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7 Secrets of Cooking With Wine

Raise a glass to this low-fat, high-flavor ingredient

7 Secrets of Cooking With Wine continued...

2. Choosing dry vs. sweet

A very dry wine has very few natural sugars remaining, and is usually higher in alcohol. In contrast, the sweeter wines still contain a larger amount of natural sugar from the grapes. So choose the type of wine depending on the flavor you want in the dish you're making.

3. Tannins and acid

"Acid" is a term used to describe both red and white wines, and it refers to the sharp bite in the wine (much like you would experience with lemon juice or vinegar). Acid can help bring out the natural flavors in a mild food, such as fish (this is why fish is often served with an acidic wedge of lemon). Tannins are generally found in red wines; this word refers to the bitter element in the wine (similar to the bitterness you'll find in a strong cup of tea). The tannins in red wine pair well with strongly flavored dishes and hearty foods, like a nice juicy steak. "Tannins will act like palate cleansers when paired with foods high in protein, such as meat," says Marshall Rimann, host of The Wine Cellar, a radio show originating in Kansas City, Mo.

4. What type of wine should be used to cook which type of food?

Generally, it's thought that a light-flavored wine goes best with delicately flavored foods. It would follow that a bold-tasting wine might do well in a boldly flavored dish.

5. Red or white?

Don't be afraid to do your own thing, but generally, light-colored meats like chicken and fish, are paired with light-colored wines (white) while dark-colored meats, like beef, are paired with dark-colored wines (red). What about the "other white meat?" You can serve either red or white with pork, says Rimann. "Red dinner wines go well with hearty or highly seasoned foods, such as beef, pork, game, duck, goose, and pasta dishes, while white dinner wines tend to work with dishes containing chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, ham, and veal," he says.

6. Consider the preparation

Rimann says it's important to consider not only the type of meat, but the way the meat is prepared when choosing a wine to use in cooking or serve at the table. For example, a dish heavy on the spices usually needs a full-bodied wine to stand up to it. One with a light or creamy sauce calls for a drier, light wine.

7. That last secret to cooking with wine: Have fun!

Feel free to experiment while cooking or baking with wine. Get creative, and try to invent new flavor combinations. And, after you've created something spectacular; don't forget to write down how you did it!

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