There is more than one use for wine. Drinking wine is it’s most enjoyable and common use. But, there are wines used in the preparation of delicious meals. These wines are called cooking wines.
Cooking wines or cooking sherries are inexpensive. Surprisingly, wine is used as a main ingredient when cooking food. Cooking wines are synonymous with salt as a preservative, flavor enhancer, and food coloring.
A chemical reaction occurs when a bottle of cooking wine is opened. Exposed to oxygen, a process of fermentation converts the alcohol in the wine to acetic acid. This produces wine vinegar after some time. The salt in cooking wine slows down this transformation by slowing the growth of microorganisms that produce acetic acid. The salt is a very important component, since a bottle of cooking wine may be opened and used over a long period of time.
Some cooks use cooking wines as a convenience. However, many professional chefs do not use them and some rarely use them at all. They believe the added preservative in cooking wines diminishes the quality of the food.
If they have to use wine for cooking, professional chefs prefer to use cheap, but drinkable wine. In fact, cookbooks and cooking textbooks specify and recommend the use of drinkable wines. This wine cookbook will knock your socks off if you’re a wine lover, (hence the name). Chefs believe the use of cooking wines is not an excuse since there are good quality drinkable wines available for cooking. A great use for wine is for deglazing a pan and making a sauce from the meat sediments.
By itself, cooking wine is unappetizing and of very poor quality. Cooks are encouraged to stay away from any wine considered unacceptable to drink.
In the U.S. and Europe, cooking wines are made out of grapes. In Chinese or East Asian cuisine, rice wines are used as cooking wine. As its name implies, rice wines are made by fermenting starch that has been converted to sugars. The fermenting process of rice wine is similar to that of beer production.
Cooking wines produced by fermentation of rice starch have a higher alcohol content than grape wines. Unlike pure cooking wines, rice wines can be consumed and used as an ingredient in cooking. Popular examples of cooking wines produced from rice are saké from Japan, Mijiu from China, Cheongju from Korea, Rorou de from Vietnam, Sonti from India and Sato from Thailand. If you are looking to add wine to your recipe, it is best to use a rice wine.