Here is a useful experiment performed by the Dining and Wine team at the New York Times. They've titled the piece It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine. Bravo!
If you're like me, you're a wino who's given some thought to the inherent loss that is cooking with wine. Sure, it's good for the recipe, but damn, is this what the winemaker really had in mind? Can anything in the world denature wine more than cooking it in pot filled with various and sundry flavours, even if heated only for a few seconds? If you place any value whatsoever on the bottle you've just opened, you've got to wonder if this way lies madness.
CHEAP WINE + COOKING = FINE DINING ?
Stop wondering. The answer is yes. Yes, basically it is madness. Cooking with wine over $20 is an unwarranted loss, a wrong-headed ego trip, against the laws of nature. I could go on. I exaggerate? Just read the article and you'll find out some of the science behind it. These tests employed clinical methods and you've got to appreciate the results, including conclusions like:
- the tough and astringent tannic component of wine is the last remaining attribute you can identify in wine that's been cooked of all its subtleties
- rather than wine's quality, wine's sweetness makes a more noticeable difference in food dishes
- cheaper wines tend to integrate into dishes better than expensive ones (according to the panel, $70 Barolo actually made risotto taste worse while adding Two-Buck Chuck made it taste better -- if that doesn't add insult to injury to the deranged chef who approaches dangerously close to your wine cellar, what would?)
And yet a certain New York chef (make that executive chef, pardon me) who was interviewed for this story actually went on record to say that his restaurant always uses its expensive Barolos in its kitchens but when he cooks at home for himself he finds that he appreciates a cheaper wine in his food . . .
When I make the dish at home, I use a dolcetto d’Alba — a simpler wine from the same region — and honestly I like it even better.Hmmm. No need to ponder long and hard about this. Now we all know why Mr. Executive Chef switches it up at home. The reasons are two-fold: because expensive wines are designed for the tasting glass, not the braising pan; and because he naturally prefers that his customers foot the huge wine bill rather than him! Bra-vo.