Wine 201 – Cooking with Wine: Sauces

The particulars for sauces could easily lead to a blog of its own as it’s so comprehensive. But generally speaking, any sauces you make should compliment other ingredients rather than overwhelm them. Whether it’s the amount of sauce or the flavor within the sauce, one should try to not have any sauce be the one thing that people remember about the recipe.

That reminds me of a famous composer (who’s name escapes me at the moment) for Hollywood movies who once said “If the person notes how wonderful the soundtrack is while watching the movie, someone hasn’t done their job”. Same basic premise with sauces.

Rules of thumb for using wines in sauces (remember, there are always exceptions):

  • - The better the wine, the better the taste of the food. Conversely, the lower quality of the wine, the better the chance your food will taste pretty strange. Choose your cooking wine accordingly.
  • - Use freshly opened wine. Wines opened two weeks or later should be looked upon with suspicion, as it probably has oxidized to the point of affecting the wine taste.
  • - Lighter, more delicate wines should be used for lighter, more delicate sauces.
  • - Conversely, more intense wines should be considered for more flavorful sauces.
  • - For butter sauces? Use Higher acidity wines.
  • - Sit back on the salt in recipes, as when salt reduces, it may overwhelm the taste of the wine.
  • - If making a cream sauce with wine, wait until the alcohol has been burned off, or at least diluted a great amount, before adding the cream in order to prevent curdling.
  • - Less is often more when using wine. Too much wine in a sauce can easily overpower a dish. Remember, most sauces are reductions, therefor the taste will be concentrated.
  • - Be careful not to over-reduce sauces for the same reason stated immediately above.
  • - If a white wine reduction is too tart, add a pinch of salt. Red wine reduction overpowering? Add a little sugar or honey.


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