Why do some people add wine when cooking? What is the logic behind?

The friendliest place on the web for anyone that enjoys cooking.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Senior Cook
Jan 18, 2012
Far East
Will wine make the food taste better? What is kind of food whose flavor will be obviously enhanced with wine?
There are many foods out there with flavors that are improved with wines. French and Italian cooking have many classic dishes with wine, and there are also Japanese and Chinese dishes that use wine. There used to be jokes about how much wine Julia Child would add to many of her dishes, and anyone who has cooked much of her food has definitely used wine! I don't use as much as I used to, but I got a tip from her, for using in many dishes calling for white wine - I keep a bottle of white vermouth, which will keep for a long time, with its extra alcohol (plus I use a vacu-vin, to suck the air out of the bottle).
Tannins and acidity in the wines help to balance out, and to bring out different flavors in the food.

For example, straight lemon juice could make a dish too astringent, but the gentler acid in say, a white wine, will help to round out the other flavors in a sauce.
"taste better" is a very red herring.
there are chefs who regularly make statements like ".... brings out the flavor of . . . ."
ahhhhh, hold on there a sec . . . .

but - there are many dishes where the dish is _defined_ by flavors produced by a wine ingredient.
one of my favs is chicken Marsala - it's just ain't the dish without the Marsala wine....
it's a pretty long list.

just willy-nilly dousing everything 'with a dry white wine' is absurd.
DW is not especially fond of wine dishes - I have a lemon chicken piccata recipe that I think would really sparkle with some dry white wine added.... but I haven't dared - she can suss out wine even when there isn't any....
Alcohol unlocks flavor components in food. Just plain food science.

plus it tastes good.
I was just about to mention that. Some flavours are soluble in wine and will be more apparent when they got dissolved by the alcohol in the wine. The fact that most of the alcohol will evaporate doesn't mean that the flavours will.

Wine or other alcohol also works a treat for deglazing a pan.
Fermentation (using the term broadly here) is good at creating interesting tasting molecules. Think bread, cheese, soy sauce (and the many related fermented bean sauces), fish sauce, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and on and on. And alcohol of course.

These are all ways to add complexity and flavor to a dish that uses them. We often use time in cooking to generate greater complexity as in stews and soups. But these fermented ingredients are sort of like bottled time bringing complexity quickly to dishes that include them.
some flavor compounds 'render' in alcohol
some flavor compounds 'render' in water
some flavor compounds 'render' in oils/fats . . .

which is why the "I put wine in all that stuff" does not hold up.
some flavor compounds 'render' in alcohol
some flavor compounds 'render' in water
some flavor compounds 'render' in oils/fats . . .

which is why the "I put wine in all that stuff" does not hold up.
Some flavor compounds dissolve in water.

Others dissolve in oil.

All dissolve in alcohol. Which is why wine in everything does hold up, scientifically.

Its just food science 101.
I hate drinking wine, but I LOVE cooking with it.
To me, its an ingredient, not a beverage.
I use it in sauces, gravies, marinades, soups ( Onion initially comes to mind).
Wouldn't be the same without it.
Dry sherry in mushroom soup. *chef's kiss* I've been known to cook mushrooms in the stuff as a side for grilled steak. As a vegetarian, you'll have to figure out your own partner for the mushrooms...or just eat them as the "main"!
ohhh, I like the sound of the sherry and mushrooms! Gotta try that! and probably will as I bought more on sale. I think I see lunch today, or maybe with that chop for supper tonight,
A tot of sherry in tomato soup is also pretty good.
Plus sherry for Chinese cooking. Can't find it anymore though. All that seems available is a sweet cream sherry :(

Latest posts

Top Bottom