What happens when you cook with wine? Well, that depends on when you add the wine and what you do after. The alcohol in wine evaporates at 178 degrees F. Water boils at 212 degrees F. So if you deglaze a hot pan with wine, initially more alcohol will evaporate than water. Unfortunately, as the amount of alcohol decreases in proportion to the water, less alcohol evaporates.
Suffice it to say, depending on how much you let the wine reduce (and if other liquid is present), 0-60% of the alcohol could still remain. Extended cooking time will also decrease the amount of alcohol. A braised dish has a fair amount of liquid, but the long cooking time allows the alcohol to evaporate before the liquid is reduced. We'll return to this issue later, but the alcohol does not become more concentrated as you cook the wine down.
What does become concentrated is the other flavors. So a fruity wine will concentrate those flavors and give a rather fruity flavor to the final dish. A sweet wine will provide sweetness to the final dish. That dreaded "cooking wine" will end up concentrating the salt, making your food saltier.
About the author:
Joe LaVilla originally hails from Rochester, in Western New York State. While obtaining his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Rochester, he decided to pursue his culinary calling. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Joe has worked in Manhattan, Washington, D.C. and at Spago in Las Vegas before settling in Phoenix.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
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Modified August 2007
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