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Nov 23, 2001 12:41 PM

recipes calls for dry, red wine

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Following a recipe next week that calls for dry red wine. Can someone give me examples of what that is. Other than Manachevitz (sp?), isn't all red wine dry?

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  1. Well, almost all red wine is drier than Manachevitz, but once you get beyond that there are still some reds that are significantly drier than others.

    When a recipe calls for any wine you should always use a wine you would drink. Inferior wines, like all wines called cooking wines, give the foods you cook inferior tastes. On the other hand, there is no need to go overboard in terms of expense. A decent, inexpensive cabernet, shiraz, syrrah, barolo or chianti are what to look for.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Deven Black
      Carolyn Tillie

      I disagree entirely. ALL red wines ARE NOT dry. Cabernets and Merlot tend towards the ripe and fruity and are rarely classified as "dry". Pinot Noir is classified as meaty with fruit aromas and can occasionally be dry. Gamays and Chiantis are frequently dry.

      1. re: Carolyn Tillie

        Be careful to not confuse the perception of "sweetness" which can come from very ripe fruit or high alcohol with "sugar". "Dry" generally means less than 0.9% residual sugar. This is the point at which a wine is considered stable. Wines need to be fermented to "dryness" in order to be shelf-stable, otherwise they may referment in the bottle and create off-flavors or explode. Wines with higher sugar levels are stabilized in other ways before they are bottled and sold. Deven is correct, nearly all red wines are "dry".

        High alcohol wines (13.5%+) or jammy and ripe wines will create sensations on the palate that are similar to sugar. Wines such as Gamays or Chiantis which have high acidity levels can seem tart and less sweet, even though they have the same amount of residual sugar as a seemingly sweet Merlot from a warm New World climate.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          One other issue was raised in these posts. How good a wine should you cook with? I have read in some books that you should cook with wine as good as you would drink, but that has always seemed extravagent and, honestly, wasteful to me. Maybe my palate just isn't good enough, but can one actually taste the difference in a entree if it is prepared with a new 20 dollar bottle of wine instead of the week-old remains of a 5 dollar bottle? I always figured that cooking and spices etc obliterated those subtle differences that make one Merlot cheap and another superb. Does anybody out there have an opinion about this?

          1. re: e.d.

            I basically agree with Deven. Never cook with a wine that is not drinkable, like so-called cooking wines or something that has begun to turn. However, a $4.99 or $5.99 bottle of some Chilean blend that you might not choose to drink, but is perfectly potable, will suffice. Keep in mind however that the better the wine, as is the case with all ingredients, the better the final product.

            1. re: e.d.

              While a $5 bottle (or any bottle, for that matter) open for a week may be on its way to vinegar, I tend to agree that less-expensive wines are appropriate for use in many dishes. At the same time, I have wondered about doing a comparison, preparing a recipe in which wine is a central ingredient with two different wines to see what the difference would be. In any case though, I find it hard to pour much more than a glass or two of any wine costing more than $8-10 into any dish. Perhaps I'm just not wealthy enough, but when I'm able, I'll savor the taste of Burgundies, Barolos, and the like sip by sip, from the glass.

              Possible exceptions I can envision: Foods that contain very few ingredients, and that are not much altered from their original state by cooking, might warrant pricier wines as ingredients. For example, what would zabaglione be like if made with a good Sauternes, or perhaps an Eiswein?

              1. re: Simon Gruber

                It would depend on the dish. When I'm just trying to add a little depth to a tomato sauce, that half-glass of oxidized whatever from last week works out fine.

                But when I'm cooking something that really features the wine, it's better to use something good. I have for years been making coq au vin (Paula Wolfert's recipe, of course) with Stag's Leap Petite Sirah, and the results are out of this world. In this case, the wine really makes a difference.

                1. re: silver queen
                  michael (mea culpa)

                  With Stag's Leap Petite Sirah, just about anything would taste great to me.

          2. re: Carolyn Tillie

            I suggest you re-read my post, Carolyn. At no time did I say all red wines are dry. I DID say almost all are drier than Manachevitz, and that given that some are still drier than others. Whether or not a wine is dry depends upon the amount of residual sugar in the wine. Residual sugar has nothing to do with whether there are fruit flavors or not. I've had many a sweet gamay, and some very dry Merlots.

            1. re: Deven Black
              Carolyn Tillie

              You are absolutely right, Deven. I do humbly apologize. I believe I skipped over the concept of Manachevitz, forgetting that it is occasionally considered a real wine.

              Mea culpa.

          3. re: Deven Black

            Where does one find an inexpensive Barolo these days? The cheapest I've seen lately is in the $20 range, with most well above.

            1. re: Simon Gruber

              It has been years since I've bought a Barolo. The last one I have has a $14. tag on it, but I bought it a few years ago.

          4. What are you making that calls for the dry red? This can help us hounds point you more specifically to a good wine to use.

            3 Replies
            1. re: berkleybabe

              It's an herb crusted roast leg of lamb.

              1. re: Paulette F

                I would think a not real expensive shiraz or merlot would work well with your dish. Let us know how it turns out...sounds like a great start to a great meal.

                1. re: Paulette F

                  I like to cook with what I drink. Greg Norman makes a spicy Shiraz for around $14. Markham makes good Merlot for about $20. Have a good meal.

              2. Another factor that contributes significantly to the perception of dryness in wine, not mentioned in the other posts here (so far), is astringency. This quality is present due to tannins, mostly in red wine, which create a puckery, dry feel in the mouth (sort of like black tea without any milk or sugar.) Along with acidity and low sugar levels, tannins tend to make a wine taste dry, and to help it cut through strongly flavored and/or fatty foods. The different kinds of tannins in wines mellow over time, whether the wine is aged in the bottle for months or years, or opened and allowed to breathe for hours or days. (The astringency of tannins is not the same as true bitterness, but I believe they are sometimes confused. While tannins are a primary and desirable element in many dry red wines, bitterness is not.)

                1. I'll throw this tidbit in:

                  Cooks Illustrated just did a review of red wines to be used for cooking (Dec '01 - the 'quick turkey' issue). They concluded that a red blend worked better than any of the individual varietals (cabernet, merlot, etc.). They also didn't find much up-side in cooking with wines that cost more than $20. They recommended 4 American red blends in the $9-13 range - I recall that Copolla's red blend was one of the suggestions.

                  I'm pretty darn happy about their findings as I rarely get to drink $20 wine, let alone cook with it. These wines fit my pocketbook pretty well.

                  Generally, I love Cooks Illustrated and have dropped embarassingly blunt hints about a subscription for X-mas. I highly recommend this article and the magazine generally.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kcmarshall
                    michael (mea culpa)

                    Haven't seen the article, but I would think that some Rosemount Shiraz might do the trick.

                    1. re: kcmarshall

                      Of course, CI revises their judgments all the time, in order to have something to print. A few years ago they made a general recommendation of Cote du Rhone for braising meats. That's what I used last week making short ribs, with great success if I do say so myself.

                      I can't go by the "use the wine you would drink" rule because I loathe the tannins in red wines. I can force down a glass of Zinfandel or Pinot Noir or other burgundy style wine but despise bordeaux wines. I am devoutly in the Riesling camp.

                    2. For Italian red sauce recipes my wine of choice is Gallo Hearty Burgandy. Has a nice ripe flavor that holds up even if is a back burner recipe destined to simmer for a while. If you are simmering the sauce for a long period add basil near the end of cooking time.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: tommybgood

                        i think you are the only person that tried to answer the question!

                        1. re: rg3825

                          LOL, I'm sure "Tommybgood" appreciates the thought, even if it comes 11 1/2 years later!.