The secrets to cooking with wine

With so many wines to choose from, cooking with wine can often cause confusion in the kitchen when really, it doesn’t need to be that challenging. Adding a splash of wine to a dish can really help bring out new flavours and aromas as well as keeping moisture in. With different wine styles come different flavours and qualities. We’re here with all the secrets and top tips you need to know when adding a drop of wine into your next meal. 

What happens when you cook with wine? 

When cooking with wine, the majority of alcohol actually burns off in the process. How much alcohol remains in the dish will come down to the cooking time, method used, and amount of wine being added in. Whilst a wine reduction will leave little trace of alcohol due to its slow cooking time, a flambé will have a higher alcohol content due to being cooked for a shorter period of time. Different cooking methods also come with their benefits for the dish.

Ways to cook with wine 

Wine isn’t just to add into your casserole. There are a range of methods you can use to cook with wine, each with their own qualities. 

Marinades 

Marinading meats can actually help make them really tender, with the wine’s acidity breaking down fibres in the meat. Marinading meats and vegetables assists with adding extra flavour too.

Reductions 

A wine reduction is concentrated sauce, made by thickening wine over the heat. As the wine heats up, it will start to evaporate leaving intense flavours and a thick consistency. A number of vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery can be added for a different flavour.

Deglazing 

Deglazing a pan can produce a very simple yet tasty sauce in just a few steps. After pan-frying meat or vegetables and removing to rest, add your choice of wine to the hot pan or dish. Over a moderate to high heat, stir the wine amongst the brown bits in the pan. You’ll be left with a delicious sauce to serve as it is. Alternatively, it is the perfect base for making a gravy or casserole.

Baking 

Cooking with wine is so versatile, it can be included in various baked goods too. Some luxury cakes call for a drop of champagne and fruit desserts can benefit from the use of fortified wines such as port and sherry.

It doesn’t have to be your cheapest bottle 

Just because you are cooking and not sipping from a glass, doesn’t mean you have to go for the cheapest bottle of wine. In fact some cheaper wines can often lack flavour or be too high in acidity which can actually ruin the dish rather than enhance it. If you aren’t happy to drink it, then don’t cook with it. We’re not suggesting you use your finest Châteauneuf-du-Pape … but do look to take advantage of our current wine offers to pick up something really quite delicious to include in your cooking. 

Best red wines for cooking 

Red wine is great for including in darker meat dishes. Here are our top picks …

Merlot 

This fruit forward red has low tannins so makes it a great to cook with. It goes nicely with red meat dishes and when it comes to making a sauce or reduction, is the perfect choice. 

Pinot Noir 

Pinot Noir is a silky, light wine and if the recipe calls for a lot, a pinot noir won’t overpower the other components and flavours. It’s a great choice for cooking a meaty stew or casserole and will ensure meat stays tender. Due to its light style, it also works well alongside fattier meats. 

Cabernet Sauvignon 

This full-bodied red wine is perfect for braising dishes and will play a part in helping the meat fall straight off the bone. A Cabernet Sauvignon is also a great option for deglazing. Its low sugar will prevent it from caramelising which will leave you with a delicious sauce. 

Best white wines for cooking 

Dishes that work well cooked with white wine include risotto, pasta, chicken and seafood. As a general rule, crisp, dry, unoaked whites are always a good place to start. 

Chardonnay 

A creamy, full bodied Chardonnay is often known to have a buttery taste. It comes together nicely when cooking lobster, creamy chicken dishes and pasta sauces. We would recommend avoiding using an oaked chardonnay as when cooked down this can produce bitter flavours.  

Pinot Grigio

This dry, crisp, simple wine is a popular choice when it comes to cooking with white wine and is so versatile. It is great at complimenting more delicate foods such as mussels and creamy shrimp linguine.  

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is known for its citrussy and herbaceous flavours, and that’s exactly what it brings to a dish when cooking with it. It’s a perfect addition to a creamy risotto but works just as well for a fresh, zingy marinade on chicken and fish. 

Want to learn more? 

Join Tom Kerridge and Tom Laithwaite at our Cooking with Wine event at this year’s Virtual Vintage Festival

Tom Kerridge is the extremely popular and much-loved chef patron of the two Michelin-starred The Hand & Flowers pub in Marlow, which he opened with his wife, Beth, in 2005. Tom’s winning presence and infectious laugh made him a natural for TV, his first show Proper Pub Food was an overnight success. Tom’s latest programme Saving Britain’s Pubs sees Tom set out on a mission to revive struggling pubs, investigating industry challenges and the impact of Covid-19. Tom is also a successful author of cookbooks, many of which have tied in with his TV series, his latest being The Hand & Flowers Cookbook from Bloomsbury. If that wasn’t enough, Tom has also created cookware, homeware and a range of sauces including a black garlic ketchup. 

Tom Kerridge
Tom Laithwaite

In this masterclass Tom welcomes us to Marlow. Tom is keen to bust the myth of ‘cooking wines’ and believes you should cook with the best wine you can afford. Tom will be sharing two mouth-watering recipes one made with red wine and one with white. Tom Laithwaite will also be on hand from his brother’s winery just down the road in Marlow, Harrow & Hope, to advise us on the best wines to pair with these dishes. 

Click here to find out more and book your place at our Virtual Vintage Festival running from 15-17th April 2021.

Christmas Tips with Will Lyons

Myself and Michel Roux Jr.

The Christmas gastronomic marathon is upon us and although understandably this year will be very different we still need a glass or two for the big day. I recently caught up with one of Britain’s best loved chefs Michel Roux Jr at his renowned restaurant in Mayfair, Le Gavroche and over a glass of the club’s Didier Chopin Brut Champagne we discussed and shared our top food and wine tips for Christmas. For subscribers of The Sunday Times you can view the discussion here.

If you can’t view it, don’t worry! I have shared the answers to some of the most frequent wine questions I get asked at this time of year.

What wine goes with Christmas pudding?

Can I let you into a little secret? Although I love the theatre of serving Christmas pudding, turning off the lights, drenching it in a generous glass of warm brandy before striking a match and engulfing the pudding in a flickering swirl of blue flame, I’m not entirely sure I like Christmas pudding that much. But Christmas day is the one day of the year where you can justifiably serve a sweet wine. There are a few options. A chilled glass of tawny port can pair well and then you can keep it in your glass for the cheese afterwards. Bordeaux’s luscious sweet wine Sauternes is a classic if, like me, you’ll opt for a glass of pudding wine instead of pudding. But it’s hard to look beyond the tangy, honeyed character of Royal Tokaji which has the sweetness and acidity to revitalise jaded palates. Remember the wine should always be sweeter than the pudding.

What wine goes with roast turkey and all of the trimmings?

A classic Christmas lunch with all of the trimmings can be an absolute melee of competing flavours. As I discussed with Michel Roux jr recently for our Times event ‘Festive Feasting’ I think you have three options. You can either go classic; which is old school red Bordeaux like the club’s 2018 Barons de Rothschild Lafite Réserve Spéciale from Bordeaux in France. Or opt for the bold, ripe flavours of the Southern hemisphere such as an upfront Shiraz like the club’s 2018 Don’t Tell Gary Shiraz by McPherson Wines in Victoria, Australia. A third option, which I tend to favour, is a super smart Beaujolias, something like a Fleurie with all its silky, texture and red fruit. The Fleurie goes well with the white meat of the turkey and doesn’t overwhelm palates which are enduring quite a day of feasting.

Should I decant my wine?

At Christmas, I love the attractive, shimmering aesthetic of a cut glass decanter standing proud on the dining room table. Most wines benefit from a little air and certainly full bodied reds including red Bordeaux, wines from the Rhône, Rioja in Spain or heavy grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah will improve in the decanter. Why? The act of pouring a bottle of wine into another container will aerate the wine releasing its myriad of fruit aromas and will gently soften the texture. For a young wine, give it a vigorous decant lifting the bottle high as you pour, for an old wine, go easy, gently pouring it into the neck of the decanter.

What temperature should I serve my wine?

It may surprise some of you to learn that I recommend chilling both red and white wine, not to the same temperature obviously! It’s worth remembering that a normal domestic fridge will chill down a bottle of wine to around 5C in a few hours. For me that is too cold for wine at Christmas. Most light white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling should be served at between 5 and 9C, same for Champagne and sparkling wine. If they instinctively feel too cold and need warming up, don’t worry. Just cup your hand around the bowl of the glass and it will soon raise the temperature a few degrees. With red wine is where it gets interesting. These days most of us living in centrally heated houses and apartments and it is easy to forget that the traditional advice of serving your wine at room temperature probably meant somewhere around 12C. I would say young fruity reds such as Beaujolais, Pinot Noir and Valpolicella are best served around 11C to 15C while heavier red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and red Bordeaux, Burgundy and Shiraz around 14C to 18C. Put the back of your hand on the bottle, it should feel cool to touch. That’s the right temperature. Christmas is busy in the fridge so I tend to pop mine outside for around 20 minutes before serving.

What wine is the best for mulled wine?

Don’t waste your best bottles on mulled wine, but don’t think you can get away with pouring any old cheap plonk in the pan either. If you are using a lot of nutmeg, which I like to do, I feel the wines which work the best are fruity, smooth red wines. I’m thinking something like a Zinfandel from California or a juicy Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre blend from the Southern Rhône in France.

Is English wine better than Champagne?

What we can say with confidence is that we are now entering the third phase of the great English wine boom of the 21st century. The first stage was a recognition that winemakers in England could actually make wine on these shores that is drinkable and not just a novelty. The second phase was a realisation that a handful of England’s sparkling wines, including Harrow & Hope, are competing at the very highest level. The third phase is that we are now producing still table wines made from grape varieties such as Bacchus and Pinot Noir that are beginning to get noticed internationally. It’s a hugely exciting time for the industry.

Does all wine improve with age?

In a word no. Around 90% of wine sold in Britain is made to be opened and enjoyed as soon as the screwcap has been twisted or the cork pulled. Only a very small percentage, let us for sake of clarity, define that as anything more than £15 a bottle what we might refer to as ‘fine wine,’ benefits from ageing in the bottle. It’s unwise to generalise but fine whites such as Burgundy and Riesling can age in the bottle up to 5 to 10 years or more. Good red Bordeaux, Rioja, Burgundy and Barolo, depending on the growing season, can age for between 5 and 30 years, sometimes more.

Do I have to serve my best bottle at Christmas?

I’m slightly torn on this issue. Christmas can be a stressful time, there is a lot to do, relatives to entertain, excited children scampering around and that is before you have sat down for the feast itself. Is it the perfect time to bring out that that expensive bottle you bought recently or the wine you have carefully nurtured in the cellar for many years? Some might say no, probably not. Far better to leave it there and serve it at an appropriate occasion when it can command your full attention. Relax and enjoy the day. Only, when is that occasion? I do agree with Michel Roux Jr who says if you can’t serve your special bottle on Christmas day then when can you? It is an occasion after all and I do feel this is particularly apposite this year when we all need cheering up! So perhaps, yes serve your best bottle.

What is the best wine to go with Roast Chicken?

Depends on the time of year. Roast chicken is such a comforting, easy going, crowd pleasing Sunday lunch that when it comes to the wine it’s a very amiable companion. This Sunday I paired it with an aged Barolo from Piedmont, the earthy flavour of the wine worked as a contrast to the soft texture of the meat. In the Summer I would opt for an oaky Chardonnay, it is a really hot day something like a taut Chenin Blanc from South Africa. We like to serve with mash and salad in the warmer months. For a Summer red Chianti works well. In the winter when we naturally crave a red wine I would look to a supple Merlot, a ripe red Bordeaux. For something lighter Pinot Noir, a red lighter style Burgundy such as Chambolle-Musigny but even Côtes-du-Rhône works well. It really is a bit of a free for all.

What is the best wine to go with cheese?

At Christmas, I’m a huge fan of serving tawny port with cheese. Slightly chill the tawny to around 10C and it will pair well with a variety of cheeses. There are of course some classic combinations. A sweet wine such as Sauternes or Tokaji is heavenly with blue cheese and can go well with all sorts of softer cheese and of course you have the double benefit of being able to serve them with Christmas pudding. Speaking in broad brush generalisations red wine tends to go better with harder cheese but white wine is often much more suitable as an accompaniment to cheese. A glass of chilled Sancerre with a handful of creamy goat’s cheese or event a zesty, tangy Sauvignon Blanc. My one tip is to narrow your options, don’t go for too many cheeses. One or two and road test them before the big day, you’ll have great fun too!

Will Lyons

Club Vice President

Wine and Chocolate tasting with Grant Hedley & William Curley

Wine and chocolate are two of the most wonderfully indulgent and delightful products that we can enjoy. Our in-house wine educator, Grant Hedley, was lucky enough to be joined by William Curley, the immensely talented chef and chocolatier. William Curley became the youngest Chef Pâtissier in the Savoy’s history. He works with only the finest ingredients to create handmade morsels from heaven.

Together, they worked hard on some fantastic wine matches for his fabulous chocolates. Three of our wines and six of his chocolates were to be enjoyed for a tasting evening, and you at home could purchase them yourself and join in virtually over Zoom as they discuss the pairings.

For those who could not join us on the evening, you can catch up and find out more on the delectable matches in the recording from the session below. The featured wines are available to purchase if you wish to sip alongside the video.

F.W. Nalbach Sonnenschein Riesling 2019

£14.49 a bottle or £12.99 when you mix 12 or more*

Marqués de Murrieta Capellanía Reserva 2015

£24.00 a bottle*

Pillastro Selezione d’Oro 2019

£13.99 a bottle or £11.99 when you mix 12 or more*

*Prices correct as of 21st October 2020.

A virtual evening of Wine and Chocolate tasting with William Curley

Hi everyone,

We’re inviting you to our very special virtual event on Thursday 15th October at 7pm, chocolate and wine tasting with myself and William Curley. These are two of the most gloriously indulgent and delicious products, I’m so excited for this virtual tasting I can hardly contain myself.

For those of you who don’t know William Curley, he is an immensely talented chef and chocolatier. He works with only the finest ingredients to create handmade morsels from heaven. He’s so talented he became the youngest Chef Pâtissier in the Savoy’s history – that’s quite impressive! I don’t think I am stretching matters when I say, you haven’t tried chocolate until you have tried William’s chocolate, it’s like a fine dinning or Michelin Star experience for chocolate lovers.

I spent an evening with William recently, hard at work, matching some of my favourite wines to his fabulous chocolates. We managed to narrow down the selection to just three wines and six of his chocolates, I can’t wait to share and talk through the fruits of our labours with you alongside William on the evening.

But don’t worry, it won’t just be us tasting theses delights. We’ve put together the trio of wine for you to order for yourself and a selection of William’s chocolates, so you have the choice to taste along with us from the comfort of your own home. You can purchase the trio of wine by clicking here and the selection of William Curley’s chocolates here.

We will be hosting this event via Zoom Meetings. For more information, to book your free place and to receive joining details, please click here.

I hope to see you on the evening.

Best wishes,

Grant, Wine Expert

Real Olives & Wine: The perfect pairings

Our resident wine expert, Grant Hedley, had the pleasure of being joined by olive-heads Charlie Chambers and Karin Andersson from The Real Olive Company for an evening of wine and olive tasting. At a time of year when the sun is shining (or supposed to be), we are enjoying picnics, lunches and dinners with families and friends, wine and olives are a perfect addition to all of these. We selected three of our delicious Italian wines to go with three, tasty and organic olive blends selected by The Real Olive Company.

If you couldn’t join us on the evening, we’ve included the carefully selected wine and olive pairings below as well as a recording from the evening so you can order the products to enjoy the tasting in your own time.

The Pairings

Nocellara del Belice Olives is paired with our Sentiero dei Pini Pinot Grigio, La Verde Olives with Garlic & Basil is paired with our Vesuvium Greco di Tufo and lastly we paired Siciliana Olives with Garlic, Peppers & Mustard Seeds with the excellent Villa dei Ladri

It’s time for you to sit back, pour a glass of wine, put your olives in a dish and enjoy.

A virtual evening in Vineyards and Olive Groves

You’re invited to an exciting virtual wine and olive tasting event on the 6th August, with our friends at The Real Olive Company. I’ll be joined by olive-heads Charlie Chambers and Karin Andersson, who are as passionate and informed about olives as we are about wines!

I’ve picked out some real Italian gems from our cellars and found the perfect pairing from The Real Olive Company’s delicious selection. With Charlie and Karin’s help of course!

It makes perfect sense to follow one of my favourite food matching principles: ‘what grows together, goes together’ and pair these delicious olives with a few of our favourite Italian wines. Plus, at a time of the year when the sun is shining and we are enjoying picnics, lunches and dinners with our families and friends, olives are the perfect addition to any meal.

So let us whisk you off for a mouth-watering hour, to the land of sunshine, vineyards and olive groves to taste some fabulous wines and delectable olives.

Here are the Pairings I have picked: Nocellara del Belice olives will be paired with our Sentiero dei Pini Pinot Grigio, La Verde Olives with Garlic & Basil will be paired with our Vesuvium Greco di Tufo and lastly we’ll be pairing Siciliana Olives with Garlic, Peppers & Mustard Seeds with the excellent Villa dei Ladri.

I hope to see you there.

Best wishes,

Grant, Wine Expert

Thursday 6th August 7pm

Wine Live with Will Lyons: Food & Wine Matching

Last week, Sunday Times Wine Club Vice President Will Lyons, took to our Facebook page in another exciting live Q&A as part of the Wine Live with Will Lyons series. In the live, he answered questions from our viewers. This week, it was all about food and wine matches.

In case you couldn’t join us on the night, here’s what you missed…

You can purchase the wines Will enjoyed during the live to try yourself below:

Oliver Zeter Riesling 2018

Les Hauts de Morin-Langaran Picpoul de Pinet 2019

Stay up to date with all upcoming virtual events on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Also on the blog:

The Art of Lunch

There were several Brown Derby restaurants in Los Angeles in the 1930s. Perhaps the most famous was the second in the chain, opened on Valentine’s Day in 1929 at 1628 North Vine Street.

Taking its inspiration from Spanish colonial architecture it quickly became a favourite with the Hollywood ‘set.’ Being close to the studios it was soon patronised by a roll call of movie stars and celebrities among them Clarke Gable, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford and Humphrey Bogart. The golden generation of Hollywood. But it wasn’t until 1937 when its place in culinary history was eventually cemented.

There are many stories as to how the Cobb salad was born but my favourite is one recounted in the pages of The Wall Street Journal. The story goes that one night Bob Cobb, one of the owners of the restaurant, was working late, very late. Midnight was approaching and having not eaten he delved into the restaurant fridge and prepared himself a salad comprised of mainly left overs. Cold roast chicken, hard-boiled eggs, avocadoes, a few slices of bacon, tomatoes and of course mixed leaves and lettuce. He saved the strongest flavour until last – crumbling some Roquefort cheese over the top. That night the Brown Derby restaurant found itself a new signature dish – the Cobb salad.

A mixed salad on a desk with a computer screen in the background
Will Lyons shares his tips for eating and drinking while working from home

Cobb salads are best made at home. It’s a perfect lunch for those of us who are perhaps spending more time in the house than we would normally. Just grab the leftovers from the fridge and throw them all together. It doesn’t have to be lettuce it could be spinach or watercress. If you really want to go posh you can always add some sort of seafood. Why not lobster? If you’re feeling particularly flush and ‘Hollywood’.

You’ll need a glass of something to go with it. Something with plenty of uplifting acidity, vitality and Spring like fruit would be my choice. I know it’s not original but actually a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc would be an ideal foil. The grassy, gooseberry and citrus character, coupled with the lively tension in the wine, works well, particularly if you have dressed the salad with a squeeze of lemon.

I would avoid anything too complex, oaky and creamy. Think in terms of lighter style wines, what the club’s president Hugh Johnson may refer to as ‘fridge door wines.’ I’d be considering anything with zesty acidity. Riesling from Germany, Chablis, Vinho Verde from northern Portugal and the racy Picpoul de Pinet made down in the Languedoc just east of Narbonne. It’s translated as the ‘lip stinger’ and the quality of this wine has never been better.

All of these styles are fairly moderate in alcohol which means you can enjoy a glass and have a productive afternoon, whatever that may entail. In the Golden Age of Hollywood it could involve shooting a few scenes with Clarke Gable, well we can all dream!

Will Lyons

Club Vice President

Also on the blog