity – of wine to the pot (in between swigs for the cook of course) the cooking process will evaporate the alcohol (c’est traveste!), leaving you with the original flavour profile of the wine. Therefore, you want to choose a wine with a flavour profile that complements the main flavours in the recipe.
It’s actually quite similar to choosing a wine to pair with your dinner. So, the very best rule of thumb is to pick something you’d like to drink with the finished dish and that’s the wine you should use in the recipe.
Just be sure that when you’re choosing a white wine it is indeed dry, and not sweet or off-dry, as a sweet wine will make your whole dish taste sweet! Great for a Moscato Pavlova. Not so good for a Creamy Fish, Spring Onion and Potato Stew.
White Meat and Cream Sauces
USE: Full bodied dry white wine e.g. Chardonnay, Viognier
Yep, a creamy sauce or recipe that involves chicken generally calls for a Chardy! The rich, fullness of the wine will stand up to the richness of the dish.
USE: Crisp dry white wine e.g. Vermentino, Riesling
My absolute favourite white wine to use to steam mussels (or to add to any seafood dish really) are the Italian varietals – Vermentino, Arneis and Fiano. They’re steely and minerally and Vermentino has a decidedly marine, salty flavour to it that works sooooo well with crustaceans.
A steely, crisp Riesling is also an excellent match for seafood dishes – but steer clear of the overly fruity ones. Same applies to Pinot Grigio.
USE: Whatever you like
Matching a dry white wine to vegetable dishes really depends on what veggies are in the dish, and what other flavours are being used. For cream based sauces, stick with Chardonnay. Or for deglazing the pan after roasting or sauteeing vegetables, you can be far more free with your choice. With Moroccan style dishes, a fruity Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc works beautifully as it plays up that salty/sweet element of the dish.
Fabulous Tips for Cooking with White Wine
- For the best ever pan fried chicken breast, splash a little white wine in the bottom of the pan to deglaze after you’ve finished cooking and then drizzle over the top before serving
- Steam mussels in 1/2 cup of dry white wine, with the lid on, for around five minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread.
- Add a few tablespoons of white wine to your favourite marinade
- Mix a few tablespoons of white wine with one tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of honey and stir through baby carrots before roasting them in the oven at 180C for 45 minutes
- The more wine you use, the longer it will take for the alcohol to cook off. If you’re planning on serving the dish to children, be sure it’s sufficiently cooked!
- Open bottles of white wine are drinkable for up to about a week when firmly sealed and stored in the fridge, or you can even freeze leftovers (is there such a thing?!) in ice cube trays where it’s usable in your cooking for up to three months!