Wine can be used throughout the cooking process. Wine used as a marinade is best exemplified by Sauerbraten. Here the alcohol and acid in the wine serve to tenderize the meat before cooking. Both act on the tough fibers in meat, effectively "softening" them, so they take less time to cook and develop the succulant rich flavor of braised meat. The resulting liquid, which contains flavors from the meat and vegetables in the marinade, is used to make the sauce.
The most common use of wine is in deglazing a sauté pan and using that as a base for a sauce. The amount of time to spend reducing wine is more dependent on the color of the wine than anything else (unless alcohol is a concern). White wine needs to be reduced just a small amount, to burn off most of the alcohol. Red wine should be reduced until it is almost gone. Red wine needs more reduction or your food will be ... well, purple. Think of a red wine stain. It really is purple. By reducing the color compounds, as well as the flavor, the result is a deeper, richer red that will blend better with the browns of a rich stock.
Finally, wines are used at the very end of the cooking process. Marsala is a good example. This fortified wine is not added when the pan is deglazed after sautéing veal, it is added to "finish" the sauce. That way the sweetness is not overpowering, but the subtle aromas are heightened by the heat of the dish. For the same reason, sherry is added to a cream soup right at the very end. This is usually the procedure for fortified wines, so those subtle notes from the prolonged aging come out in the aroma.
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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